1 Mar 2018

Polytech leaders hold crisis meeting

10:03 am on 1 March 2018

Polytech leaders are in a crisis meeting today as they try to work out a cure for the struggling sector.

Western Institute of Technology

The Western Institute of Technology has been struggling for years. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

This comes hard on the heels of a government warning that half of the country's 16 polytechnics will be in deficit in two years and 80 percent will be losing money in five years.

Falling enrolments and rising costs are the problem, and the situation appears to be getting worse.

Last year the sector lost more than 5,000 students, the equivalent of an entire city-sized polytech.

President of the Tertiary Education Union, Sandra Grey, said something has to be done about what she calls a "funding crisis".

Ms Grey told Morning Report this morning, that under the previous government, tertiary education was viewed as a market which could be propped up by private funding.

She said the sector had a "one size fits all" funding which ignored the conditions of the staff and living conditions of students.

Ms Grey hoped all polytechs in New Zealand would remain open. She said not everybody can up and move from their region and it was important they be given the chance to learn and up-skill.

Manukau Institute of Technology chief executive Gus Gilmore agreed the funding model under the previous government had hurt vocational training institutions. He said close to $30 million had moved away from polytechnics and into universities.

Mr Gilmore said there had also been lower demand with high employment. School leavers were going into jobs and remaining in them rather then seeking training.

The Tertiary Education Commission is meeting today with the union, the minister, Chris Hipkins, and the agency that represents polytechs.

Mr Hipkins said late last year he wanted to report to Cabinet this month on what the next steps will be.

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