Degrees 'not good model'

Degree-level qualifications do not necessarily benefit the community, a meeting in Timaru was told last night.

The Government allocated $159 million to strengthen higher-level tertiary qualifications in the 2012 Budget.

Tertiary Education Union president Sandra Grey told the small gathering last night there had been a push towards a more academic model and away from technology and trades.

"The polytechnic sector had around 7.5 per cent taken out of the budget. Some ... Aoraki [Polytechnic] being one, had 20 per cent taken out."

The Government was not talking to communities, businesses or workers.

Focusing on degrees made no sense, she said.

"It's not a good model for society and it's not a good model for the community. A degree is not the pinnacle; it's just one type of education.

"Of course you don't blame institutions moving towards [degree-level] programmes, but that might not be what's best for the community."

The status of polytechnics and institutes of technology needed to be raised.

She was concerned the changes meant marginalised young people would not get the chance to gain further education.

Timaru Girls' High School principal Sarah Davis said the school had built strong connections with the polytechnic.

"I've found our local polytechnic very supportive in how they create opportunities for students that aren't university bound," Ms Davis said.

"The message we're getting from the tertiary sector is start thinking ahead. In a smaller community you can have those conversations."

She said often students took a year out after school to work and save money, having a "gappy" year, which she wanted to change.

"A healthy proportion go to polytechnic. That's certainly great and I'd like to encourage it."

Aoraki Polytechnic chief executive Kay Nelson said the main challenge for the institution was demographics.

"Even encouraging our own townfolk to stay around for a year or two would make a big difference."

She said the polytechnic was not there to "steal" students from high schools.

"It's all about relationship building and ensuring that everybody in the community knows that they've had an input.

Labour Party tertiary education spokesman Grant Robertson advocated having "centres of excellence" at institutes of technology and polytechnics.

The Timaru Herald