Hau Taki Haere | Tertiary Update Vol 24, No 22

Our sector is approaching a critical fork in the road. It’s time for the government and the leadership of Te Pūkenga to decide, once and for all, if we are truly committed to tertiary education as a public good or if past promises are ultimately just empty rhetoric.

Despite radical reforms of vocational education that purport to have eliminated competition and a government that says it’s not requiring surpluses, tertiary institutions up and down Aotearoa appear to have missed the memo. According to our records, there have been over 620 jobs lost through redundancy in the tertiary sector since 2017.

Over the past fortnight alone, regional provision, music, and fine arts are three critical areas that are once again in the firing line, with job losses imminent in the name of profit and a business model that treats education like a widget factory where all components have to pay their own way.

NorthTec has announced cuts to visual arts and trades, while the University of Waikato is gutting its classical music offerings – in all three cases due to profit motives.

Te Hautū Kahurangi | Tertiary Education Union’s President, Tina Smith, says ‘The current leaders of our sector appear incapable of understanding that education is for the people of their communities, not for the edification of their balance sheets.’

‘Fine arts and music are by their nature subjects that must be taught with low student:staff ratios and often don’t sit well in a market driven system. Yet if they are not taught everyone misses out – not just the learners who are unable to follow their dreams, but all of us who may never know the incredible work they could have produced.’

‘It’s also manifestly unjust to continue telling the young people of regions like Northland to either move to Auckland or choose another future.’

TEU has written to Te Pūkenga Chief Executive Stephen Town, to follow up on a meeting where members passionately spoke to him about what’s happening in vocational education, some through tears.

During the meeting, NorthTec TEU Branch President Sharlene Nelson told Mr Town ‘we have to front the community and if you are Māori you have to front your hapū and iwi. For me it’s really embarrassing to go home to my people because NorthTec has hurt them again and again and again and again. It would be nice if you guys could come and help… sorry for the tears.’

Ara Timaru Branch President Jill Milburn also spoke passionately about her experience in South Canterbury. ‘I don’t know how much more I can do for the community … we are letting the community down … we are letting our learners down … four of these learners want to go on and do bakery but they’ve had their enrolments cancelled. Where are they going to go? We have a skills shortage in the bakery area and I’m trying to staircase into other courses.’

Three weeks ago, TEU released a video that heavily featured NorthTec staff talking about the impact continual cuts were having on the communities they serve.

Also in this update:

TEU welcomes Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa as the world’s first Pasifika Vice-Chancellor of a university outside the Pacific nations

Workload Stories - #2: Sandra Grey

Grants for Good secures the future of Young Workers Help Centre

Become more financially confident with HealthCarePlus

Tiakina te Taiao climate action network – the next steps.

Other stories:

NorthTec continues to undermine regional tertiary education provision – TEU

COVID-19 vaccination conversation with Professor Rod Jackson – NZPFU

New Zealand mulls introducing base funding for research – Times Higher Education

Limited access to university labs putting Auckland researchers on the back foot – Newstalk ZB