Government support for Unitec and Whitireia

The Government will provide Unitec with a $50 million loan and Whitireia with a capital injection of $15 million to support them while they work towards securing their long-term financial stability.

Announcing the decision at Unitec today, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said he had also asked the Tertiary Education Commission to immediately open consultation on a proposed dissolution of the joint council for Whitireia and WelTec and appointing a commissioner to the two Wellington-region institutes of technology.

“Like the Auckland-based Unitec, Porirua-based Whitireia is in extreme financial difficulty and approached the Government for urgent financial assistance,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Given the need for urgent financial support or Whitireia, stronger oversight of its operations is required. The consultation will look at whether the best way of achieving that is by dissolving the council and appointing a commissioner.

“Whitireia is unusual in that it shares a council, a senior management team and an academic board with Lower Hutt-based WelTec. WelTec’s financial position is also not strong, and this risk, combined with the close links between the two institutions, means the best option is likely to replace the combined Council with a commissioner to oversee both institutions.”

Mr Hipkins said an independent financial advisor was appointed to Whitireia in July 2018 to provide expert financial advice.

“Whitireia will require $15 million in 2018 to meet its cash shortfall and operating costs. Further support may be required in 2019 unless urgent action is taken,” Chris Hipkins said.

Chris Hipkins said that today’s announcement demonstrated Government’s full commitment to ensuring top quality vocational education and training continues at Unitec, Whitireia and WelTec.

“Current students can be assured that they can complete their courses and future students should have the confidence to enrol.”

Mr Hipkins said that while Unitec and Whitireia both have unique issues, they are not alone in facing the effects of falling student numbers.

“This situation shows the absolute need for the work now being done under the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics Roadmap 2020 to secure a viable future for the institutes of technology and polytechnics sector across New Zealand.

“We need a strong polytechnic sector that delivers what New Zealand’s learners and employers need from it in a rapidly changing world, and at an affordable cost to taxpayers.”

Unitec has campuses in Mt Albert and Waitakere.

Whitireia is based in Porirua and has campuses in Kapiti, Auckland and Wellington, including the new Te Kāhui Auaha creative programmes campus shared with WelTec.

WelTec is based in Lower Hutt and has campuses in Wellington and Auckland.

Consultation on replacing the combined Whitireia / WelTec Council with a commissioner will be focused on interested parties and the TEC is inviting feedback from their council, management, staff and student representatives, iwi, and local city councils. The consultation is planned to take ten days.

Mr Hipkins said it was his intention to make a decision quickly once consultation had been completed because it is critical to providing certainty to students and staff.