Aoraki may be forced out of city

Cutting media courses from Aoraki Polytechnic may spell the end for the Dunedin campus, the Tertiary Education Union has warned.

Aoraki Polytechnic is scheduled to begin final deliberations today on whether to proceed with a round of proposed course cuts, predicted to result in about 20 job losses before Christmas, from its five campuses. The consultation period ended yesterday.

Aoraki chief executive Kay Nelson could not be contacted.

Aoraki launched a review of its "education priorities" in September, announcing it wanted to cut about 15 course programmes across its Timaru, Dunedin, Ashburton, Christchurch, and Oamaru campuses.

The move has the potential to leave hundreds of prospective students unable to pursue courses of study in media, sport and fitness, and computing next year, while about 20 staff may also be out of work.

A senior management team will review submissions on the proposal, before a final decision is scheduled to be announced about November 11.

The proposal is intended to align Aoraki's strategic directions to the Government's tertiary education strategy, which is aimed at increasing the number of students achieving at higher levels of education.

However, the union claimed the direction Aoraki was taking did not meet the requirements of the Government strategy.

A submission prepared by TEU southern organiser Kris Smith said Aoraki was not "meeting the needs of its region[s]".

Aoraki's review was not aligned with the strategy - outlined by the Tertiary Education Commission in 2010 - to "provide New Zealanders of all backgrounds with opportunities to gain access to world-class skills and knowledge", she said.

The union submission includes a petition with almost 500 signatories calling for the course programmes to be retained.

Aoraki's Dunedin campus looks likely to be one of the most hardest hit by the review.

"Dis-establishing" Dunedin's media courses would put all programmes at the campus at risk, the union submission states.

Aoraki's Dunedin campus was founded to deliver media programmes and these were "inextricably linked" with the polytechnic's reputation in the city and around Otago.

Ms Smith questioned why eight of 12 media programmes at Dunedin would be cut when they attracted good student numbers and had "considerable stakeholder support".

Dunedin's Aoraki media courses had no other competing media programmes for students to study as an alternative.

"No other providers of radio, television, advertising design or multimedia exist in this market," she said.

The union's submission questions how Aoraki would continue to provide its certificate in media communication and diploma in journalism, given the two courses include significant radio and television components, which both used shared facilities, equipment and tutors.

Life skills programmes offered by Aoraki at its Oamaru, Timaru, and Ashburton campuses played a "very important role in those communities" and needed to be retained.

"They have been delivered effectively and the courses have not run at a loss," Ms Smith said.

Pulling course programmes from Christchurch was a "very poor look" at a time when the city needed "ongoing" support and faith of employers and educators.



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