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Long-serving Otago Polytechnic Executive Says Institution’s Future Looks Bright

Chris Morland, Deputy Chief Executive Learner Experience Otago Polytechnic, retires on Friday 28 January, bringing to a close four decades of experience within the tertiary education sector, including the last 17 years at the Dunedin campus.

Having arrived in Dunedin in 2004 from Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, where he held a variety of roles for 20 years, Chris has seen plenty of change in his time at Otago Polytechnic.

Attracted south to a role as head of the then Otago Institute of Sport, Chris discovered Otago Polytechnic’s reputation for delivering quality vocational education was apparent across many levels.

A few years later, he was promoted to Group Manager within a relatively small executive team led by then Chief Executive Phil Ker; that team grew steadily until 2016, when a large-scale executive restructure saw the executive structure essentially halved.

"As a result, my portfolio and responsibilities expanded and all the teaching departments reported to me," Chris reflects. "The rational was to integrate the learner journey (or student support systems and services) alongside the academic journey and delivery.

"I’ve seen various changes at Otago Polytechnic over the years. But one thing that has always remained strong is the quality of our delivery.

"I think it’s in the DNA of this place. It’s a constant thread that resides in the staff, through their professionalism, passion and commitment. I believe it was there when I arrived in 2004 and I’d like to think I’ve played a small role in helping ensure it has stayed strong.

"I also think innovation is another key thread at Otago Polytechnic.

"Part of this has to do with our ability and willingness to engage with industry sectors; the other is about us just approaching things differently. Take, for instance, our Capable NZ programmes, which provide alternative pathways to qualifications for experienced adults who are in the workplace."

Chris believes Otago Polytechnic’s culture will remain strong as it continues its transition as a subsidiary under Te Pūkenga, the national network of polytechnics and Transitional Industry Training Organisations (TITOs).

"The framework Otago Polytechnic has created puts it in good stead for the future. I also believe the consultative, collaborative approach Te Pūkenga is taking to engage closely with the sector is creating strong building blocks.

"For example, a focus on the learner, putting them at the forefront of all thinking, is to be applauded - as is the focus on lifting and strengthening our commitments to the Treaty of Waitangi and our partnerships with iwi.

"It is a very interesting and exciting time in tertiary education in New Zealand."

In regards the future, on a more personal note, Chris is looking forward to his retirement.

Although he will still have a small role as an assessor for Capable NZ, he hopes the majority of his time will be spent with his wife, Ellen, and a family network that includes six grandchildren.

Occasionally sighted on a Segway that he has used to commute between meetings, including going to and fro across the green expanse of Dunedin's Logan Park, Chris has his eyes on new forms of "wheel estate" - most likely a caravan or campervan in which he and Ellen can ply the highways and byways of New Zealand "while and when we can".

Other plans include gardening, a spot of fishing and spending some time at the "mighty" Roslyn Bowling Club.

"We both have electric bikes, too, so we are dangerous!"

[-Te Pūkenga was established to better meet the needs of learners and employers by bringing together on-job, on-campus and online learning across Aotearoa New Zealand. By 1 January 2023, Te Pūkenga will create a unified, sustainable public network of regionally accessible vocational and applied learning. Otago Polytechnic is a part of Te Pūkenga.]

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