INDEPENDENT NEWS

Future for two ITPs lies in commissioner connecting to staff

Published: Tue 18 Sep 2018 04:58 PM
Future for two ITPs lies in commissioner connecting to staff and communities
Staff at Whitireia and Weltec polytechnics are resigned to the fact that the Minister of Education will be appointing a commissioner to replace the council overseeing both institutions but they are shocked by the poor financial positions of the institutions.
In announcing his decision to appoint a commissioner Minister Chris Hipkins noted: "Whitireia is in extreme financial difficulty. If the Government hadn’t provided financial support of $15 million, it would have to close its doors this month. While WelTec’s financial position is stronger than Whitireia’s, it is also operating in deficit, experiencing lower than expected enrolments and needs to borrow to meet its financial commitments to keep running this year.”
TEU national president, Sandra Grey, said staff at both Whitireia and Weltec feel that they have been put through years of course and staff cuts, changes to roles, and constantly changing expectations.
“Despite the relentless change there are still major financial problems. Staff feel there is no vision for where the two polytechs are heading. The only way to turn this situation around is to fully involve staff, students, and communities in the decision-making process.”
“We have had a productive conversation with the Chief Executive about ensuring that staff are involved in setting a vision for the institutions. We are now preparing thoughts to share with the commissioner.”
The concerns of staff centre on the rising numbers of managers at the two polytechnics, the feeling of a lack of academic input into many decisions, the reduction of student support roles, and the lack of connection Between the Polytechs and their communities.
“We urge the CE, commissioner, and other leaders to take seriously staff expertise when looking to turn around the difficulties faced by the two institutions.”
As one TEU member put it, the commissioner, senior leaders, and government need to “promote a climate which is teacher-centred not "business" centred.”
Our Polytechs are based on good teaching for students in diverse communities. Neither teachers, students nor communities are at the centre of decisions. TEU members urge a commissioner to bring this focus back.
Many of the issues faced by Whitireia and Weltec have their genesis in decisions of the last National government to squeeze the funding of the tertiary education sector and drive for institutions to be ‘business-like’, said Grey.
“Polytechs are core public institutions in many New Zealand communities, not businesses. We are pleased the Minister has again reiterated his commitment that top quality vocational training continues to be available at Whitireia and WelTec and demonstrated this commitment by providing a $15 million bailout to Whitireia. But we need Chris Hipkins to continue to take actions which ensure that our polytechnics are funded in a way which ensures they can be the heart of their communities and the heart of a vocational education training system.”
For TEU members this includes putting two staff and two students onto the councils of polytechs and universities. The Minister was right when he said “this Government is having to bail out to the tune of tens of millions of dollars because of poor governance decisions by some of those very same institutions. Would those decisions have been made had the staff and students who actually have a direct interest in those institutions been involved in the decision-making and if they had had a voice at the table—I don't think they necessarily would have.”

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