UCOL misses out as private trainers win

UCOL's student leader has criticised a decision to reject the polytechnic's bid for a slice of millions in government funding, saying the move could squeeze enrolment numbers.

UCOL Palmerston North's AS@U students' association president Kylie Jefferies was concerned UCOL's exclusion from a $40 million pool of Student Achievement Component (SAC) funding for level one and two courses could have consequences for student enrolment numbers.

"It was pretty disappointing really to see that the funding has been cut because UCOL has been doing well the last couple of years at retaining students," Ms Jefferies said.

The Tertiary Education Union has roundly criticised the move, and UCOL's management last week registered its shock at the decision that saw it lose out to private training establishments eligible for funding for the first time this year. UCOL's leaders were preparing to release more information on the implications of the funding cut this week.

Ms Jefferies said she could not predict whether any courses would be cut as a result, but was concerned that entry level courses that typically offer multiple student intakes would now only be able to afford to take one batch of students every year, reducing student numbers.

A Tertiary Education Commission spokesperson said it had received a "very positive response" to the SAC competitive process, with 144 applications for the 2013 funding received in the first year the tender had been made available to private organisations.

Of the 24 providers that will receive SAC funding in 2013, only six of them are institutes of technology or polytechnics. One is a wananga and 17 are private training establishments.

Proposals totalling about $250m were sought from public and private institutions from all over the country, TEC tertiary investment general manager Grant Klinkum said.

"The competitive process involved providers needing to meet a range of criteria including a quality assessment and value for money. Those providers successful in the competitive round offered the best mix of quality and price. While UCOL were not successful in the competitive round, they will still be allocated level one and two funding from the balance of the appropriation [only one-third of the appropriation was subject to a competitive process]," Mr Klinkum said.

The TEC board of commissioners will determine UCOL's total funding level for 2013 in late November.

Ms Jefferies was aware that UCOL's executive had applied for the funding, but was confident it would be granted, not realising the level of competition from private institutions.

"There was a bit of a shock," she said. "It's just a bit disappointing that the funding is going to be cut . . . students are going to be the ones who are going to suffer.

"I think it has been the main place they get funding apart from students but they try not to increase fees to protect students."

The students' association was discussing the implications of the funding cuts with UCOL management.

Manawatu Standard