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Cullen: UCOL Graduation Ceremony

Friday 21 April 2006 at 12 noon

UCOL Faculty of Health, Science and Technology Graduation Ceremony

Regency Room, Regent Theatre, Palmerston North

Council Chair, Duncan Milne, Chief Executive Paul McElroy, distinguished guests, members of the UCOL teaching staff, 2006 graduands of the Faculty of Health, Science and Technology, whanau and supporters, ladies and gentlemen.

The successful completion of any course of study is invariably a team effort. Standing behind every graduate are the teachers who guided that student through their course of study, the advisors and administrators who provided logistical support, the whanau and friends who provided encouragement and practical help, and, in very the distant background, people such as myself who arranged the funding and supported UCOL as an institution.

This afternoon it is important to acknowledge the team effort that goes into completing an educational qualification. All of you graduands probably have a number of key individuals whom you would like to bring onto the stage with you, to share this moment. Sensibly, since we do not have the room or the time, we only allow one person onto the podium to receive the certificate.

However, this afternoon is a celebration of the immense potential that tertiary education has to realise the dreams of individuals and to create a more skilled, productive and innovative society.

I would like to offer my personal congratulations to you all, and wish you well in applying your new qualifications to the task of building successful careers.

No matter how far you go, I hope you will maintain an interest in UCOL and how it develops as an institution and a learning community.

Institutes of technology and polytechs have a very challenging task. They need to be sensitive to what their regional economy and community needs, and sensitive to what individuals want to learn and how they want to learn it.

They need to be committed to maintaining quality, and at the same time prepared to be innovative and experiment with new types of courses and new ways of teaching.

They need to communicate effectively with a range of stakeholders and collaborate with schools, businesses and other tertiary institutions.

They need to understand broader national trends, and factor those into their forward planning.

And they need to be good stewards of their assets, both the skills and commitment of their staff, and their physical assets such as buildings and equipment.

UCOL has proven adept at these tasks, and as an institution is playing a key role in providing high quality tertiary education to a diverse population across a large geographical area.

The 2005 year brought some impressive achievements. In terms of Health & Science, the UCOL Bachelor of Nursing programme is well supported and highly regarded by local health providers and has been extended to run from Wairarapa UCOL and Whanganui UCOL with high demand and full enrolments.

UCOL’s science programmes provide pathways into higher learning, and also show impressive results in terms of the success that graduates have in quickly finding employment as technicians.

All medical imaging technology students passed their final ‘Competency Based Assessment’ exam which allows them to register with the Medical Radiation Technologists Board. And the prestigious Royal Australasian College of Radiologists award has been won by UCOL Medical Imaging Technology degree students for the last three years in row.

UCOL’s human performance laboratory for the testing of athletes has been accredited in the area of Exercise Physiology by Sport and Exercise Science New Zealand. Bachelor of Human Performance staff and students ran a Bike NZ training camp for the New Zealand Under 19 Cycling Endurance Squad and continue to work with local Bike NZ cyclists, with these cyclists excelling both nationally and internationally.

Last year one of UCOL’s human performance degree students gained the Sport, Fitness and Recreation Industry Training Organisation Maori Sports Scholarship Award.

UCOL has contributed to New Zealand’s engagement with the rest of the world through the highly successful Bachelor of Nursing for Registered Nurses in India, developed in partnership with the Canadian Institute for International Studies.

In terms of trades training, UCOL has a pre-eminent role in the region, and is developing closer links with ITOs in joinery, electrical trades, and engineering. This is reflected in the number of ITO apprentices doing engineering at UCOL and in the strong working relationship between COMPETENZ (the engineering ITO) and UCOL.

The region, and the economy at large, is in need of more construction skills. This was highlighted in the aftermath of the floods in the region, and it was heartening to see UCOL play an important leadership role in developing and implementing the very successful flood relief construction programme.

UCOL has continued to involve local construction firms in its work, by placing fulltime students in industry for three week placements, which in most cases lead to apprenticeships.

UCOL has experienced rapid growth in construction trades and at the request of industry has successfully introduced a work based construction programme working very closely with industry to deliver on the job training which complements the theory that trainees learn at UCOL.

The picture that emerges at UCOL is of an institution that is fully engaged in a constructive dialogue with its key stakeholders. That kind of collaborative approach is precisely what I am intending to promote through the set of reforms to the tertiary sector that I announced earlier this month.

The needs of New Zealand industry, in terms of a more skilled workforce with the broader competencies that allow ongoing improvements in productivity, are a central concern in the reform process. Quality and relevance have to become the central focus of the system.

When I speak about quality I am thinking both of education that meets international benchmarks and of education that delivers to employers graduates whose skills are current and who are well prepared for the workforce. And when I speak about relevance I am thinking of a tertiary education system that is in tune with the major drivers of productivity and of change in the economy.

Understandably, the aspect of the reforms that had attracted the most attention is the proposal to change the funding system. I have signalled that the simplistic approach of funding on the basis of enrolments will be replaced. While the precise details of the new arrangements are still the subject of consultation, there are several important features.

First, the funding system will provide tertiary institutions with a multi-year commitment from government. This will provide a more secure basis for medium to long term planning.

Second, funding will inevitably reflect a combination of enrolments and other important indicators, including factors such as course completion and other outcome measures. It is imperative that what we reward in the tertiary system is not just signing people on, but guiding them through to a successful outcome. The existing system has encouraged too much of a short term focus, and not enough attention has been paid to giving good advice to students and ensuring that the courses of study they enrol in are appropriate to their abilities and aspirations.

Third, the funding system will take into account each institution’s broader plan to deliver courses that have a strategic fit with what the community and employers need over the medium to long term. What we are seeking to do is to invest explicitly in those plans, provided that they are soundly based and reflect a broad consultation with employers and the community.

Once again, the exact details are yet to be determined. However, the system will inevitably favour institutions that engage with their stakeholders and gather good quality information about what skills and competencies will be most valued in the workforce.

The government is firmly committed to any tertiary institutions that offer better advice to students, enabling them to make better choices, and leading to better outcomes.

Looking around this hall today, I see many reasons to be confident in the future of UCOL.

Can I once again congratulate today’s graduands on the completion of their years of hard work, and acknowledge all of those who stand behind them as they receive their certificates and as they venture forward into their careers or into further study.

Thank you.

ENDS

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