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Cash injection for polytech signals need for major change

Media release
Tertiary Education Union - Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa

Latest cash injection for polytech signals need for major change

Press release

The government’s decision to provide a $15m bailout for Whitireia Polytechnic and moves to replace the joint Whitireia-Weltec council with a commissioner is further evidence of the need to fundamentally rethink the funding, governance, and management models used in the tertiary education sector says the Tertiary Education Union.

TEU president Sandra Grey says the actions of the last National Government have put too many of our quality public tertiary institutions in peril. This is harmful for students and staff in the tertiary education sector, and fails the employers and communities reliant on quality public education.

The bailout for Whitireia and moves to appoint a commissioner for Weltec and Whitireia (who share a common council and Chief Executive), follows the replacement of Unitec’s council with a Commissioner last month and the institution receiving a $50 million bailout by the government.

Responding to the Minister’s announcement today, the TEU said while it’s regrettable that the government is looking to dissolve another Council and appoint a commissioner to run the institution temporarily, it was a necessary step to ensure future generations can continue to access potentially life-changing learning opportunities at Whitireia.

“What the announcement shows is that the legacy of Simon Bridges’ friends in the last National government have put lifelong learning in jeopardy in communities in both Auckland and now Wellington. It was National that decided to make our institutions operate as businesses, with small nimble boards that became increasingly disconnected from staff, students, and the community.”

The composition of the councils of tertiary institutions is currently before a parliamentary select committee. We are calling on MPs to learn from what has happened at Whitireia, Weltec, and Unitec and to put staff, students, iwi, and communities in the driving seat” says Grey.

But it is not just the governance and operational structures that need review.

Funding to the tertiary education sector was slashed under the last National Government. Last year the sector was given 10 per cent less than it had in 2009, the year after National took power. Funding cuts have far outpaced the drop in student numbers over the same period.

“Chris Hipkins’ has recognised the need to ‘fix the funding model’ and we need him to be courageous on this. It is time to set up a full inquiry on funding for the tertiary education sector, and the way it is managed and governed,” says Grey.

Over the past few years Whitireia and Weltec staff and students have faced constant upheaval and change, lurching from crisis to crisis.

Grey says “It is time for the government to address the failures in funding, governance and management of our teriary institutions We all benefit daily from having trained plumbers, builders, hospitality workers, nurses and care workers, and need to be part of ensuring a diversity of tertiary education provision for future generations.”

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