The announcement today that Unitec will likely receive close to a $50 million bailout over the next two years, and the proposed appointment of a commissioner to steer the institution through a period of extreme financial difficulty, points to two important lessons – first, that policies of the last National Government are still being felt across the tertiary sector and are placing many of our public institutions in peril, and, second, that previous managers at Unitec have failed their students, staff and local community.Responding to the announcement, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said the proposed dissolution of the council and appointment of a commissioner to run the institution temporarily was, regrettably, a necessary step to ensure future generations can continue to access life-changing learning opportunities at Unitec. The government’s decision to bailout the institution was also a welcome sign of Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ ongoing commitment to high-quality education at all levels and in all communities, the TEU said.Students and staff at Unitec have shown an enormous amount of strength to continue their learning and teaching in the face of a litany of poor management decisions, many of which have led to today’s announcement. It is their dedication and commitment to education that has kept Unitec going - and it is their skill, time and energy that will ensure a sustainable future for the institution. Today’s announcement can be traced back to the office of the last two tertiary education ministers, both of whom are responsible for the precarious funding situation many institutions now findthemselves in.Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, said
“It speaks volumes about what the last National Government did to our sector that our current Education Minister has had to step in to clear up the mess. He has been taking some great steps towards long-term change for our sector, and I only hope that the heavy heart with which he must have decided to bailout Unitec does not deter him from the important work ahead. In many ways it should affirm his decision to change the way our sector is funded, and his work to push for a broader systemic change that will prevent decisions like this having to be made in future.
“We’d also hold National responsible for laying the ground for many of the terrible decisions Unitec management has made over the years. Of course, previous managers and council both need to take responsibility for what they have done to undermine students’ learning – and for the council to need replacing by a commissioner. But National’s policy of forcing the sector to compete with itself, and to put profits above students, has led to managers prioritising the balance sheet of the institution over and above its core obligation to teach future generations the skills our nation will depend on. This needs to change and today’s announcement shows exactly why.”