Big successes for Ara Institute of Canterbury - except with its Maori and Pasifika students

Ara Institute of Canterbury has grown by about 1000 students but is struggling to maintain completion rates for Maori ...
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/FAIRFAX NZ

Ara Institute of Canterbury has grown by about 1000 students but is struggling to maintain completion rates for Maori and Pasifika students.

A year after its establishment, Ara Institute of Canterbury is celebrating a $6.8 million surplus.

The institution's 2016 annual report showed revenue of $117m and nearly 1000 more students than Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) had before its 2015 merger with Aoraki Polytechnic.

International students brought in $16m – $4.9m more than CPIT did the year before – and Maori and Pasifika enrolments grew to 17.1 per cent of total student numbers.

Ara chief executive Kay Giles says 2016 was a "landmark" year for the institution, which reported a $6.8m surplus.
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Ara chief executive Kay Giles says 2016 was a "landmark" year for the institution, which reported a $6.8m surplus.

Ara's qualification completion rates for Maori and Pasifika dropped nearly 10 per cent on CPIT's 2015 rates. Just over 52 per cent finished their studies last year, compared to 83.5 per cent of all Ara students.

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The annual report said fixing that disparity "remains a key focus for Ara", but its qualification completion rate for Maori students was 0.6 per cent below target.

The achievement gap between Maori and Pasifika students and the general student population is an ongoing issue for polytechs and universities.

In 2012, the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) set a target for universities and polytechnics to have the same enrolment and pass rates for Maori and Pasifika students as other students by 2018.

With Maori qualification completion rates averaging 65 per cent among polytechnics, 9 per cent lower than the general polytechnic student population (74 per cent), TEC scrapped the deadline in favour of different targets for each institution in February.

Ara education and applied research director Judith Brown said Maori and Pasifika qualification completion rates were a "problematic metric" skewed by multi-year degrees, but she acknowledged they needed improving.

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Ara's 53 per cent completion target for Maori was one TEC agreed to, she said.

Chief executive Kay Giles, who will retire on June 30, said 2016 was a "landmark" year for Ara and praised staff's hard work as the key to its financial success.

"This was no small task with three campuses, nine sites, 1000 staff and 16,000 students . . . I am pleased to report that, with careful planning and teamwork, this has all been accomplished relatively seamlessly."

Tony Gray, who has 20 years experience as a tertiary sector chief executive, most recently for Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, will replace Giles, starting on September 4.

Ara's South Canterbury campus continues to struggle with falling enrolments despite overall gains for the institution.

Plans to cut unpopular courses at its ailing Timaru campus, announced earlier this month, were questioned by local mayor Damon Odey, who said Ara's commitment to the region's primary industries was being neglected.

In response, Giles said the proposal reflected the need to "put our energy where there will be much more value for the primary sector".

 - Stuff

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