Smaller polytechs made to suffer, says union leader

Last updated 12:00 16/12/2013

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A Palmerston North education union leader has given a scathing review of the Government's spending on the tertiary education sector.

Tertiary Education Union UCOL branch president Tina Smith said there were shortfalls in the Government's funding that were penalising regional polytechnics.

Her criticism follows the publication of the Tertiary Education Commission's annual report.

The commission is responsible for allocating about $2.7 billion a year to fund tertiary education provision and research.

Ms Smith said the report showed the TEC did not spend $78 million, or 2.9 per cent, of its budget allocated for teaching and learning during the 2012/13 financial year.

Ms Smith said the Government needed to improve initiatives giving the commission the ability to release funding in alternative ways to strengthen institutions.

"This is unacceptable . . . $78m is a huge amount of money - students, the sector and the country are missing out while money sits unused," Ms Smith said.

"The commission should release this unspent money to areas of need, particularly smaller regional polytechnics. Just an extra $1m at our institution would really help."

The system of withholding funding from institutes of technology and polytechnics was flawed because it penalised institutions by measuring them against the sector average, rather than a standard, she said.

"Effectively 50 per cent of polytechnics are penalised, because by definition, 50 per cent have to be below the sector average.

"This is hitting those institutions in smaller centres that don't have the benefit of economies of scale.

"The polytechnic sector performs above Government expectations but the continuing financial clawbacks are really killing our institutions.

"Smaller centres are suffering and polytechnics are nearly on their knees despite good performance."

Tertiary Education Commission chairman John Spencer said in the report the board recognised the best way to achieve the Government's vision was to support tertiary education organisations and programmes that were results focused.

"Our funding decisions have emphasised accountability and supporting high performance within the sector."

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- Manawatu Standard

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