Polytechnic Bill `bad democracy'

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Kerr believes the motivation for centralisation is...
Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A Bill governing the future of New Zealand's vocational education is "bad democracy" and backtracks on previous statements made around autonomy, the head of Otago Polytechnic says.

The Education (Vocational Education and Training Reform) Amendment Bill outlining the merger of New Zealand's 16 polytechnics into one New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology was released this week.

Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker said he was disappointed by the Bill.

It dealt with the issue of polytechnics retaining a degree of independence in a different manner to how it was described when decisions were made earlier this month, he said.

The Bill stated subsidiary boards of New Zealand polytechnics, to be established in 2020, would be dissolved after two years, unless the NZIST recommended otherwise to the minister, and the minister agreed.

"A couple of weeks ago, when the decisions were announced, the wording was that existing institutions would continue as subsidiaries of NZIST for two years ... at which time the minister would decide which of any would continue as subsidiaries," Mr Ker said.

If the original terminology was used, there would have to be criteria built into the legislation for Education Minister Chris Hipkins to follow to dissolve the subsidiary boards, he said.

As the Bill now stood, the "whim of the minister" prevailed.

"This is bad democracy and bad law."

Mr Hipkins said yesterday despite the change in wording, the underlying principle of the proposal remained the same.

"The Bill gives effect to the Cabinet's decision that the subsidiaries remain in operation for up to two years, extendable by the minister," Mr Hipkins said.

"How the regional operations relate to the NZIST head office after two years is yet to be determined.

"We expect that this will be work done with the sector and stakeholders, including [Mr] Ker."

Mr Ker said he was also disappointed by the section in the Bill on academic freedom, which he said appeared to be subsumed by the powers of the industry-governed Workforce Development Councils, to be created by 2022.

The relevant section stated the newly formed NZIST should preserve and enhance academic freedom.

However, the Bill also said nothing in the section limited or affected a council carrying out its functions.

It was "a worthless provision in the Bill", Mr Ker said.

He hoped both issues would be addressed in the Select Committee process.

Mr Hipkins said the Bill made it clear academic freedom was to be preserved, and the provision was in there to remove any doubt the councils would be able to fulfil their functions, including carrying out moderation activities in relation to the standards they set.


Central government control is so communistic. Have we not learnt from employers how much they value the NCEA system? Now Wellington HQ control tenticles have swallowed up the polytechs lumping in the good (Otago) with the bad. Who in their right mind thinks that will work?

Yes, over time the funding will dry up and be diverted to the bigger centres with more employment demands.

May be polytechs could teach about the 'chicken-licken' syndrome. Then some of you can stop panicking and thinking the sky gonna fall in. The system had to change. Universities will eventually follow. And it didn't matter which govt was in - the proposed system was going to be introduced anyway. Too many courses, too many duplicated, too many not getting people into work, too many job vacancies at mo, too many people with the wrong skills.