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English and Smith wrong on NMIT

7 August 2006

English and Smith wrong on NMIT

The Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) did not breach funding rules when delivering its community computing courses, the Minister for Tertiary Education Dr Michael Cullen said today.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has cleared NMIT of allegations made by National MP Dr Nick Smith and National's education spokesman Bill English.

The Auditor-General has also decided there was insufficient evidence to warrant a separate investigation of a complaint made by Dr Smith.

"Dr Smith and Mr English claimed the institution was engaging in a rort. Once again National has cried wolf and wasted taxpayer resources.

"The report found that the community computer courses were a valid way of providing skills and a helping hand to further tertiary training.

"These types of courses are a valuable first step for thousands of people across the country. As the Auditor-General has noted, by their very nature community education courses do not result in qualifications and do not require assessment."

The TEC examined whether NMIT breached the Tertiary Funding Guide’s criteria when claiming funding for the courses and by offering students the opportunity to win a second hand computer if they attended the opening of one of NMIT’s community computing centres.

"The TEC’s report found that NMIT followed due process for registering the institution’s community computing courses and claiming funding," Dr Cullen said.

"“The report concluded that NMIT’s prize of a second hand computer was not designed to attract new enrolments, but was only offered to students who were already enrolled in the courses. Nevertheless, NMIT have agreed that this was not an appropriate approach to take and will not be repeating it in the future."

The Tertiary Funding Guide states that tertiary education providers must not offer inducements as a way of encouraging people to enrol in courses.

The report also raised some issues regarding the way institutions claim tutor contact time for community education courses. These issues will be considered as part of the tertiary education reforms and in the implementation of the new Adult and Community Education (ACE) funding arrangements.

NMIT has offered free introductory and intermediate computing courses since 2004, funded by the ACE capped pool.

All ACE courses offered by tertiary education organisations will be reviewed by 2008 to ensure they meet quality assurance requirements. The issue of how organisations calculate ACE tutor contact time will be considered as part of the tertiary education reforms.

"Dr Smith and Mr English should check their facts before making reckless claims which created unnecessary stress for an institution working hard for its community," Dr Cullen concluded.

The TEC report can be found (after midday) at:

http://www.tec.govt.nz/

ENDS

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