OPINION: Those who are steering the Western Institute of Technology in Taranaki (Witt) towards financial and academic success can be forgiven for wondering just what more they can do.
Despite a remarkable turnaround in the institute's fortunes in recent years, Witt has been handed a snub of significant proportions by missing out on nearly half of its funding for level one and two courses next year.
Taranaki's polytechnic got the news from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) last week that it will lose more than $1 million towards those foundation level courses, which equates to losing 43 per cent of its funding for its level one and two courses.
Make no mistake, the effects of that decision will reverberate far beyond the Witt campus. This is bad news for many of our young, especially those who leave school with no qualifications and need these introductory courses to gain the all-important basic skills, both academically and socially, that can be the difference between getting a job or not.
Youth unemployment is a problem in this country, and Taranaki is no exception. By denying Witt the funding, the TEC is cutting the number of places for this group, which is so vital for our future, by 43 per cent.
Witt chief executive Richard Handley readily admits he is shocked by the TEC's decision, especially in light of the glowing external evaluation and review report it recently received.
For those unaware of the achievements Witt recently finished top in the country for student retention in study, and third in the all-important completion of qualifications.
Add to that its well-documented financial turnaround in recent years and it is easy to see why Witt is the envy of almost every other institution in the country. It is not coincidental that several other polytechnics have recently sent top-tier management teams there to see how they're doing it.
Witt is a success story with everyone, it seems, except with the TEC. The reasons are unclear, with the commission giving no explanation or reasons for its decision.
In its wisdom, the TEC introduced a competitive funding process this year which required training establishments to submit applications to receive funding for foundation level courses.
Despite no less than $38m being shared among 17 private training establishments, six institutes of technology and polytechnics, and one wananga, Witt was not one of them.
Mr Handley says Witt's bid to TEC was a strong one, based on its quality record and experience, which also focused on meeting the needs of Taranaki foundation learners.
Despite that, TEC advised that not one part of its bid was successful.
With admirable restraint Mr Handley says he is still waiting to hear from TEC on why it was not successful. Many in Taranaki would be interested to know the reasons too, and perhaps that is a question New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young could follow up as well.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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