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Alarm Bells Ring Over UCOL Funding Package

Media release - 12 May 2002

From Friends of the Wanganui Polytechnic

Alarm bells rang on Friday at the official launch and welcome of UCOL to Wanganui when Paul McElroy, CEO of UCOL, announced that there would be a reduced financial package available for the newly merged institution, Wanganui UCOL. Mr. McElroy did not divulge by how much the financial package would be reduced. He intimated that it was substantially less than first negotiated.

Last year, Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Steve Maharey, promised that the Labour Government would provide $48million for tertiary education in the Wanganui region. Our local MP (Jill Pettis) our Mayor (Chas Poynter) and Council have made much of how successful they had been in gaining such a substantial sum for the development of education in the electorate. In the face of overwhelming public, staff and student opposition to the merger the financial injection promised, at least, a stable future for our only tertiary institute.

Now the extent of this financial input has changed there are questions that need to be asked and answered. How much money is to be invested in Wanganui ? What is the breakdown of this investment? When will it occur? How much money has already been spent? What is left of the money promised for Wanganui tertiary education? Who decided to change the amount of investment to Wanganui and on what basis?

The Friends of the Wanganui Polytechnic have participated fully in the UCOL consultation process to date and have watched transitional proceedings carefully. UCOL have given clear signals about re-establishing vocational trades courses at the Wanganui campus and the Friends applaud this. However not yet convinced that UCOL is commitment to strengthening \
and stabilising the icon courses of art, design, fashion and catering. No person with expertise in arts and design has been appointed to the Transitional Advisory Committee. This omission was pointed out to UCOL in a personal email to Paul McElroy 18 April but to date there has been no response nor has the situation been rectified.

The Friends of the Polytechnic are now concerned that Wanganui ambassadors to UCOL are not representing our community’s wishes strongly enough and that Wanganui (once again) may be the ultimate loser. Are we to become, despite assurances by the Ministry, an inaudible voice within a bigger whole? We were reminded yesterday that UCOL has responsibilities over a wider region.

As the community watchdog on these matters, FOWP still seek answers to the questions.

Cathy Taylor

On behalf of Friends of the Wanganui Polytechnic

Contact 06 345 6461

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