Shakeup hits MIT

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 10:02 29/11/2012
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ANNA LOREN

ON COURSE: Automotive students protest funding cuts to MIT. 

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Inexperienced tertiary providers will be training South Auckland students after funding cuts to Manukau Institute of Technology, its chief executive says.

The Otara polytechnic is being forced to slash courses across a range of departments after missing out on about $3 million in funding awarded in a government tender.

One-third of the funding for foundation-level courses throughout the country - $38 million out of $115 million - was put up for tender, with 17 private training establishments (PTEs), six institutes of technology and polytechnics and one wananga receiving money.

It was the first time PTEs have been able to apply for the funding - a move Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce says was undertaken to "encourage more innovative teaching and better results for students".

But MIT chief executive Peter Brothers says some of those organisations have no previous experience in the courses they have received funding for.

"We have been approached by some PTEs who are looking to buy curriculum and teaching materials from us because they bid for courses that they have not been previously teaching," Dr Brothers says.

The move follows earlier cuts that saw about 400 MIT student positions slashed and has been slammed by industry experts and community leaders.

Mangere MP Su'a William Sio says the funding shakeup is a "kick in the teeth" for MIT staff and the public education system.

"MIT has a strong reputation in foundation studies, especially in the trades," the Labour MP says.

"To have these courses scrapped and replaced with a company that doesn't seem able to administer the course without assistance is bizarre."

Tertiary Education Union national president Sandra Grey says it is a huge blow to education in South Auckland.

"The government is sacrificing well-established and resourced programmes in its hunt for cheap delivery," she says.

"Public money should go to local public institutions that were built by, belong to and are committed to their communities."

Mr Joyce did not respond when the Manukau Courier asked him if he believes PTEs will be able to provide courses they have not previously taught to the same level as established polytechnic courses.

Those that received funding were chosen because of their ability to "deliver to those most at need of foundation education programmes", Mr Joyce says.

"The system has robust checks and balances to ensure that providers are delivering quality courses."

And Manukau PTEs that have benefited from the tender say their establishments provide valuable learning experiences for students.

Gill Franklin, the business development manager of Future Skills, which has received funding for 224 equivalent fulltime student places, says learners benefit from the smaller campuses and course sizes.

"A lot of them have found secondary schools are too big and they get lost.

"As they get their confidence and they go with a group of friends then they can transition on to a larger or a high-level organisation."

Corporate Academy Group, another Manukau PTE, will be enlarging its roll from 350 to 500 student places and offering more automotive, health and retail courses.

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Director Christine Clark says her organisation provides a flexibility that polytechnics can't.

"You can work a lot more closely with the learners - it's what they call pastoral care. You can work with them and talk to them and help them with their issues."

MIT is now working out which courses and jobs will be lost. Dr Brothers says about 20 teaching positions will go.

But it is hoped the polytechnic will be able to retain the courses that provide training to the largest number of students.

"MIT's always been proud that we'll provide an education for everyone who turns up here, no matter what their background."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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