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Community education under control

6 August 2004 Media Statement

Community education under control – National crying crocodile tears

Community education enrolments at polytechnics have been decisively dealt with, says Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey.

Following the release yesterday of the Tertiary Education Commission’s report into enrolments in the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology’s COOL course, National’s education spokesperson Bill English this afternoon called for further investigations into community education enrolments at five further institutions.

Steve Maharey said the government had fully investigated community education enrolments at all institutions where problems had occurred and had announced clear new funding rules to ensure enrolments remain within manageable levels in the future.

“The government has decisively dealt with the community education issue. We acted as soon as it became clear that some institutions were enrolling more students than they had previously advised the Commission they were expecting.

- in October 2003 the government became aware that student numbers were increasing above Budget estimates. Further investigation revealed much of the growth was in community education enrolments
- in November 2003 I advised polytechnics that they needed to be cautious about unforecast growth, or the government would have to cap overall numbers
- in February 2004 the government determined it would be necessary to cap enrolments and begun discussions with institutions about how the cap would be implemented
- in May 2004 a cap on student numbers and a reduction in per student subsidies for community education enrolments was announced
- in July 2004 institutions were informed how the cap on community education enrolments would individually impact on them.

“The new funding arrangements ensure that community education courses can still be offered at institutions across the country and that we can also invest in other forms of priority education, such as trades training.

“Bill English really has no credibility on the community education issue. The reason that some institutions were able to rapidly increase their enrolments is because the National government uncapped tertiary funding in 1998. We have now recapped funding for community education.

“This is part of a wider reform of the entire tertiary funding system we inherited from National which shifts from a purely demand-driven approach to one centered on the nations’ economic and social development.

“Bill English has today singled out five institutions and demanded further inquiries. In every case we have already acted.

“The cap on student numbers and funding will ensure that institutions teaching a large number of community education students (such as UCOL, Manukau Institute of Technology and Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi) will return their enrolments to the sort of levels they were teaching before enrolments grew rapidly.

“We have also dealt with the issues raised about community education enrolments at Tairawhiti Polytechnic and the Eastern Institute of Technology. An independent audit was conducted of Tairawhiti Polytechnic’s community education enrolments at the government’s request and TEC investigated EIT’s community education enrolment procedures, and found they they were in accordance with the rules.

“Perhaps the most startling comments from Bill English today came when he said he wanted to fire polytechnic staff and tell students what courses they should take. Tertiary institutions in New Zealand are autonomous and are not micromanaged by politicians.

“No civilised country in the world has a Minister sitting behind the desk making decisions about who gets to learn what, when and how. Bill English’s aspiration to do so is nothing short of ridiculous,” Steve Maharey said.


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