Funding cuts see 10 staff axed

Ten staff and 70 student places will be axed from Taranaki's polytech after a government decision to cut course funding next year.

Yesterday Witt chief executive Richard Handley broke the news to staff that redundancies and course closures were the only answer to reduced funding.

Mr Handley said he was stunned the funding cuts came so soon after the polytech had turned the corner after years of financial and educational difficulties.

The shuffle means five programmes at Witt will stop, two will be put on hold until more non-government funding is sought and there will be fewer places available on another six programmes.

"This will result in less choice for students with the reduction of about 70 student places as the portfolio has changed," Mr Handley said.

The reaction from the Witt council and staff was that the funding cuts were undeserved and unwelcome, he said. "The council endorsed our new programme for next year on Thursday but with regret and reluctance.

"Staff were resolute and accepting of the reality of the situation."

The Government had decided to put one-third of its level 1 and 2 student achievement funding up for tender - $38 million out of $115m.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce allocated funding to 17 private training establishments, one wananga and six institutes of technology and polytechnics.

It was the first time private training establishments were able to apply for the money.

Mr Joyce said the funding had been opened up to private providers because many of the polytechnics had not been performing, with a completion rate of just 50 per cent.

Mr Handley says although the Tertiary Education Commission had indicated Witt would receive the same funding in 2013 as this year, it included specific funding for programmes in engineering and trades qualifications.

"Allocating more funding to engineering and trades reduces funding for non-engineering and trades qualifications by about $900,000," he said.

After Witt received the highest level of education achievement in an evaluation and review report six weeks ago, Mr Handley was mystified it was facing such challenges so soon after. "Considering how well Witt has performed I'm pretty stunned."

Consultation with staff and students was taking place and expected to be finished by November 19.

Witt would contact students who no longer had a place on a course next year and find an alternative programme or provider that suited.

Mr Handley said the council would look for more non-government funding to avoid being so reliant on government funding in the future.

"We are currently 87 per cent reliant on government funding which is less than the polytechnic average of 91 per cent so we are doing better than most but need to do better yet," he said.

Taranaki Daily News