Ara Institute of Canterbury gets top ranking in new NZQA report

Aoraki Polytechnic merged with Christchurch's CPIT at the end of 2015.
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Aoraki Polytechnic merged with Christchurch's CPIT at the end of 2015.

South Canterbury's tertiary provider has come out on top in a new government report on New Zealand's polytechnic sector.

It comes on the heels of a separate report that found Aoraki Polytechnic was one of the least effective investors in the tertiary education sector before it merged with CPIT to create the new institution.

Ara Institute of Canterbury has been awarded a 'Highly Confident' ranking for both its educational performance and self-assessment in the New Zealand Qualifications Authority's (NZQA) External Evaluation Review (EER).

Achieving the highest ranking possible was "outstanding", Ara chief executive Kay Giles said.

Collaborating with local industries and communities was the key to the success of the institute, she said.

"Our partners help us ensure that our graduates have developed the right skills for employment. They give us feedback through our advisory boards and provide opportunities for students to complete work placements and workplace-related research projects.

"This outstanding EER result reflects the work of our industry and community partners as well as our dedicated staff."

The report noted the institution's "integrity and engagement" with the region.

"There is strong engagement with key stakeholders including industry, the community, staff and students, and clear evidence that feedback is responded to, to better match needs and strengthen valued outcomes."

"Industry and community engagement is strong at all levels of the organisation," the report stated.

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Agribusiness, a key part of the South Canterbury-based curriculum, was among the focus areas of the report.

It rated the New Zealand Diploma in Agribusiness Management at Ara as 'excellent'.

The full report was expected to be released on February 23.

The news followed the release of a report by the Auditor-General, which investigated the effectiveness of investment in assets by 26 tertiary institutions around the country, compared with educational outcomes for students.

Aoraki Polytechnic had the second least effective investment in the country, with only Lincoln University scoring worse.

The average cost of one unit of student achievement was about $74,000 per student.

Aoraki's cost was nearly double that, at about $140,000.

Giles said smaller institutions could compare unfavourably to their larger counterparts when it came to asset investment.

"If you only run one cooking course, you still need a kitchen. If you run 10 cooking courses, you might still only need one kitchen.

"It's really only one measure."

She believed the report was trying to encourage providers to take a broader approach and look at the sector as a whole, rather than making investment decisions based solely on local information.

In his overview of the report, Auditor-General Martin Matthews said the tertiary sector was facing pressures from new technology and ways of delivering education, ageing assets, and declining numbers of domestic students.

Those pressures were increasing the level of competition for student enrolments, he said.

High quality information needed to be provided to show whether the Government's strategy for the future of the sector was being achieved, he said.

"Such information is also required to support good accountability in the sector so that New Zealanders can know that the taxes they pay are spent effectively."

There was an increasing gap between Ministry of Education forecasts and tertiary sector predictions for domestic students, the report found.

The Ministry was forecasting declining student numbers while tertiary education institutions forecast increasing numbers.

"By 2020, the aggregated tertiary education institutions forecasts are higher than the Ministry's forecast by 18,000- roughly equivalent to the number of students at Victoria University of Wellington," the report states.

 - Stuff

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