Ucol is confident of its future under a shakeup of education, announced today.

Representatives from UCOL were in attendance when Education Minister Chris Hipkins proposed a massive shake-up in Wellington.

UCOL Chairman Ben Vanderkolk and chief executive Dr Amanda Lynn were among those who heard about a proposed national body that would take over New Zealand's polytechnic students, apprentices and industry trainees.

The proposed NZ Institute of Skills and Technology will take over programme design and administration for all 16 separate polytechnics throughout the country.


It will also take over enrolling and managing apprentices and industry trainees from 11 industry training organisations (ITOs).

The proposed changes are more radical than any of the options discussed in consultation with the sector last year and Hipkins admits in a Cabinet paper that "change on this scale will be disruptive".

He says disruption to students, apprentices and trainees will be minimised by "a carefully managed, phased transition plan," and has allowed a six-week consultation period ending on March 27.

Lynn said that she is confident about UCOL's future.

"UCOL will participate in the consultation process and believes in the importance of regional vocational training, work skills that build careers, support for the wellbeing of local communities and the substantial contribution this makes to the New Zealand economy.

"UCOL has more than 400 highly skilled personnel and is performing well, with 450 more students in 2018 and a financial surplus of approximately $1m."

The plan is designed to avert a crisis which has seen many polytechnics slide into deficits because of a 19 per cent slump in domestic enrolments between 2010 and 2017.

It also aims to give polytechnics an incentive to place students into work-based training and apprenticeships as soon as they are ready.


The current system pays the polytechnics more to keep students in fulltime study until they finish their qualifications, making many young people "over-educated but under-skilled".

There is no indication in the Cabinet paper or Hipkins' press release that any of the existing polytechnic campuses would be closed and the Cabinet paper says "there may be more or fewer main campuses than the current number of ITPs [institutes of technology and polytechnics]".

"The direction of the proposed reform is to maintain and grow ITP delivery in the regions," it says.

Each region would have a "regional leadership committee to advise the institute's national office and Tertiary Education Commission on local skills needs".

Regional campuses and wānanga may also host Centres of Vocational Excellence serving key industries in their regions.

However "a number of activities would be centralised at national office or at one of a few regional campuses".

A national governing council appointed by the minister "would agree long-term capital and operational strategies, oversee capital asset management and set and oversee operational budgets".

All details of financial implications have been deleted from the published version of the Cabinet paper apart from a line acknowledging: "Investment will be required to support the proposed vocational reforms."

A spokesperson for UCOL said they may have more information available in the coming days as personnel have time to digest documents that have just become available.