Jobs may be on the line at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa after a damning review released by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority coupled with a forecast deficit.
The Māori education provider has been downgraded from category 1 to category 3 in its external evaluation and review, giving it a "not yet confident" judgment in its educational performance and organisational capability in self-assessment.
The downgrade came as TWoA was projecting its first deficit in more than a decade, providing a catalyst for what chief executive Te Ururoa Flavell said would be "major changes across the organisation".
The latest review said areas that needed improving in its last review in 2013 had not been addressed, and there were "long-term quality assurance failures".
Educational practice and management has been inconsistent across some sites, and there were long-term weaknesses in the accuracy of assessor judgements.
These undermined the overall validity of educational outcome data and led NZQA
to impose a series of statutory conditions over the past four years. Several programmes had been discontinued, and accreditation withdrawn.
TWoA had 1200 full-time teachers and 413 part-time teachers, as well as more than 30,804 students.
The NZQA acknowledged the problems could be limited to a small proportion of wānanga, but said the number of students potentially affected was significant.
In February this year the NZQA also became concerned of some TWoA subcontracting arrangements for delivery of home-based programmes that did not have formal approval.
TWoA retrospectively applied for and gained approval, but concerns remained regarding the effectiveness of TWoA's oversight and administration of assessment conducted by its third parties.
The review recommended improvements in collation and analysis of graduate outcomes, assessment and moderation strategies to provide assurances judgements were valid and robust, evaluating how Te Kaupapa Matua were expressed in programme delivery, internal quality checks, and processes for managing sub-contractors.
The review also noted several positive indicators, including how many students (Māori and non-Māori) interviewed described how their learning had been "transformational and mana-enhancing".
For many learners it was a positive "second-chance" educational opportunity, the review said.
Learner success rates were good across most levels, and Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) data indicated qualification completions remained at or above 73 per cent from 2014–2016, which was similar to sector trends.
TWoA's annual graduate surveys also showed graduates had increased their understanding of mātauranga Māori and were using their knowledge and skills in their communities.
TWoA chief executive Te Ururoa Flavell said the downgrade was "disappointing".
Assessment practices needed improvement in some programmes across the organisation, but there were lessons to be learned across the board.
"We acknowledge that and are absolutely committed to addressing these matters."
Reprioritising quality assurance and improving staff training and development to improve educational delivery were key priorities of the review, Flavell said.
TWoA would be rebuilding the organisation to be more "connected and responsive to educational needs of takiwā (regions), whānau, communities and industry".
There were clear pathways to turn around the forecast deficit - the first in over a decade - and set down a financially sustainable pathway, he said.
"Unfortunately, deficits have become the reality for the vast majority in the ITP (institutes of technology and polytechnics) sector, with most struggling to achieve surpluses due to declining enrolments and government funding caps. We are no different."
In August the Government announced a $65 million bailout for struggling Unitec and Whitireia polytechnics, and a likely takeover of Whitireia and the Wellington Institute of Technology (Weltec) by a state-appointed commissioner.
A proposed restructure at the head office operations was designed to improve education and financial sustainability, Flavell said.
"There is every possibility that there may be job losses, but to continue to be a sustainable national educational provider, we must make efficiencies.
"Te Wānanga o Aotearoa has a crucial role to play for Māoridom and the country.
"Our ongoing viability is reliant on robust processes, high-quality programmes and financial sustainability for the future. That is our focus."