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Challenge from departing head– study in Wanganui

Challenge from departing principal – study in Wanganui!

The outgoing Principal of Whanganui UCOL has issued a challenge to Wanganui people: Don’t leave the region to study.

“International students and students from across New Zealand come to Wanganui - but many of our own young people leave the region,” she says.

Suzanne Frecklington retires this month after five years at the helm of Whanganui UCOL. She says in that time she’s come to feel passionately about the importance of retaining publicly-funding tertiary education for the region.

But she says the community still does not fully understand why that is important. “This is not about UCOL and it’s not about providing education for the sake of it. It’s about our young people and our obligation to protect and support a resource that allows them to train for a job and a career, close to home and at minimal cost.

“It’s also about people in work up skilling and gaining qualifications to meet changing workforce requirements. In a time of economic uncertainty, qualifications can prepare you for change. A qualification can give you that leading edge at an interview.”

For Wanganui, she says it’s also about providing skills for local industry.

“As times get tighter in the economic downturn, it is vital that the community rallies around their local services.”

Suzanne says the fight to make sure Wanganui retained access to publicly funded education goes back a long way. “It was being fought well before my time by people Iike former Wanganui District Council chief executives Colin Whitlock and David Warburton, Wanganui MP Chester Burrows, and Wanganui architect Michael Payne, to name just a few. It’s no coincidence that the main building on our beautiful new campus Matapihi ki te Ao is named after Michael Payne who was a driving force in establishing the Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic.”

She says he and others battled hard to establish, develop and retain the polytechnic, now Whanganui UCOL. “Why? Because they thought Wanganui deserved it!”

Suzanne says there are many sound practical reasons why Wanganui people should study in Wanganui. “Apart from Whanganui UCOL, there is a range of private tertiary education providers (PTEs) in this region. Between us, we offer something for everybody.

“Then there’s increasingly important matter of cost. Rents and other housing costs are relatively low here and transport costs almost nonexistent, with free buses now available to Whanganui UCOL students as well as some students from the private providers.”

Over the last two years Suzanne has been leading a pilot that has the government-funded Whanganui UCOL working collaboratively and sharing resources with the region’s PTEs. She says the government has funded this project as a way to protect the future of polytechnic education in Wanganui and protect gains for the region’s community and business sector. “Now it’s up to the people of Wanganui to get behind it,” she says.

Suzanne became Principal of Whanganui UCOL in 2004, after being Deputy and then Acting Principal. After working in mental health, she joined UCOL in Palmerston North in 1983 as a lecturer, and subsequently held various management positions including Acting Head of Nursing, Principal of UCOL’s Levin campus and Manager of Student Support Services.

UCOL Chief Executive Paul McElroy says Suzanne has played a pivotal and valued role in the development of Whanganui UCOL, following the merger with Wanganui Regional Community Polytechnic. “In particular, she has lead the successful transition of Whanganui UCOL from its scattered presence in Wanganui to the magnificent new facilities at Matapihi ki te Ao in Rutland Street,” he says.

“Suzanne has also played a hugely important part in strengthening the links between Whanganui UCOL and the Wanganui community and, more recently, with other tertiary education providers and support agencies in the region.”

Suzanne will be farewelled at a staff function in the campus Atrium at 3.30 pm today and at a cocktail party in the Atrium at 6 pm.

Julia Pedley will be the new Principal of Whanganui UCOL from the beginning of next year.


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