Thu 11 Apr 2019

Polytechnics back change

April 10, 2019 - Press release - The ITP Group

An alliance representing more than half the students enrolled in polytechnics has backed the Government’s three-pronged tertiary education reforms.

The Reform of Vocational Education (RoVE) changes are set to impact on more than 25,000 employers and 140,000 learners.

In a joint submission on the proposals, the leaders of eight of the country’s 16 Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) refer to a “generational opportunity” to design a sustainable and effective vocational education sector and a move away from counter-productive competition.

Unitec Institute of Technology, Manukau Institute of Technology, The Waikato Institute of Technology, The Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, Whitireia Community Polytechnic and Wellington Institute of Technology, Tai Poutini Polytechnic and the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand have released a joint statement under the banner of The ITP Group.

Between them they enrolled 54 percent of the 2017 ITP student cohort.

The group backs the three proposals presented by Education Minister Chris Hipkins - redefining roles for industry bodies and education providers, merging 16 polytechnics and 11 Industry Training Organisations to create a New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST) working with Industry Skills Bodies and developing a unified vocational sector funding model.

While strongly supporting the creation of a national institute, the eight also advocate for some decisions to be made at grass roots level. They say the review must pave the way for NZIST to be able “and indeed required” to focus on the needs of the both learners and industries in their different communities.

The Chief Executives say if the proposals are implemented well, it will ensure the new vocational sector is suitably industry-facing and its delivery is oriented toward meeting the needs of industry and employers.

John Snook, CEO of WITT, said effectively redefining the roles of industry bodies – ITOs - and education providers was crucial because their links to New Zealand industry was a critical factor in the success of the proposals.

“Catering properly for New Zealand industry is vital – across all regions, regardless of size,” he said. “We also need to empower learners whether in work or training for a career.

He said this was also an opportunity for the real value of online distance learning offered at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand (OPNZ) to be realised in concert with other ITPs.

Its Chief Executive Dr Caroline Seelig strongly supported an integrated system “that puts the learner at the heart of its thinking, enabling frictionless mobility between locations, modes and types of learning”.

The Chief Executive of Unitec, Merran Davis, said Māori ownership of the new model was also critical, because it would assist in closing the gap between success rates of Māori and non-Māori students.

Gus Gilmore (MIT) underlined the ITP Group’s expectations over the continued acknowledgement of the value of the multi-billion-dollar international student market.

The submission to Government also noted “given the status of international education in providing a valuable international context for domestic students, valuable revenue for institutions, not to mention being New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner, it is critical to maintain this provision.”

The ITP Group’s backing came with some notes of caution.  Wintec’s Dave Christiansen noted that the NZIST must be underpinned by a learner centric philosophy which fostered lifelong engagement with industry, employers, iwi and other stakeholders to develop a skilled and motivated workforce.

Supporting the unified funding proposal, the group said the current process was inflexible and had led to institutions trading quality against cost.

The Chief Executives say while they backed the plans, the amalgamation process carried significant complexity and risks. They proposed the agency managing the transition establish working groups drawn from relevant organisations to advise on the scope of systems involved, identify future system options, and manage the development and deployment.

Acknowledging the proposal could not be regarded as a single silver bullet, the polytechnic leaders noted the reform documentation and thinking was at a preliminary stage, and details were yet to be refined.

“The current relatively short consultation is acceptable to determine a high-level vision only if it is followed by ongoing engagement to adequately define the details, and how the transition will be actioned,” Chris Gosling, from Weltec and Whitireia, said. “Much work remains to provide clarity and depth to this reform, including understanding in detail the appropriate functions of the proposed organisations, and how they will relate to one another.”

The ITP Group said in “embracing the vision of these reforms” it sought to continue to engage with the Government and agencies managing transition.

“…the ITP and ITO sectors are well placed to see what is and isn’t working in practice and have a keen perspective on how things could work better,” they said.