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Mayor concerned at proposed polytechnic shakeup

Mayor of Dunedin Dave Cull says he’s extremely concerned that the proposed restructure of New Zealand’s vocational training sector could weaken the innovative autonomy of Otago Polytechnic and deprive the city of the considerable benefits the Polytechnic has brought.

Mr Cull says Otago Polytechnic has long been one of the top performing polytechnics in the country and it makes no sense to include it in a ‘one size fits all’ approach aimed at addressing problems elsewhere in the sector.

“Otago Polytechnic has an outstanding track record. It is financially viable; has excellent management and teaching staff; it collaborates superbly with local businesses, industries and the Council to address community needs; and it has been proactive in fostering lucrative international relationships which are of huge benefit to both the Polytechnic and the wider city.

“The proposed merger risks undoing a lot of good work and would see Otago Polyethnic potentially being subservient to an organisational structure that may not understand or care about our local needs.

“We need to ensure that our Polytechnic can maintain its individual character and specialisations, as this is one of the main drawcards for local and international students alike, and what sets it apart from so many others.

“Clearly national consistency of standards and qualifications and the elimination of wasteful and uncoordinated competition in the vocational training area is desirable, and reform of that is overdue. However, that should not involve throwing the regional baby out with the national bathwater, and penalising successful polytechnics for the failings of others.

Mr Cull says the timing of the proposed restructure makes it even more concerning.

“Dunedin is about to undergo a period of transformational change, with a number of huge developments due to start within the next few years.

“Otago Polytechnic will play a crucial role in helping to meet the skills demand for developments such as the new hospital build, central city and tertiary precinct upgrades, as well as increased housing demand and supporting the stellar growth of our creative sector.

“We need Otago to remain autonomous, and flexible and responsive to local needs,” he says.

This week Dunedin City Councillors agreed to work with Otago Polytechnic to ensure any government reforms:

• maintain or enhance the sustainability of Otago Polytechnic’s operating budgets
• allow for the development of courses and programmes locally to meet the needs of our community
• support the continued delivery of creative industries training
• enhance the ability of the Polytechnic to independently build collaborative relationships both locally and internationally.

“I’ve been in touch with Otago Polytechnic CEO Phil Ker to let him know the city is behind them and will be doing all we can to make our community’s views heard loud and clear.

“I call on the Government to guarantee the autonomy of regional polytechnics in matters other than standards and qualifications.

“I believe Otago Polytechnic should be an exemplar to others, and the very successful model of operations here replicated elsewhere in the country.

“Indeed, if there is to be a central hub for a new national training organisation, it should be in New Zealand’s proven centre of educational excellence – Dunedin,” says Mr Cull.

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