Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Job cuts expected after private trainers beat polytechs to funding

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

About 100 polytechnic tutors could lose their jobs after a controversial tender for foundation-level courses which has transferred a net $10 million from polytechnics to private training companies.

Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Open Polytechnic have lost about $3 million each in the tender, forcing redundancies which the Tertiary Education Union says will cost 21 jobs at Manukau and at least 95 nationally.

Tutors at 14 polytechnics are protesting today to coincide with a board meeting of the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) which will decide on funding for all other polytechnic courses for next year.

Today's decisions may mean further cuts for some institutes. Manukau chief executive Dr Peter Brothers said TEC staff proposed freezing most MIT funding for next year at 2011 levels, or 6 per cent below this year's funding.

Unitec chief executive Dr Rick Ede said TEC staff proposed a further $1.5 million cut for Unitec, on top of $1.1 million lost in the foundation-level tender.

Across the polytechnic sector, TEC staff are believed to recommend a $27 million cut on top of the $10 million lost at foundation level.

However, the cuts at foundation level will be offset by new jobs in private companies. Future Skills, a Manukau company that has won 224 equivalent fulltime student places believed to be worth about $1.5 million, is recruiting 21 new tutors.

Corporate Academy Group, another Manukau company that has won 64 student places, is recruiting three tutors and one extra administrator.

The changes are part of a Government plan to create a "level playing field" between public and private providers.

This year's Budget put a third of the total $115 million in funding for courses at levels 1 and 2 on the national qualifications framework out for tender.

TEC allocated $38 million through tender by first creating a shortlist of providers who met basic quality standards, and then seeking "value for money" among the quality providers based on both price and their past success with foundation learners.

Corporate Academy Group director Christine Clark, who represents the Association of Private Education Providers, said the private providers' smaller campuses and smaller classes were better suited to non-academic students.

"A lot of the lower-level learners get lost in a polytechnic," she said. "You go to a PTE with 14 or 15 students and it's more of a family environment."

But Tertiary Education Union president Sandra Grey said private companies had won more students because their tutors were mostly non-unionised and paid less than polytechnic tutors.

"The only reason they are cheaper is because their wages and working conditions are lower and they don't have professional development for their staff," she said.

- NZ Herald

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