UCOL union planning protest

TALIA SHADWELL
Last updated 13:02 21/11/2012

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Plans for a protest are underway at all three of UCOL's campuses, in response to a government funding snub that has provoked the polytechnic and others around New Zealand to cut jobs and courses in 2013.

The protest, to take place tomorrow, is timed to coincide with a major announcement expected from UCOL management tomorrow.

More than 50 UCOL staff are facing redundancies as 19 programmes are cut and 375 full time equivalent student places lost affecting about 500 prospective students as UCOL cuts its budget by $2.6m to make up for a loss in revenue.

Reviews concerning this month's staff consultation period are being released to affected staff at the polytechnic's Palmerston North, Wairarapa and Whanganui campuses today.  

Polytechnics around New Zealand have been re-evaluating their staffing and courses after the Tertiary Education Commission allocated the 2013 round of Student Achievement Component funding for foundation level courses to 17 private training establishments, one wananga and six institutes of technology and polytechnics.

This year was the first in which first time private training establishments were eligible to apply for the money.

Palmerston North's city leaders were also expected to show their support for the protest, planned as part of The Tertiary Education Union's National Day of Action.

MP Iain Lees-Galloway and Mayor Jono Naylor had both spoken out in recent weeks, calling the proposed job and foundation level course cuts a loss for the region.

UCOL union leader Tina Smith has called on the community to show its disappointment at the moves.

''Under this national government the polytechnic sector has lost approximately $60 million in funding - the size of a small polytechnic,'' she said.

''Again the regions are being incredibly hard hit by this short-sided ideological policy. Little of the contestable funding for levels one and two went to the regions UCOL got none of it.

"Yet the students who need this education also need family support to succeed and can't afford to go to Auckland to get this education. So again, our unemployment rises.''

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce in recent weeks told the Standard that UCOL had struggled to fill all its funded places for students in the past three years and had consistently failed to meet funding targets.

New Zealand's largest training provider Te Wananga o Aotearoa, which has a presence in the region, got the lion's share of a round of Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) funding, taking more than half of the $40 million Student Achievement Component funding contested by education providers nationwide.

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Eastern Institute of Technology also stood to lose at least 12 staff and funding for 320 entry-level students at its Napier and Tairawhiti campuses because it missed out on more than $2 million in government funding.

Tertiary Minister Steven Joyce was not immediately available to respond to a request for comment.

- Manawatu Standard

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