WITT touts for local art students

By Laurel Stowell

New Plymouth's polytechnic hopes to entice Wanganui arts students its way.

The Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT) holds an art and design open day today in Bell St, New Plymouth. It was advertised in Saturday's Chronicle, the first time WITT art, design and media head Geraldine Guy can recall seeking arts students from Wanganui.

"It's because we heard of UCOL [Universal College of Learning Whanganui] with all the arts programmes closing down, so we thought it's an opportunity to see if anyone's interested," she said.

In fact, a combined Wanganui District Council and UCOL taskforce is now focused on keeping those arts programmes, and the rest of UCOL's input, in Wanganui.

The group, chaired by Mayor Annette Main, had its first meeting on Monday and expects to have plans to act on by July 1. It came about after UCOL announced there would be no first-year intake in its Wanganui Bachelor of Fine Arts or Diploma in Glass Design and Production this year.

To add to the woes, the polytech's fine arts buildings in Taupo Quay have been declared earthquake-prone. Arts students have been based at the former polytech campus in Campbell St since last year.

UCOL chief executive Paul McElroy has said the polytech's overall financial and educational performance in Wanganui is not sustainable, creating "significant tension" between government priorities (and funding) and what the Wanganui community expects.

The situation may not be much different in Taranaki. WITT has offered arts courses since 1998 but had to abandon its Bachelor of Visual Arts degree when that stopped being unviable. The last of the degree's Taranaki students graduated in 2011.

Only its first two years are now offered at New Plymouth, with the rest at Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec).

- Wanganui Chronicle

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