Media release 9 April 2019

Expertise and resources the key to vocational education reforms

Ensuring students get access to expert teachers and industry practitionersis the focus of the Tertiary Education Union’s submission on the Reform ofVocational Education made public today. But the best laid plans for thefuture will not succeed unless the government steps up with transitionfunding for the beleaguered polytechnic sector.Thousands of TEU members have been involved in meetings on campuses,completed online surveys, and participated in submission writing to informthe TEU’s contributions to the vocational education conversation.National President Michael Gilchrist says “What these conversations haveshown is tertiary education institutions can’t focus properly on learningoutcomes when they fear losing funding for students because those studentsget jobs part way through their studies. They are penalised for success.That’s why we’re supporting the single funding model for those training oncampuses and in-work.”“But sadly the Minister’s vision of every New Zealander being able to movebetween in-work and on-campus training will remain a dream unless thegovernment provides proper transition funding for any changes agreed to bycabinet.”Gilchrist says polytechnic chief executives have continued to reviewcourses and student services in order to trim budgets even as thesystem-wide review is conducted.“In some communities we will have no on-campus provision left on which tobuild a coordinated vocational system if the chief executives don’t take abreath and stop planned cuts, and if the government doesn’t step up withtransition funding.”The TEU is also calling for the Minister of Education to reveal how he willreview the entire tertiary education funding model.National Secretary, Sharn Riggs, says removing competition between theexisting tertiary education providers and putting in place a platform forcloser collaboration on core functions – from curriculum design to studentmanagement systems – will benefit students and industry. And it can be donein a way that supports good jobs in all the communities served by existingpolytechnics.However consolidation alone is not going to save the sector. Persistentunderfunding of tertiary education has run down our institutions and thestaff.“You can’t teach at the cutting edge of industry if you don’t have themachinery and technology to do it. You can’t innovate when every minute ofthe day is filled covering classes because there aren’t enough tutors”,says Riggs.“If we want a vocational education system that contributes to solvingclimate change and delivering builders to help turn around our housingcrisis, that creates cutting edge innovators and nurses who care for uswhen we are ill, then it’s time the Minister reviewed the entire tertiaryeducation funding system.”Beyond the funding concerns, Michael Gilchrist notes the government’swillingness to recognise the expertise of the teaching, administrative, andsupport staff in polytechnics is crucial to designing the future has been ahugely positive factor in the review process.“Over the last 18 months we’ve sat alongside chief executives, students,the Industry Training Federation, government officials and communitymembers discussing the vocational education reform. It was disappointingthat the professional knowledge of trained polytechnic tutors and theimportance of their relationship with students to quality learning outcomeshas not always been recognised by others.”The TEU supports the establishment of Industry Skills Bodies and strongercoordination of vocational education but stresses teaching and learningexperts are at the heart of decision-making about what should be taught andhow it should be taught.Gilchrist says “we need the government to continue to recognise theteaching expertise of the dual professionals working in polytechnics as thereforms progress. And we need recognition that staff conditions of workimpact on the quality of the teaching and learning experience.”For more information

  • Michael Gilchrist, TEU national president, +64 27 8994256
  • Sharn Riggs, TEU national secretary, +64 27 4438768
  • Sandra Grey, Political officer, +64 21 844176