Ensuring a strong polytechnic sector for New Zealand’s regions

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has outlined a programme of work to reform the polytechnic sector to make sure these institutions are sustainable and effective in delivering for our regions.

“A strong, modern and dynamic polytechnic sector is crucial to achieving a world-class skills system across all New Zealand’s regions.

"The 16 polytechnics around the country are crucial to vocational training – they account for about 20 percent of total government spending in tertiary teaching and learning. But over the past decade domestic student numbers have dropped by a third.

“I have asked the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), over the next six months, to work on the ‘Institutes of Technology and Polytechnic (ITP) Roadmap 2020’ project.

“TEC will work with polytechnics, and the broader community, to explore and test different options for change. As part of this process, we’re looking at what has been done in other countries and what that might look like in New Zealand. 

“I have considered whether increased funding, which was reduced in real terms over the last nine years, would solve the issues in the sector. But while a funding system specifically designed to meet the cost challenges of the sector could help make it less vulnerable to fluctuating demand, it will not be enough on its own.

“I believe there’s value in exploring how the network of polytechnics can operate more as a system so that we can use the resources of the network as a whole to achieve high quality provision across the country. It’s about making sure the sector is agile and able to respond to the changing patterns of demand and the changing needs of learners.

“This process is about securing a strong regional presence for polytechnics. We want to make sure they can deliver what New Zealand learners and employers need.

“I will report back to Cabinet in December 2018 with possible options for change and whether these options require policy or legislative changes.

The Ministry of Education is also conducting a wider review of vocational education and training (VET). This review will take place alongside the polytechnic sector reform, and will clarify what the skills system should be producing, who should pay, and how the funding and regulatory systems can best support meeting our skill needs across the system as a whole.

The Cabinet paper and more details about the ITP Roadmap 2020 programme of work can be found here.