Big rise in polytech graduates

Having a record 940 people graduating from Otago Polytechnic today highlights Dunedin's standing as ''the educational capital of New Zealand''.

That is the view of Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive and polytechnic governing council member John Christie, who was commenting on a big rise, of about 36%, in the latest number of polytechnic graduates, from 688 in March last year.

About 370 students are expected to graduate in person in a ceremony at the Dunedin Town Hall at 3pm today, with the others graduating in absentia.

''It's a significant occasion for students to be able to be recognised for their learning and their contribution to the city,'' Mr Christie said.

The latest Otago Polytechnic graduation success, combined with overall student roll growth at both the polytechnic and the University of Otago, underscored the reality that ''we are the educational capital of New Zealand'', he said.

''We have a very strong focus around education - it's a huge strength.''

Having a strongly successful tertiary education sector had brought many benefits to Dunedin, both economically and culturally.

The city benefited from having a better-skilled workforce, and that had positive spinoffs for business.

And some strong Dunedin businesses, employing many people, had been established by people who had earlier gained key qualifications from Otago Polytechnic, he said.

Tertiary qualifications also improved the employment prospects and earning power of graduates, and added to the overall cultural and economic vibrancy of the city, he said.

He acknowledged that the polytechnic was also benefiting from innovative approaches to education, including its Capable New Zealand department, which recognised prior learning in the workplace, and enabled people to learn through distance teaching and in ways other than in the traditional classroom.

Otago Polytechnic graduation co-ordinator Christine Aitken said the growth in graduate numbers was ''exciting'' and reflected continuing student roll growth at the polytechnic, with the graduation increase spread across a wide range of subjects.

Including some more certificate courses in the graduation list had also added to graduation numbers.

Otago Polytechnic communications director Mike Waddell said the polytechnic was ''absolutely delighted'' about how well it was going, and about the strong benefits of tertiary study, not only for students themselves but also for Dunedin and Otago.

Polytechnic graduates included growing numbers of young entrepreneurs who were using their skills to create new businesses in the city.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz