Unitec is supportive of the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnic Roadmap 2020 project, announced by the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, yesterday.
Council Chairman, Lee Mathias said: “Shifting demographics and a high employment market have accentuated the flaws in the existing model for ITPs and created winners and losers in a highly competitive education market. The existing funding system is inflexible and favours high-volume, low overhead programmes and hasn’t kept pace with costs.”
ITPs are the primary provider of applied learning, which often requires a more “hands-on” approach with smaller class sizes than many university courses. This leads to a higher cost model which must be absorbed by the providers as the 16 ITPs share just 20 percent of tertiary funding.
Unitec agrees with the assessment that the sector needs to be reformed and that the issues are wider than under-funding. Dr Mathias believes proposed initiatives such as shared services amongst ITPs are a real opportunity to increase efficiency and be more responsive to industry needs.
“The Minister has recognised the unique importance of ITPs in developing a skilled labour-force and wants the ITP sector to become more agile; able to identify and bridge the urgent skills gaps that New Zealand faces,” she says.
Dr Mathias said ITPs had a responsibility to operate sustainably, but they did feel the impact of external forces such as a booming job market more acutely than other providers.
“Ultimately this is about developing a model that provides the best possible experience for our students and leads to highly capable and successful graduates, but also allows us to maintain the same high quality service levels through a range of economic environments.”
ITPs cater to a broader student base than the traditional school leaver market, supporting people seeking new skills to advance or change their career, and those who undertake tertiary study later in life. A 2017 Unitec survey showed half our students were aged over 25 and more than a third had dependent family members.
“The Minister highlights students’ changing expectations for a more tailored learning experience and the ITP sector has not been sitting on its hands in this regard, seeking ways to integrate work and study,” Dr Mathias said.
“Unitec has invested in creating more flexible and modern teaching spaces and has experimented with innovative educational models such as the well regarded Mind Lab by Unitec, established to enhance the digital literacy of New Zealand’s teachers.”
“There are many areas mentioned in the initial paper that warrant further exploration and we look forward to working with the Tertiary Education Commission and Minister.”