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New Zealand’s first tertiary education commons

Prime Minister to open New Zealand’s first tertiary education commons

The new Whanganui Tertiary Education Campus, Matapihi ki te Ao, will be officially opened by the Prime Minister Helen Clark in Wanganui on Thursday 17 April at 3.30 pm.

The campus is the new home of Whanganui UCOL which shifted its operations onto the architecturally designed and redeveloped site in February this year.

It will be developed over the next four years as a shared tertiary education campus, a collaborative, cross-sector venture involving a range of tertiary education providers and support agencies across Wanganui and the wider region.

This new approach to educational delivery is a pilot, supported by the Government through the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). It will be the first such educational complex in New Zealand.

Whanganui UCOL Principal Suzanne Frecklington says the venture aims to create new educational opportunities. “It is absolutely in keeping with UCOL’s barrier-free educational philosophy and our commitment has always been on making tertiary level education as accessible and as enjoyable as possible”.

Ms Frecklington says a ‘UCOL commons’ is being created, allowing for the shared use of learning facilities, leading over time to the development of curriculum in partnership with other providers. “This will encourage harmony in programme offerings and joint innovation in delivery modes. A longer term vision is for the campus to become a shared learning place that can meet the education needs of the region, with a composite programme portfolio, joint awards and collaboration in the use of flexible delivery modes.”

As an example of the way the campus will operate, Ms Frecklington says a student might want to acquire learning or English language skills from a private provider then staircase into a UCOL programme, all on the same site, using the same excellent student support services.

Ms Frecklington says this concept will ensure that the tertiary education on offer meets the region’s needs: “Programmes will be developed in line with the results of research into the region’s tertiary education needs, including the needs of iwi, industry and employers.

A collaborative, partnership approach, soundly based on identified community needs and involving shared resources, should also ensure that the education delivered is cost effective and sustainable:”
Frecklington says the construction and official opening of the new campus marks the visible beginning of this long term venture, but other important groundwork has already been completed.
“An Education Plan has been developed, based on research into the region’s tertiary educational needs. There has been extensive consultation with students, staff, the community and local iwi, including public meetings hosted by the Whanganui Regional Advisory Committee, and the establishment of closer links with local agencies, including Work and Income, Career Services, Sport and Recreation Wanganui.”
Ms Frecklington says discussions with other tertiary education providers are continuing. “There is a willingness to work together, and one of the first projects to be completed is a joint database of all qualifications on offer in the Whanganui Region into one easy to access spot, available right here on the new campus.
“This Information Kiosk has just been developed and will be on show in at the Official Opening of the new campus. We are looking forward to showing this to the Prime Minister as part of her campus tour, after the official opening,” she says.
The collaborative, community-led approach to tertiary education in Whanganui has already produced some other innovative approaches:

Whanganui UCOL and Wanganui City College are now working together to build better pathways for school pupils to go into trades careers with a new Trades Academy, initially offering carpentry training. Trade workshops are held at the City College, with UCOL staff teaching secondary school students as well as offering tertiary level qualifications. This shared approach is another first for the region.

Background on the new campus:

The overarching name of the new campus, Matapihi ki te Ao, was chosen by Whanganui iwi because it encompasses all people and the opportunities education can bring. It means Window of Opportunity to the World. The campus was blessed by local iwi in a dawn ceremony on 7 January. UCOL staff shifted into the new campus during February.

The campus is New Zealand’s newest. It is situated across the road from the Whanganui River and is one city block, within easy walking distance to cafes, restaurants, central business district and shops.

It is an architectural blend of existing heritage buildings and new buildings, constructed with environmentally friendly and sustainable materials. The state of the art learning environment incorporates indoor and outdoor social spaces, and exhibition and event spaces. The latest computer technology is available with wireless internet connection.

Other facilities and services include the library learning hub, personal education planners, learning support, health centre and a free city bus service to and from the new campus.


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