Polytechnic Merger – Expert Reaction

Press Release – Science Media Centre

All 16 polytechnics will be merged into a single national institute after falling enrolments and multi-million dollar deficits have made the current system untenable.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced several changes to the vocational education sector this morning, including the creation of the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology which will manage all the existing polytechnic budgets, staffing, courses and administration. The proposal also includes a shake-up to the industry training organisations (ITOs) which will be replaced by employer-led industry skills bodies to address skill shortages.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the merger plans.

Professor Shaun Hendy, Director, Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Auckland, comments:

“The Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs) face a very challenging short term outlook, including low student enrolments, but there are some very large long term challenges as well. Skilled work is becoming more and more concentrated in our major centres and the gaps between the skills employers want and those being taught by the education sector is widening. These issues are not unique to New Zealand, but are problems that educators face world-wide.

“Technology and life-styles are also changing how and when we learn. While the amalgamation may help the sector weather its short term financial difficulties, increased centralisation may make it more difficult to adapt to regional needs and changing educational practises. There is also no guarantee it will lead to greater collaboration. Nonetheless, the new organisation may be able to put more coherent investment plans in front of the government and this may lead to better resourcing and decision-making for the sector in the long run.”

No conflict of interest declared.

Prof John Raine, Pro Vice-Chancellor of AUT, comments:

“Refocusing the polytechnic sector with a well-integrated approach to vocational education meeting industry training needs should be good for skills development among school leavers and for the NZ economy, given the unmet skills demands that currently exist. One challenge will be to achieve agility and reasonable operational autonomy at the individual institutional level in what appears to be a highly centralised governance and administrative model.”

No conflict of interest declared.

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