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Unitec To Go Under The Microscope

11 March 2005
Unitec To Go Under The Microscope

With the international panel appointed by the NZQA to assess Unitec’s university application due to arrive on Monday, Unitec’s CEO says the institution is ready for what he expects to be an exhaustive evaluation process.

Dr John Webster said that he expected the panel, which is comprised of leading academics from New Zealand, the UK and Australia, to go over Unitec with a fine-tooth comb.

“We are confident that Unitec has the characteristics of a university as laid out in the Education Act. After the barriers that we’ve had to overcome to get to this stage, we are looking forward to proving to the panel that we meet the required standards.”

Sir Douglas Graham is chairing the panel and its members include Professor Ranginui Walker from the University of Auckland and Professor Dennis Gibson, the Chancellor of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

“We have worked hard over the past six years to raise our game to a level that should make it extremely difficult for an unbiased panel to come to any conclusion other than that Unitec looks, feels and acts like a vibrant dual-sector university,” said Dr Webster.

The Education Act defines a university as an institution that is primarily concerned with more advanced learning, delivers interdependent teaching and research that meets international standards, acts as a repository of knowledge and expertise, accepts a role as critic and conscience of society and has a wide diversity of teaching and research.

Dr Webster said that Unitec had established a culture of research and advanced practice that informed teaching and contributed to social, economic and environmental development. Staff members were undertaking research in a wide range of disciplines and most of that research was designed to contribute directly to meeting the key social, economic and environmental goals articulated by government. More than 6000 of its students were in undergraduate and postgraduate programmes and Unitec had a record number of postgraduate degree completions in 2004.

“However, while we are confident that we have the characteristics of a university, we do not intend to compromise our vocational education and trades training. On the contrary, we have already seen how being embedded in a research-informed environment can contribute to high performance in these areas. Our dual-sector profile also benefits those who teach and study at degree level and above, since all our academic programmes are firmly based in real world experience. We are dedicated to meeting the specific needs of our regional communities and supporting identified professions and industries.

“We are a dual-sector institution and always will be, regardless of our legal status – our vocational programmes are a vital part of our profile and provide ready pathways into the higher-level qualifications offered through our undergraduate and postgraduate divisions.”

The NZQA panel will spend three days at Unitec, interviewing staff, students and external stakeholders as well as touring the Mt Albert campus.

After the panel reports its findings, the NZQA Board will make its recommendations to the Minister of Education, who has power to recommend to the Governor-General that Unitec be established as a university.


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