Student City reputation at risk

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 08:30 27/10/2012

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UCOL's proposed staff and programme cuts will deal a blow to Palmerston North's student city reputation, city leaders say.

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said institutions like UCOL made the city a student destination, and fewer training opportunities could result in an exodus to other centres.

"I think that would be undesirable for us locally but also for our young people. Palmerston North is a great place to study because living costs are a lot lower than in Wellington, so it makes sense to strengthen tertiary institutions in Palmerston North."

UCOL was one of several polytechnics nationwide that missed out on a $38m portion of student achievement funding for level one and two courses. The Tertiary Education Commission instead put one-third of the funding up for tender to private training establishments, sparking union criticism.

The funding cut had this week resulted in proposals by UCOL to heavily pare back its courses and staffing, with union leaders now upgrading the fallout to 50 jobs that could be lost by Christmas, and 500 fewer spots for students next year.

UCOL's Tertiary Education Union leader Tina Smith said those numbers were much higher than UCOL's management had previously thought.

Student numbers could be worse affected, because it was being proposed that some open entry programmes would next year have numbers capped.

AS@U student president Kylie Jefferies said less spots for students was concerning for a city known for having a robust student population.

"I think that's going to be devastating for the Manawatu region. We're obviously losing people anyway - going elsewhere looking for qualifications. The [number of] young people we are going to be able to attract will be reduced, which is disappointing."

An open forum will be held at UCOL's Palmerston North campus on Tuesday for students to sound their opinions. UCOL students on campus yesterday said limited training choices could force school leavers out of Palmerston North.

"I reckon it's pretty sad, obviously for the kids who leave school and want an education but there's nowhere to get it, they could move elsewhere," health science student Moana Tipene said.

Classmate Zarah Clark predicted a gap in the city's tertiary options if entry level courses were removed.

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- Manawatu Standard

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