Unitec set to fight Government denial of varsity status

By Stuart Dye

Unitec is preparing for another court battle after a Government decision that it should not become New Zealand's ninth university.

Education Minister Trevor Mallard said yesterday that the Auckland polytechnic should remain an institute of technology, despite its six-year battle for university status.

He said Unitec did not meet key academic criteria of "advanced learning and the development of intellectual independence, nor the criteria for international standards of research and teaching".

He was not convinced that making it a university would be in the national interest.

Unitec council chairman Alan Dickinson said it would seek a judicial review of the decision.

Chief executive Dr John Webster said he owed it to students, staff and stakeholders to ensure that their hard work "isn't simply dismissed out of hand by a minister who seems intent on ignoring the facts - that we are a university of technology in all but name, and deserve official recognition for that".

Unitec has been attempting to be assessed for university status since 1999, but has seen its applications scuppered by the Government.

Those tactics led Justice Forrest Miller, in the High Court at Wellington last month, to rule that the Government had acted unlawfully in its handling of Unitec's application.

After the case, Dr Webster questioned whether Mr Mallard would be able to make an impartial decision on the latest application in the light of the judgment.

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