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Education Minister Chris Hipkins has recently signalled changes for the country’s 16 polytechnics, saying the tertiary education funding model of the previous government would be scrapped.
Competitive allocations of funding at New Zealand Qualification Framework levels 1 to 4 would be ended, to give providers greater funding certainty so they could focus more on students, Mr Hipkins said.
Mr Ker highlighted the importance of government providing inflation adjustments to cover cost rises, and said the funding system was "definitely in need of an overhaul".
He welcomed Mr Hipkins’ announcement this week to scrap the funding model of the previous National-led government.
Mr Ker hoped that statement would help to usher in "a healthier funding environment" for polytechnics.
The polytechnic sector had been "both neglected and impeded by the policies of the last government", he said.
Mr Hipkins had advised polytechnic representatives that a changed polytechnic system would "capitalise on provider specialisations" and would be "highly responsive to employers and industry".
Mr Ker said these were "laudable aims" for a high-performing sector but emphasised that "many polytechnics, OP included" ticked "all the boxes" in terms of what the Government was seeking.
But Otago Polytechnic could "do more and better if Government would invest in us", he said.
Mr Ker yesterday strongly challenged suggestions that all New Zealand polytechnics were in crisis and said Otago Polytechnic was "performing exceptionally well on all indicators".
Otago Polytechnic’s enrolments were strong for this year, and applications were up 14% on the same time last year.
The polytechnic was also in a strong financial position. Last year was the ninth consecutive year of financial surpluses and there were early indications of a "positive financial result" again this year.
Otago Polytechnic had also received the highest possible endorsement from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority for its educational performance. The polytechnic also continued to lead the country’s institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITP) sector in course and qualification completions. And survey data showed 96% of Otago Polytechnic graduates had moved into work, further study or both.
It was "highly regrettable" if the Government was being advised that all polytechnics were "in the same boat" when that was not true of several polytechnics, including Otago, Mr Ker said.
Mr Hipkins had recently met the Tertiary Education Union, polytechnic CEOs and the Tertiary Education Commission, the agency that funds polytechnics, to address concerns about falling enrolments and sector funding. Mr Hipkins also advised that the current overall polytechnic system was unsustainable and must change structurally.