Polytech keen to resist centralisation

Phil Ker.
Phil Ker.
If the Government is determined to go ahead with centralising polytechnics, Dunedin should be the organisation's new headquarters, Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker says.

Mr Ker told a staff meeting yesterday he remained implacably imposed to centralising the nation's 16 polytechnics and technical institutes and would spend the six-week consultation period fighting against it.

However, should Education Minister Chris Hipkins press ahead with his merger plan, Otago Polytechnic would lobby for the headquarters of the proposed New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology to be based in Dunedin.

''No-one wants it in Wellington,'' Mr Ker said.

''We could genuinely win this, if we hold the Government to account for their clear statement that we don't want everything clumped into one of the major cities.

''Dunedin is the centre of tertiary education excellence - it cannot be denied.

''The University of Otago is the top university in the country, we are the top polytechnic in the country - this is an education city.''

Mr Ker's idea may not be far-fetched.

On Wednesday, Mr Hipkins told the Otago Daily Times Otago was ''very well positioned'' to play a bigger role nationally, and that Otago Polytechnic and the Southern Institute of Technology had characteristics he wanted to see replicated across the system.

Mr Ker told staff jobs would be lost nationally, over time, if the proposals were enacted.

However, he assured Otago's staff no jobs would be lost this year, and his assessment was that no-one would be unemployed in 2020 either.

''I'd be staggered if that were to occur.''

''We've got six weeks to do something about a proposed centralised model that, if unchanged, isn't the best for New Zealand in my view, and isn't the best for Otago Polytechnic,'' Mr Ker said.

''This is not reform with us, it's reform that's being done to us.''

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he was extremely concerned the proposed restructuring could deprive the city of the considerable benefits the polytechnic had brought.

''The proposed merger risks undoing a lot of good work and would see Otago Polytechnic potentially being subservient to an organisational structure that may not understand or care about our local needs,'' Mr Cull said.

''We need to ensure that our polytechnic can maintain its individual character and specialisations, as this is one of the main drawcards for local and international students alike, and what sets it apart from so many others.''

The timing was poor as major projects such as the new hospital and central city and tertiary precinct upgrades were about to start, Mr Cull said.

''We need Otago to remain autonomous, and flexible and responsive to local needs.

''I've been in touch with Phil Ker to let him know the city is behind them and will be doing all we can to make our community's views heard loud and clear.''



I would like to clarify that I am not opposed to rationalising and a degree of centralisation of our polytechnic system. I am opposed to the particular model proposed by the Minister - it will throw out a lot of babies with the bath water. There is an alternative model which will still see a unified system, but which also preserves the autonomy of the individual institutions. This is what I will be lobbying for over the coming weeks. We can have the best of both worlds.





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