Unitec welcomes the support of the TEC as we develop an operating model which ensures the long-term delivery of high quality vocational training.
Unitec Interim Chief Executive Merran Davis says it has been a challenging couple of years as student numbers dropped across the sector, but is confident of the organisation achieving a return to profit.
The Tertiary Education Commission yesterday announced a commissioner may be appointed to provide oversight and support to Unitec as it develops a new, sustainable operating model. The Government has also committed to ensuring top quality vocational education and training is available at Unitec.
Unitec is New Zealand’s largest Institute of Technology, but has not achieved profit in the last two financial years as the growing economy and high cost of living drove down student numbers across the sector.
Interim Chief Executive Merran Davis, who has held the role since June 2018, acknowledged those headlines might be of concern to students, but said they could be assured the institute was taking action.
“Last year Unitec was home to 17,000 students and generated more than $128m revenue. Those are very healthy numbers, but the issue was our operating costs were set when we had closer to 20,000 students. We did not respond quickly enough and our job now is to develop a model which delivers the same outstanding experience for all our students, but also reflects the current market.”
Ms Davis said the drop in student numbers had coincided with a major investment programme, including construction of two major facilities at the Mt Albert campus last year.
“That spending is now largely complete and we are fortunate to have these fantastic new buildings to support our current and future students. The sale of our surplus land had always been intended to fund this work and Unitec is now entirely free of debt. However, to allow any further development and the sustainable delivery of our core education services, this needs to be a profitable organisation and that is what we are committed to achieving.”
Unitec has been working closely with the TEC for some time, including the appointment of a financial advisor in May. During 2018 the organisation has already found nearly $14m in cost savings and this work will continue until a surplus is achieved.