UCOL staff 'feel abandoned'

By Merania Karauria

Whanganui UCOL staff claim they along with students have been "shafted" by cutbacks and were visibly upset and angry at a protest yesterday .

Those the Chronicle spoke to under anonymity, said UCOL was using the government cuts to destabilise the Whanganui campus and the creative schools.

One staff member said they had asked management over the past two years to advertise and promote their programmes but that had not been done.

"This has underpinned what has been going on."

People were being given false information, they said. "We've been going in to meetings and being told the opposite."

All middle management positions have been disestablished.

"Who is going to run us? We feel abandoned. The leadership has gone. It's awful, we have just been shafted."

When UCOL returns in February there will be no leader in the fashion school.

Every day, they said, they have asked why the new campus was built. They say the space was not built to service the creative schools.

"The classrooms are inadequate in size and there is no big lecture theatre."

They said they would like to have their polytech back and to run it on the Invercargill model.

"They have made a profit after two years of zero fees."

Tertiary Education Union (TEU) organiser Lawrence O'Halloran told members that "education is not a market, it is a public good".

In the 2012 Budget, the Government took $38 million (one-third of the $115 million) of the foundation level tertiary education (level one and two courses) funding and put it up for tender.

TEU has called it a "an ideological experiment in privatisation that will fail".

"Public money should continue to go to local public institutions that belong to, and are committed to, their communities in the long term," TEU says.

"This is asset sales by stealth, giving public money to private providers."

He pointed to the job losses and careers curtailed, and echoed the questions asked by UCOL staff and students. "What is going to happen next year?"

Former Labour Party Whanganui candidate Hamish McDouall addressed the small crowd and told them he was "boiling inside".

"This has been done in haste and Steven Joyce has been surprised by the haste."

Mr McDouall said UCOL was one of Wanganui's touchstones and it was important to retain the bachelor of fine arts and computer graphic design degree courses in the city.

"I am entirely opposed to privatising our tertiary sector. This is death by slow cuts."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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