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2016 Report from the Chief Executive and Council Chair

Unitec is changing to ensure our educational programmes better meet the needs of learners and industry, while making positive contributions to Auckland and the national economy.

In 2016 we moved firmly into the implementation phase of our whole-of-organisation transformation and we rolled out a significant amount of change in every part of the organisation. The foundation of this work was our investment in reviewing and revising our educational offering to be digitally-enabled and work-integrated.

Another key part of this change is harnessing the value and potential of our 53-hectare Mt Albert campus. Following approval of the Auckland Unitary Plan, we are now free to progress rapidly with our revised property strategy via Unitec’s development subsidiary, Wairaka Land Company.

As expected, the revaluation of our land and buildings this year identified significant additional value of $43 million that can help underwrite the redevelopment of our teaching and learning programmes and spaces to improve outcomes for both students and industry. The revaluation contributed to a net increase in shareholders’ funds of $18 million.

New Zealand, and particularly Auckland, is enjoying a prosperous economy with strong levels of growth and employment, which we believe may be impacting on enrolment rates. Domestic EFTS declined 10% on 2015, predominantly in Semester One, though the impact of that was partially offset by a smaller decline (3%) in inbound international student enrolments. EBITDAR (earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation, amortisation and restructuring) to total revenue was 10.4% in the year versus 13.6% in 2015.

Unitec in 2016 bedded down a ‘networked and connected’ operating model that aligns our educational offering with key sectors of the Auckland economy. These networks deliver programmes that reflect what industry needs from graduates and meet the skills requirements of the Auckland and New Zealand economies.

Unitec is continuing to enjoy positive feedback from employers about the quality of our graduates and we’re forging high-quality partnerships with industry. Our relationship with providers such as Concentrix continues to deepen. This centre now employs 900 people and more than 350 of them are Unitec students who benefit from paid work, in a high quality work environment with a strong focus on training and development.

The rapid pace of changing technology has shifted the game for all education providers. Part of Unitec’s response to this has been via our joint ventures with Frances Valintine: The Mind Lab by Unitec and Tech Futures Lab. The latter was established this year and will in 2017 offer an innovative Master of Applied Practice in Technology Futures for industry professionals and entrepreneurs.

We continued to invest heavily in boosting the capability of Unitec employees to ensure the success of our new ways of working. This year, as part of our new extended leadership team, we created new positions focused on identifying and nurturing critical industry partnerships for each of our five networks.

New academic leadership roles were introduced to ensure our learning experiences meet the needs of students and industry and we also made further improvements to our technological support for staff and students.

Unitec is adopting new teaching and learning methods to help our graduates prepare for the changes we’re seeing in the world of work and education and to ensure that Unitec and its graduates remain relevant throughout the 21st century. This is the basis of our transformation and makes us more competitive globally and nationally, more relevant to industry, and flexible enough to better meet what our students want in terms of teaching models.

Over 100 of Unitec’s courses are now blended, highly innovative and contemporary – including a high component of online and group work, rather than more traditional lecture-centred models. They offer a mix of on-campus, online, and work-based learning opportunities, and employ innovative practices such as team-and-project-based learning, gamification and studio-based learning.

We are investing a total of $300 million in further developing and testing these models which will be adopted by all Unitec programmes in the next three years, as well as developing staff capability and new teaching and learning spaces. Our committed funding base remains strong with current facility availability totaling $115 million. We continue to refine our offering on an ongoing basis, in response to student feedback and the rapidly changing needs of industry, in a cycle of continuous improvement.

Other transformation milestones include our partnerships with 11 Auckland secondary schools for early tertiary education training delivered predominantly in the school environment, and the accelerated construction of two major building projects – the new Construction, Infrastructure and Engineering building and new central student Hub building – both due for completion in Semester Two, 2017.

NZQA completed its four-yearly review of our capability and revised Unitec’s educational status to a Category 2 tertiary education provider. NZQA identified a number of areas of improvement but remains confident in Unitec and also noted the interventions that had been put in place as part of the transformation to address these issues. We are focused on implementing these initiatives and are confident of regaining our Category 1 status as soon as practicable.

We’d like to acknowledge the huge effort of our people to successfully transform, while doing their day jobs and more. Unitec is asking a lot from our employees during this period of change and they have overwhelmingly conducted themselves with dedication and professionalism amidst the disruption and uncertainty that comes with rapid change.

We’d also like to thank outgoing Chief Operating Officer Meredith Morgan, now Deputy Vice Chancellor at Australia’s Charles Darwin University and also Deputy Chief Executive Leon Fourie who departed at year end to take up the role of Chief Executive at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology. Both Meredith and Leon contributed a huge amount to the success of the organisation over the years.

For 2017, we will introduce significant new initiatives for driving enrolments and revenue through innovative and compelling new educational offerings. We will continue to build strong foundations for the coming years and we’re confident about our future.

Dr Rick Ede
Chief Executive

Dr Lee Mathias