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Staff are the foundation for future of tertiary education

Education Minister, Chris Hipkins will be reminded today by the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) that the success of his planned reform of institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) will depend on the extraordinary skill, knowledge and experience of the people working and studying in the sector.

In its report Changing Lives [1], to be published this afternoon, the TEU emphasises that staff conditions of work are students’ conditions of learning. Unless the Minister puts the relationship between staff and students at the centre of a reformed ITP sector, his reforms are bound to fail. It was a timely reminder from the TEU, coming just one week before the Minister announces radical plans to restructure ITPs and change the vocational education and training system.

Changing Lives makes clear that these reforms must guarantee a significant increase in funding for the sector, and an end to the broken competitive system put in place under the last Government. It also say the reforms must ensure a nationwide network of provision that reaches into every community, ensuring all New Zealanders have access to tertiary education through a range of delivery options.

Michael Gilchrist, national president of the TEU, said: “ITPs and vocational education more broadly provide life-changing learning opportunities to thousands of New Zealanders. Whether it’s a young person figuring out their path, changing careers later in life, learning new skills or finding their passion, ITPs are there to support them on their way. A priority for the Minister must be to make sure ITPs stay broadly and deeply connected to the communities, both regional and urban, in which they are placed.

“More than this, the hard-working teaching and allied staff in ITPs play a crucial role in helping us develop the practical and intellectual skills we need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world. The Minister must remember when he makes his announcement next week that ITPs and their connections to local communities and industry, provide a vital link between what this Government has promised and what it can deliver. Without the skill, experience and dedication of the staff in the sector, we simply cannot train future house builders, nurses, and social workers.”

Other recommendations in the TEU’s report Changing Lives call on the Minister to:

Demonstrate the reforms proposed for the ITP sector foster the Tiriti relationship expressed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi
Allocate funding on a secure and equitable basis so we can finally pay a Living Wage to all staff directly and indirectly employed; eliminate any and all gender pay imbalances; and stop the proliferation of casual, insecure and fixed-term employment agreements.
Preserve and enhance the regional distinctiveness of all campuses and courses, without exception
Ensure every campus, regardless of its location or proximity to other campuses, has an academic leader appointed who will work with staff to make decisions that will improve teaching, learning and research
Guarantee all regions will have access to tertiary level learning opportunities, including ensuring the provision of levels 1 – 4 in every community
End all competitive funding and adopt the recommendations in the TEU’s recent report Funding the Future


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