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Tertiary reforms worse than school closures

Dr Paul Hutchison MP
National Party Tertiary Education Spokesman

26 November 2007

Tertiary reforms more devastating than school closures

The reforms being imposed by the Tertiary Education Commission on polytechnics and universities are so alarming they have been compared to Labour’s attempts to close primary schools, says National’s Tertiary Education spokesman, Paul Hutchison.

“Only half of the planned reforms will be implemented next year. The caps on student numbers, cuts to funding, and the ‘repatriation out of regions’ come into effect on January 1, but the new funding system is not yet ready, so the old system has had a quick and dirty patch up. It might be called TEOC and SAC funding, but it is really EFTS by another name.

“The reforms might have been workable if TEC had aligned the timetable to a far more realistic timeframe, but the mad ideological rush has left the sector in chaos.

“The parallel with Labour’s earlier, and ultimately abandoned, attempts to close primary schools throughout the country can’t be ignored. It was the same shambles, based on perceptions rather than reality, with a lack of real consultation. The net effect of school closures was to damage communities, just as will the so-called reforms in the tertiary sector.

“Now we find that the patch-up funding job is not enough and funds that were set aside for the Quality Reinvestment Programme are being used to fix deficits at other polytechnics. That is money that was set aside for enhancing quality, not for propping up institutions starved for funds.

“Some of our best performing polytechs, like Southland Institution of Technology, which is losing $8 million in this process, are being sacrificed to save under-performing institutions.

“And, we know that several other polytechnics are already seriously financially stretched, and this could well be the tipping point for these, even with additional funds from the Quality Reinvestment Programme.

“Another major issue is that institutions are facing serious legal issues around restricting entry to courses which were advertised in their prospectuses. The Auckland University Vice Chancellor has already put on public record his concerns regarding the legal situation as well as the loss to his university of $8 million in funding.

“The late imposition of caps on EFTS funding, and total removal of this funding in some cases, means that institutions have the dilemma of having legally advertised courses that they can no longer offer. This will do nothing to enhance our already dented international reputation as a quality provider of education for foreign students.

“Why on Earth should polytechnics like Telford, Bay of Plenty and Aoraki be asked to ‘repatriate’ their EFTS to other polytechs when in each case new contractors will be delivering the same courses – just from a different brand?

“It is a monumental scandal that the TEC is moving with such undue haste. The Government is allowing it to push reforms through before the enabling legislation is passed, and before the necessary financial structures are in place to ensure the future stability of the sector.”


ENDS

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