Polytech compromise feared

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files

Dunedin city's Mayor, Dave Cull, has expressed fears the independence of Otago Polytechnic is under threat from a pending shake-up of the vocational education sector.

Mr Cull raised the concern during a discussion about the reforms - announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week - at yesterday's Dunedin City Council infrastructure services and networks committee meeting.

Mr Cull told the meeting he understood plans for the sector could involve a loss of "local independence'' for Otago Polytechnic, despite it being the best performing polytechnic in the country.

It could also threaten the previously responsible and collaborative relationship enjoyed between the polytechnic, the council and the community over issues like the Dunedin Hospital rebuild, he said.

"I think that would be a great shame,'' the mayor said yesterday.

His comments came after Ms Ardern used last week's State of the Nation speech to outline the need for an urgent and "far reaching'' restructure of the vocational education sector, which has cost the Government $100million in recent bail-outs.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins was expected to release a consultation document later this week, but National leader Simon Bridges has said he already had a leaked copy.

The document recommended abolishing regional polytechnics and centralising a variety of functions into four regional hubs, as part of a "very radical, nationalised'' shake-up which would wrest control away from communities.

Dunedin city councillors at yesterday's committee meeting expressed concern at the potential impact of such a move on Otago Polytechnic.

Cr Aaron Hawkins said any attempt to fix the wider sector risked a loss of local control for Otago Polytechnic, despite it being one of the best performing institutions in the sector.

"Otago Polytechnic is a huge asset for the city.''

The polytechnic was a key player in responding to local issues, like ensuring an adequate supply of housing in the city, but that responsiveness to local issues could be lost in any shake-up, he feared.

Cr Christine Garey said Otago Polytechnic should be a model for the rest of the country's institutions, while Cr Andrew Whiley credited that to the leadership of outgoing chief executive Phil Ker and his management team.

Councillors voted to endorse a resolution - put forward by Cr Kate Wilson as chairwoman, but suggested by Cr Hawkins - to work with the polytechnic during the reforms process.

The aim was to ensure the protection of the institution's budgets, courses and ability to build collaborative relationships during the reforms process.

Mr Ker said the council's concerns "may be right, but they may be wrong''.

There had been some leaks about what was proposed, but those were contradictory.

While the decision could be bad news for the polytech, "equally there are models of consolidation that are sensible''.

That would be revealed tomorrow.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

 

Comments

This sounds very similar to the proposed reforms of High Schools. These education policies appear to be Marxist- Lite policy that concentrates power into the hands of a few ideologically suitable people, so easily controlled by the State.