TEU member Saylene Ulberg is currently studying a Bachelor of Musical Arts at the Musical & Audio Institute of New Zealand (MAINZ), following many years working as an artist in the music industry. Saylene discusses the recent programme closures at MAINZ and calls for the Government to intervene.

I’ve worked in the music industry for some time, but recently decided it was time to gain a qualification so that i might one day teach music and give back in another way to an industry that has given me so much.

I love music as an art form and as an industry, and I’ve seen first-hand its transformative potential, what it contributes to both the culture and economy of Aotearoa, and what it means for the people who study and work in the industry. So it was with shock and sadness that myself, staff, students and people in the industry heard through the media about the closure of the Southern Institute of Technology’s (SIT) MAINZ programmes.

You only have to look at the names of MAINZ alumni to get a feel for the importance of programmes which fell under the MAINZ banner, including award winning and Grammy nominated producers and engineers such as Jordan Stone (Wilco, Neil Finn), Lance Powell (Wilco, Mali Music, Miguel), Josh Fountain (Benee, Leisure, MAALA) Aaron Short (The Naked and Famous), Nick Campbell (Midnight Youth), and Joel Little (Lorde, Broods, Kids of 88).

To learn that MAINZ would no longer be offering the Bachelor of Audio Engineering and Production at its Auckland campus when it disappeared off the tertiary education provider's website only added insult to injury. This programme has given so much to the music industry, locally and globally, and has provided a pathway for so many, both as artists, producers and industry leaders.

The move is short-sighted, and lacks any appreciation for what this programme has contributed, not just to the industry, but to the lives of the students who have and continue to study with MAINZ and their communities.

This short-sightedness rings especially true as decisions made to close programmes come mere months before the reform of vocational education (RoVE) unfold.

MAINZ outcomes and vocational industry relevance needs to stand separately from SIT, and SIT should not be authorised to make these types of decisions before the unfolding of RoVE. With no guarantee MAINZ will continue to be a part of SIT following the reforms, the move to close such important programmes is premature, and it’s my belief, and the belief of many students – both current and former – that MAINZ, a successful institute of some 27 years, could stand alone in its own right.

There are also important equity issues to consider in the closure of MAINZ programmes. Compare, for example, SIT's 3% Pasifika and 16% Māori student population with that of MAINZ, with 42% Pacific and 27% Māori student populations in Auckland. SIT’s respective strategies for Māori and Pasifika are based on improving educational outcomes, while at the same time they cut programmes where Māori and Pasifika participation is at its highest.

This should be of major concern for the Government, the Ministry of Education and leaders in the arts and education around the country. There is no other institution in New Zealand that provides the same depth of programmes as MAINZ, and no other that provides anything that compares to the Bachelor of Audio Engineering and Production.

The Government needs to take action now. They need to intervene, and to stop closures that will impact students, aiga, whānau and all New Zealanders.

Students at MAINZ have launched a petition calling for Honourable Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education to intervene and reverse this situation. Please support the students and staff at MAINZ, and the future of art and culture in New Zealand.