Polytechnics merger appears inevitable

Education Minister Chris Hipkins did not surprise many when he announced (on February 13) that the government proposes to merge all 16 polytechnics in New Zealand into a single entity which may be rebranded as a National Institute for Training.

The fact that all is not well with many of our polytechnics has been public knowledge for some time now. A paper submitted to the Cabinet last year said that 80% of polytechnics will face financial crisis within the next four years if they faced the current challenges.

Heading towards trouble

The Report was on the heels of a $33 million bailout of the bankrupt ‘Tai Poutini Polytechnic.’

Mr Hipkins admitted that his Ministry Merger Plan would be challenging but insisted that it was necessary since the Sector has been suffering declining enrolments and multimillion dollar deficits.

According to the Education Ministry, its domestic equivalent fulltime students dropped by a quarter, from 2245 in 2010 to 1715 in 2016 at the extreme end of a nationwide 11% decline in polytechnic numbers in the same period as the buoyant economy sucked people out of training and back into work.

The Cabinet Paper said that the government was now funding only 750 equivalent fulltime students at the polytechnic, 350 on the West Coast and 400 elsewhere.

The amalgamation of polytechnics may result in more or fewer main campuses in the regions and some of the institutes may need more financial support before the changes were implemented.

But the Treasury is worried that it was not clear how much the proposals would cost.


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