Polytechs struggling to keep doors open

By Tema Hemi

Te Hautū Kahurangi along with polytechnic students and association representatives are angry that two years of appeals to the Labour government have led to nothing more, they say than promises to review a funding model which has already failed the country's polytechnics.

Relentless restructuring, punishing cuts, and poor financial outlooks are what has angered protesters outside Parliament today.

One protester says, "The sector has been unfunded for decades." Another says, "Stop cutting leave us alone". Concerns were very clear as one says, "Our concerns are the money that the government are reneging on for education." And evident the nation's communities are suffering, "Some of the numbers are horrendous but if you slash those staff, those staff have been embedded in those communities for a number of years."

TEU National President Michael Gilchrist says "In the last month alone we've seen cuts at NMIT, MIT, Whitireia, WelTec, and Northtec. Every time staffing is cut students, communities, and employers suffer."

Gilchrist says, "Communities are losing confidence in polytechs it's not just because there are job cuts although the job cuts are probably the biggest and the most persistent in the economy and yet this is the sector that going to deliver job security for New Zealanders in the future."

Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged over 18 months ago that the funding model wasn't working in tertiary education. 

Hipkins says, "I think the people in the polytech sector are really feeling restructured and reviewed to the put where they're motivation is gone and really down hearted and moral is low and I understand that. We're looking very closely at the transition period obviously we've got a big reform programme happening but in the mean time we've got to make sure we keep the lights on for them."

TEU Vice-president, George Tongariro says with $7.5bn, the government can afford to invest in stabilising polytechnics. With their public reputation centred on delivering a Well-Being budget.

Tongariro says, "The problem is the polytechs have been left out at present. Obviously there isn't enough money to go around for everybody. We're just asking for to give our share as well because the transition into NZIST next year, its gonna be too late."

And the TEU demands are clear. 

Gilchrist also says, "We need a 10% increase in funding for polytechs that's about sixty million. We need that fifty million that's been lost through immigration through changes to be restored. It's not fair for the government to change the rules like that." 

A delegation of the TEU leadership met with Minister Hipkins today and they say the outcome was positive but there's still a long way to go.