Polytechnic $50m plan to go ahead

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker at the site where a new trades and engineering...
Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker at the site where a new trades and engineering building will be established by 2021. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Otago Polytechnic will push ahead with a planned $50 million redevelopment involving three separate projects, after being granted a funding increase by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

A new trades and engineering block in Forth St, a new, permanent Maori Centre and an addition to the arts school are part of the polytechnic’s "master plan",  the three developments expected to be completed by 2021. Chief executive Phil Ker said that, with the funding confirmed, the polytechnic’s surplus was on target and it had the "green light" to move into the detailed planning stage.

"There’s still some final decisions to be made about which projects start when," he said.

"One, probably two of the projects will start next year."

It was possible the trades and engineering building might be "first equal" with something else. He was "pretty thrilled" the extra $2.4 million funding had been confirmed, in line with expected student enrolments. The polytechnic is predicted to end this year with up to 109% of its expected roll.

This year, the polytechnic received about $35 million in funding from the TEC. Mr Ker said the cost of each building was commercially sensitive. The new trades and engineering building would be  beside the automotive engineering base in Forth St, creating a trades precinct. It would be more modern than the existing premises and have an expanded capacity, he said. A permanent Maori Centre building would be established on the existing site. The  centre in St David St was based in prefab buildings, Mr Ker said.

The arts extension would be a "major" addition to the newest part of the School of Art in Anzac Ave.

"It’ll be a space for art and architecture," he said.

The new Dunedin Hospital build was expected to need more than 800 workers and the polytechnic was also working on "further initiatives to expand our trades training" but was unable to release details yet. In 2020, the polytechnic is expecting an additional  $400,000 in funding from the TEC.

"This sets a new level of funding for us.

"Obviously, if we didn’t get the enrolments and it looked like that was going to be long term, we would have to agree to take less funding." 

Mr Ker said the polytechnic had experienced a "good-news fortnight", after the Government backed down on proposed international student visa changes, and EduBits "micro-credential" courses offered by the polytechnic were officially recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority after a year-long trial. A Government proposal to make international students study for at least two years before becoming eligible for a work visa has been scrapped. It was announced last week that students who gain higher qualifications such as a bachelor’s degree or post-graduate degree will be able to get a three-year work visa, without any employer-assisted component.

Students who gain lower qualifications such as certificates or diplomas will be able to get a one-year post-study visa, with an additional year for graduate diploma holders working towards registration in a trade or professional body.

Students who receive those qualifications outside  Auckland can get a two-year post-study visa if their studies are completed by the end of December 2021.

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz 

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