TEC consults on commissioner for Unitec

The Tertiary Education Commission has today opened consultation on the possibility of dissolving Unitec’s council and appointing a commissioner to the Auckland-based institute of technology, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Unitec is in extreme financial difficulty and needs urgent financial assistance, Mr Hipkins said. The Government is investigating how that support will best be provided.

“Given the size of the likely financial support needed for Unitec, we need to ensure we have stronger oversight of its operations. The consultation will look at whether the best way of achieving that is by dissolving the council and appointing a commissioner,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Our message for students at this time is that the Government is committed to ensure top quality vocational education and training is available at Unitec and they should have every confidence that its financial issues will be addressed.”

The consultation follows advice from an independent financial advisor appointed by the TEC in May, estimating a shortfall of approximately $19 million this year and $27 million in 2019.

Consultation will be focused on interested parties and the TEC is inviting feedback from Unitec’s council, its management, staff and student representatives, iwi, and Auckland Council. The consultation is planned to take five days.

“We will then make a decision quickly because it is critical that we provide certainty to students and staff. We will be working to secure that and ensure existing students do not have their studies disrupted and future students have confidence to enrol,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The TEC has informed me that the issues of concern are Unitec’s finances and falling student numbers. Across other key performance indicators like teaching and learning, the annual report showed Unitec is generally making progress.”

Chris Hipkins said that while Unitec has unique issues and is in immediate financial need, it is not alone in facing the effects of falling student numbers.

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

“We need a strong ITP 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 teaching courses from certificate up to doctorate level.