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Tertiary education could face tough times next year

Jun 24th, 2009 | By | Category: Featured Article, News

donmainTERTIARY institutions face budget cuts of up to 20% in 2011 and some courses could come under threat because there will no longer be any money to run them.

“The signals are clear that we’re going to get less funding,” says Whitireia Community Polytechnic chief executive Don Campbell (pictured right).

“But I don’t think the government is going to expect less from us in terms of student numbers. So we’re going to have to do the same with less.”
He says the Government’s decision to cut $40 million from the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics budget could see some tertiary education providers face financial difficulties, though just how bad depends on the severity of the recession.

“What happens for 2011 depends a lot on what happens to our economy this year and in 2010.”

Whitireia has already reduced a lot of its running costs and is well-placed compared to other polytechs, with around 50% of its income coming from the Government.

But he says the 2009 Budget has presented some issues that still need to be addressed.

Whitireia had planned to replace some prefabricated classrooms at its Porirua Campus this year, but with no extra funding available for capital development, those plans are on hold.

“Given that we have to fund that ourselves, we’ve got to take a long-term view and do the best we can over that period of time.”

The Government’s decision to get rid of “separate pots of money” for various kinds of programmes could see some courses face the chop, because they would have to be funded through tertiary providers’ base funding (basic funding for the overall operation).

The only way polytechs can grow without running the risk of overspending is through substituting under-performing courses for new ones, but could prove too costly. There are costs associated with beginning a new programme and cancelling an existing one.

Mr Campbell declined to comment about which Whitireia courses might be culled, but says “where we’ve got low numbers, then clearly we’ve got to look at the future of those programmes.”

Some programmes may be also merged or have the number of papers available reduced.

“But that’s nothing new. You’ve always got to examine your portfolio of programmes and look at developing those to make sure they’re relevant and appropriate.”

Asked if course fees are likely to increase to cover any shortfall in funding, Mr Campbell says that is unlikely due to the Government’s fee maxima policy (constrains fee rises): “We’re very limited in what we can do there.”

He says Whitireia will look to increase income through enrolling more international students.

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is a graduate from Whitireia Journalism School. He is as well rounded as a beachball, with his interests including rugby, sport, politics, business, tertiary education, social issues, sticking up for the little guy, investigative journalism, cooking, music, shooting the breeze, telling jokes and having a laugh. After a short stint as a general news hound at the Kapiti Observer, he now works for Rugby News in Auckland.
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