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Cullen: Address to Eastern Institute of Technology

Friday 10 March 2006

Hon Michael Cullen: Address to Eastern Institute of Technology 2006 Graduation Ceremony

Hawkes Bay Opera House, Hastings

Chris Collins, Eastern Institute of Technology Chief Executive, David Pearson, Council Chairman, Kaumatua Joe Northover, Kuia Pauline Tangiora, Council members and staff, proud families and students.

It is great pleasure for me to be here today, to celebrate the success of EIT’s graduates in Business & Computing and Science & Technology. Today is the culmination of years of intellectual effort equipping yourselves with knowledge and skills for your chosen area of expertise. From now on you will be turning that expertise into what I trust will be stimulating and productive careers.

In particular, I want to mention Tracey Taylor, who is the first person to graduate with a Bachelor of Viticulture and a Bachelor of Wine Science at the same time. I understand that Tracey left behind a 20-year career in banking to follow her dream in one of New Zealand’s most vibrant industries. As someone who spends a lot of time with bankers and also enjoys savouring New Zealand wines I can assure you that you have made a very wise choice.

A crucial role of institutes of technology and polytechnics is to provide accessible and flexible learning opportunities which meet the needs of regional communities and regional employers. Those needs are constantly changing, as the economy grows and develops and as our culture evolves. EIT has worked hard to address those needs and to respond to those changes.

EIT has established an important niche for itself by offering people from all walks of life the opportunity to study specialist subjects that meet the needs of Hawkes Bay’s key industry groups, such as wine, tourism and recreation. Courses offered range from certificate and diploma level, through to degree and post-graduate. This commitment to providing a mix of distinctive learning opportunities based on local need and drawing on key national qualifications is commendable.

It is encouraging to note that almost two-thirds of EIT students are women, that 80 percent study part-time, and that nearly 75 percent are aged over 25. Providing flexible and tailored approaches to learning for a diverse group of students at various ages and stages can be quite a challenge to an institution. EIT has risen to that challenge, and is succeeding admirably.

Making tertiary education more learner-focused is an important step towards increasing the quality and relevance of our tertiary system. But there is often a tension between being learner-focused and the incentives provided by aspects of the current funding system.

That is why I have signalled that the government will be making changes to the funding system to get a better focus on achieving the outcomes that learners want and meeting the skills needs of the economy. The funding system needs to take into account not just how many students enrol in a course, but how many complete it. We need also to reduce the number of students who begin tertiary student but lose their way, with through lack of planning or because of barriers such as a lack of flexible study options.

We want a funding system that will give institutions like EIT the confidence to plan ahead, and to continue to innovate so as to serve the Hawkes Bay community.

Results, of course, are what we are here to celebrate today.

I want to wish all of today’s graduates all the best for their personal and professional futures, whether that involves going straight into a job or onto further study. I would like also to acknowledge the families who have provided years of support to these graduates.

You should all be proud of your achievements, and we look forward to more achievements to come.


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