A number of years ago I graduated from Northland Polytechnic with accounting qualifications that let me become a member of what was then the NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants. The teaching was high quality and local. Since then our polytechnic has gone through many iterations and name changes but these two principles remain the same - high quality, local teaching.
Regional polytechnics provide employment for thousands of people and capacity to build local skills in communities. They are a clear pipeline for tertiary education in the regions instead of moving away to a university. Our local NorthTec nursing degree is an example of a high quality local polytechnic degree providing an alternative to Auckland-based nursing degrees.
I am concerned that a restructuring of polytechnics to be announced in a few days may impact NorthTec. We need to expand the depth and breadth, and modernise this facility, which it has been doing under its own local strategy. As the new tertiary education spokesperson, I can share that we too would have been making some changes to the sector but not at the expense of compromising those two principles - high quality, local teaching.
What I am hearing from the tertiary sector is that the reforms next week will be based on mass amalgamation and mass centralisation. For us amalgamation could mean being amalgamated with one of the Auckland polytechnics, and centralisation could mean a central body managing parts of the student journey.
I am of a view that some parts of the student polytechnic journey simply has to be face to face. For example, student services also have a pastoral role with counselling and student inquiries, neither of which are suited to an anonymous voice at the end of a long wait time from Wellington.
It is also not clear to me if funding reforms will be part of the review. We fund simply on course numbers but do we fund for what is needed, what is high quality and what may be loss leaders at the start of a new course?
Let's see what is announced in the polytechnic restructure but if we are affected and you value your polytechnic and want your views known, then this is a call to arms to email me or Facebook me with your thoughts and I will make sure that they are taken into account in Wellington.
* Dr Shane Reti is the MP for Whangārei.