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Unitec enters the matrix

Unitec enters the matrix

Unitec has today announced its new academic structure - a matrix that is unique in New Zealand and reflects the institution's distinctive dual-sector approach to education.

The institution has replaced the faculty system of traditional tertiary institutions, with a structure based on divisions and schools. One division is responsible for vocational training and education programmes, one for undergraduate degrees and a third for postgraduate programmes. These three divisions intersect with discipline-based schools in a matrix structure.

"Unitec is known for being an innovative institution that isn't afraid to challenge the status quo," said Unitec CEO and President Dr John Webster. "Our old structure, which was based on a traditional model, had become inappropriate for our dual-sector vision, which combines the best aspects of technical institutes and universities in the training of people in work, for work and through work."

Although the dual-sector approach is well-established overseas, Dr Webster said that it was a new concept in New Zealand.

He said the matrix structure maximised Unitec's capacity to mobilise expertise to deliver high-quality teaching and research, and to create opportunities for students across disciplines and at all levels, from vocational training to postgraduate study. "Industry and the professions have moved on and if we want to continue to meet their needs we need to move on as well.

"The result is that all students get the benefit of the very latest knowledge in their chosen vocation or profession, together with the means to apply it in their everyday work. Students can expand their skills base in breadth or in depth as their careers unfold. The approach focuses all staff on real world applications of research and advanced practice.

"Although our dual-sector vision has evolved progressively over the past few years, 2004 is the first year in which the logic of that vision has been reflected in our fundamental structure. We have also adjusted our crest and brand to reflect our uniquely dynamic and innovative approach."

Dr Webster said Unitec did not wish to be seen as a conventional university, and had therefore applied for designation as a university of technology. At the same time, it had become seriously misleading to describe Unitec as an institute of technology when that term had been widely adopted by the polytechnic sector to describe a significantly different kind of institution.

"We will therefore simply use the name Unitec New Zealand and we will retain that name after we have been legally designated as a university."

Dr Webster said government strategies, the changing tertiary landscape and growth had made change inevitable, and had intensified pressure on tertiary institutions to differentiate their missions and to become more responsive and collaborative.

"Our programmes are developed in response to demand from industry and the professions we serve. There is a real need for practical, applied qualifications that also equip graduates with the ability to adapt to the rapidly changing workplace.

"The new matrix structure allows our schools to strengthen our teaching and applied research by working with industry and the professions, while our divisions ensure that our programmes are of high quality, remain accessible and relevant to students, and address stakeholder needs."

Unitec's 10,500 EFTS (Equivalent Full-time Students), equating to 61,000 students through its gates in 2003, are spread throughout programmes in the three divisions - with 26 programmes in the postgraduate division, 44 in undergraduate, and 56 in the vocational division.

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