The Tertiary Education Union says the Government’s decision to formally dissolve the combined council of WelTec and Whitireia and appoint a commissioner in its place is a clear sign that New Zealanders cannot afford for the current model of tertiary education provision to continue any longer.

Acting Education Minister Tracey Martin yesterday confirmed the appointment of Dr Neil Barns as the new Commissioner at Whitireia and WelTec. Barns will be supported an independent financial advisor, who is already in place, and an advisory group.

Whitireia required urgent financial assistance of $15 million to ensure it could stay in operation beyond September and WelTec is operating in deficit and needs to borrow to ensure it can keep running this year.

“The Government is committed to ensuring top quality vocational education and training continues to be available at Whitirieia and WelTec, and for students at institutes of technology and polytechnics around the country,” Tracey Martin said.

The appointment comes after Government had to intervene at Unitec earlier this year.

The TEU says staff are increasingly worried that unless urgent changes are made, these commissioner appointments will not be the last.

Sandra Grey, national president of the TEU, says urgent reform of the tertiary education sector is essential.

“The prize of an accessible, equitable tertiary education sector that serves us all is far too great for us to sit back and watch as bailouts keep our institutions open,” she says.

“The Minister has been taking some great steps towards long-term change for our sector. As we speak he is considering some draft recommendations from his officials about the future of institutes of technology and polytechnics, following a substantial review carried out by the Tertiary Education Commission.

“Chris Hipkins would be doing a disservice to the New Zealand public, who depend so heavily on a quality public tertiary education sector, if urgent reform of the funding model and institutional governance is not made a priority.”

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