Polytech seeks advice on future

Aoraki Polytech
Aoraki Polytech

Financial challenges have led Aoraki Polytechnic to appoint an adviser to look at its options.

Independent adviser Malcolm Inglis has been given a wide brief to look at all options which will be presented to the Aoraki Polytechnic Council in December.

Aoraki suffered a financial loss of $1.6 million last year and is staring down a projected loss of $2.1m this year, as well as forecasting 328 fewer equivalent fulltime students (EFTS) this year than budgeted for.

Aoraki chair Kevin Cosgrove said the polytechnic was responding to changes in the sector that required it to "focus more on our core operations".

"Changes in the education policy have limited the opportunities to generate revenue for Aoraki from subcontracting outside our region.

"It is sensible to look ahead now as doing nothing at this stage could restrict our position as we go into the future."

Asked if a merger with another polytech was being considered, he said "the sign above the door will still be Aoraki, the identity will not be lost".

"The council will talk with others in the sector and consult with stakeholders, particularly the local community and staff as to how best to preserve a viable polytechnic for our region."

Mr Inglis was employed by the Aoraki council over a month ago to look at all the options.

He was familiar with Aoraki, having worked there as a Crown observer in 1999 and 2000.

"The polytech was going through similar problems. However as a Crown observer it is a ministerial appointment to offset and mitigate risks. This role is different. I have been asked by the council and management to identify what the challenges are and produce several options.

"They have foreseen the need for an independent view to make the polytech remain sustainable."

Aoraki was not alone in facing challenges, he said.

"There has been a shift in the way the Government is handling the education portfolio and there are obvious fiscal pressures at the moment. You would be hard-pushed to find an organisation that is not facing some challenges, but probably not to the same level as Aoraki due to subcontracting."

Subcontracting was when the polytech carried out the administration of a course but subcontracted the teaching to someone else, effectively clipping the ticket on the way through. The Government has signalled this practice needed to stop, however Aoraki's roll of 1700 is made up of about 428 subcontracted EFTS.

"In terms of any substantial changes at the moment we don't know what the options will be," Mr Inglis said.

The polytech had some leeway with $25m in reserves.

"Just carrying on doing business as it has been can't be done otherwise the reserves will be gone."

The Timaru Herald