Wellington, June 21, 2019
The National Party claims it has yet another set of government papers leaked- this time regarding plans to merge polytechnics across the country.
The Party today revealed it had a leaked Cabinet paper that showed the government was forging ahead with plans to amalgamate 16 polytechnics into a single national institute.
In February, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the reform in what he said was a bid to solve the sector’s financial problems and make better use of taxpayer funding.
Mr Hipkins confirmed that National appeared to have received parts of a draft Cabinet paper.
The paper obtained National, and sighted by RNZ, stated the national institute would have a substantial regional presence and focus on reducing duplication of costs.
“National has obtained a Cabinet paper which outlines this information, the government will take this paper to Cabinet on Monday,” National’s Spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti said in a statement.
Freedom to regions
The paper stated the institute would give the leaders of its regional outposts enough freedom to make decisions for their local area.
However, Dr Reti said the government was going too far and successful regional polytechnics should not be included in the national institute.
“For high-performing polytechs like the Southern Institute of Technology this will be devastating. Education Minister Chris Hipkins is pushing ahead with ideology over what is best for students and regional New Zealand,” he said.
“There will no longer be out of region provision, like the Otago Polytechnic campus in Auckland. This has been a critical way of recruiting learners to the regions.”
Other statements in the paper showed polytechnics would have to stop running courses outside their home regions and enrolments would likely fall over the two-year transition period, Dr Reti said.
Dr Reti said that the document showed polytechnics’ financial reserves would be kept in their home region.
“The polytechs will be controlled by a head office. They will have their cash and community legacy assets ring fenced at head office. All other assets including buildings and land will be taken away and consolidated.”
National MPs Lawrence Yule and Nicky Wagner also criticised the reforms, stating it would be a blow to the successes of Ara Institute of Canterbury, and Eastern Institute of Technology in the regions.
Dr Reti said that would cost some of the institutes millions of dollars a year and more than 1000 jobs.
“Subsidiaries will exist for two years before consolidation. Current boards will be sacked on day one, including local members and will be replaced by a subsidiary board, and regional leadership groups will be advisory only.”
However, Tertiary Education Union National President Michael Gilchrist said in a statement that the “allegations” of job losses in the sector “undermine the staff, students, and community involvement in the decisions about the future of the sector.”
Public consultation done
Mr Gilchrist said there had been strong public consultation on the Reform of Vocational Education and members of the union had been actively involved from Invercargill to Kaitaia.
“We have known all along that the changes were going to be big. Sadly neglect of the system for 10 years because of Reti’s own Party means tinkering will only widen the gap between the amazing opportunities that vocational education provides and the reality in communities like Whangarei and Timaru,” he said.
TEU National Secretary Sharn Riggs also agreed that there was no evidence to support the claims around job losses.
Mr Gilchrist said it was time to put politics aside and focus on supporting people in the sector.
“We need public support to force all political parties to work together to ensure the Reform of Vocational Education meets the diverse needs of students, employers, and communities.”
National said it was releasing contents of the leaked paper to try to stop the government from going ahead with the reforms.
The Party said the government would be taking the paper to Cabinet on Monday (June 24,2019).