Ker optimistic about Otago Plan

Otago Polytechnic. Photo: ODT files
Otago Polytechnic. Photo: ODT files

It is now a waiting game for Southern polytechnics that have submitted proposals demanding changes to Government plans to reform the sector.

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker said he was "100% confident" the Government had listened to his concerns, and was optimistic his organisation's proposals to modify government intentions would be enacted.

Submissions closed yesterday on the plan to merge New Zealand's 16 vocational training institutions into one national school, with a governing body that would have control over capital and operational budgets, staffing, and learning management systems for all polytechnics.

Otago and Southland have both run successful institutions, although that has not been the case in other areas.

Mr Ker has been working on an alternative plan, allowing polytechnics to keep control of their decision-making and budgets.

Both institutions sent their submissions on the plan yesterday.

Mr Ker said the transition to the new regime was one important aspect the polytechnic's submission covered.

Even if its amendments to the Government plan were adopted, the transition would be complex, and involve "real risks".

The polytechnic's submission addressed that issue, urging the Government to take a staged approach.

Neither the Government's proposal, nor the polytechnic's proposal, dealt with the issue of institutions "in significant financial stress".

"That's going to have to be dealt with."

Mr Ker said he hoped the issue would be sorted before any changes took place, otherwise "the remnants of the past" would be intermingled with the way forward.

Investment was also a key to the success of the initiative.

Mr Ker said he was fully confident the polytech had been listened to by the Government.

"That's come through clearly."

However, there were a variety of views on the reforms.

He was taking an optimistic view on the outcome of the submission process.

In its submission, the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) placed the blame for the crisis in vocational education and the training sector on the Government.

It said during the past 20 years, successive governments had "taken millions of dollars out of the sector by removing base grants, research EFTS (equivalent full-time students) top-ups and clinical placement allocations, to name a few".

Funding increases had been below rates of inflation.

The submission said a new funding system needed to be implemented before any structural changes were considered.

The submission, signed by chief executive Penny Simmonds and SIT council chairman Peter Heenan said the organisation supported most of the Otago Polytechnic's proposal, but there were some "points of difference".

A spokesman for Minister of Education Chris Hipkins office said by 4pm yesterday about 500 submissions had been received.

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