EDUCATION. Last week in Parliament I asked the Prime Minister the following question during Question Time:

❓What does the Prime Minister say to the people of New Zealand, and specifically to the people of Hamilton West where the failed Te Pūkenga tertiary institute is located, regarding which the Tertiary Education Commission’s (TEC) latest report says “it’s governance, it’s operating model and business case are high risk and low confidence?”

🅰️ Prime Minister’s answer: I refute the premise of this question.


Labour led government has decided to merge 16 polytechnics in the country (like WINTEC, Unitec, MIT, Ara Institute etc) to form Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology at the cost of $200 million.

While the merger is already underway, by January 2023 all the 16 polytechs will lose their individual identity and branding and will be fully incorporated into the new Te Pukenga brand.


▪️A solution looking for a problem.

To date the Education Minister has not been able to explain the need for this merger. His only reply is that there has been unnecessary competition within polytechs until now. How is it a bad thing that our tertiary institutes have had to compete for students? Doesn’t that create better courses, better educational experiences and a diverse range of specialisations at different polytechs?

▪️$200 million is a lot of money to rearrange the deck chairs.

That amount of money invested directly into the current polytechs could have led to better education and training outcomes.

In March 2022 independent reviewers expressed concerns about the future of Te Pūkenga in a report which highlighted tensions between the vocational education provider and the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) over what Te Pūkenga would be providing when it takes over responsibility of the polytechs on 1 January 2023.

The report also expressed concerns that the polytechs were not well prepared for the transition and lacked direction from Te Pūkenga on how to prepare for the transition. In addition, the report stated that Te Pūkenga had been slow to develop its information technology and financial back-office functions in anticipation for the transition. The report warned that the vocational provider might not be financially viable and that the consolidation process could take longer than planned and fail to meet its goals.

🔗 Report shows doubts about national polytechnic, Te Pūkenga…/report-shows-doubts-about…

▪️Centralising a system like this creates a behemoth that will be hard to manage, which is why the merger and centralisation need to be very clearly justified.

On 23 June 2022, Tertiary Education Union described efforts to consolidate the education curricula of the various polytechnics into a new streamlined curriculum as “rushed and disrespectful.” They claimed that consolidation process would do little to address the national shortage of nurses and social workers.

There has also been criticism of creation of 180 head office jobs in the light of 600 projected redundancies resulting from the merger process.

🔗 Curriculum Change Process Rushed And Disrespectful…/curriculum-change-process…

▪️Earlier this year Te Pūkenga advised that it had a $110 million deficit!!

Former Otago Polytechnic chief executive Phil Ker has described the Education Minister Chris Hipkins’s efforts to merge the polytechnics into a single entity as a “national disgrace,” citing Te Pūkenga’s beleaguered financial situation and merger transition delays. He said that the reform will fail to address the polytechnic sector’s inadequate funding and stated that the merger transition process would lead to extensive staff redundancies across the entire sector.

🔗 Former Otago Polytechnic CEO seeks apology from Chris Hipkins”. The New Zealand Herald…/TYVWAD2GGZW6MMSWFZKNLQE4DM/

🔗 Labour’s polytechnic shambles’s-polytechnic-shambles

A Tertiary Education Commission report dated 9 June 2022 had proposed reducing staff numbers at Te Pūkenga’s subsidiary polytechnics in order to avert a forecast deficit of NZ$110 million. The report described Te Pūkenga’s efforts to combat the deficit such as requiring frequent financial reports from polytecnics and restricting the recruitment of new staff as insufficient.

🔗 Damning report reveals financial meltdown at new mega polytech Te Pūkenga…/damning-report-reveals…

🔗 Fresh blow to mega polytech Te Pūkenga as finance boss resigns months into the job…/fresh-blow-to-mega-polytech-te…

▪️As with all things government, there has been no consultation with the staff and students impacted by these changes.

On 3 August 2022, Chairperson of Te Pūkenga had to apologise to staff members for not listening to their concerns, appreciating their expertise, and for delays in transitioning into a single institution.

In early September 2022, Newsroom reported that the delayed public consultation on Te Pūkenga’s organisational structure had failed to allay staff concerns about job security. Newsroom also reported unusually high turnover rates across the subsidiary polytechnics. Tertiary Education Union reported that many staff were anxious about the uncertainty and lack of information about their job specifications within the organisation’s operating structure.

🔗 Staff in the dark as polytech mega-merger consultation closes…

On 8 September, the Otago Polytechnic Branch of the Tertiary Education Union reported that the merger process had caused low morale and increased workload among staff members at Otago Polytechnic. The Union also expressed concerns about scant information about Te Pūkenga’s direction, staff’s place in the new organisation, and insufficient funding, and the loss of operational knowledge caused by job redundancies.

🔗 Te Pukenga merger: Otago Polytechnic staff ‘being set up to fail’…/te-pukenga-merger-otago…

On 21 October, Te Pūkenga stated they would consider staff redundancies as a means of reducing the organisation’s deficit by NZ$35 million. This amount includes NZ$10m across work-based learning, NZ$25m across former polytechnics and the national office. Polytechnic staff have expressed concerns about the impact of the proposed redundancies on teaching and staff morale. As part of the cost-cutting exercise, Te Pūkenga’s subsidiary Otago Polytechnic confirmed that it would undergo a NZ$2.7 million cost cut, which raised concerns about job security among staff.

🔗 Half of NZ’s 16 polytech CEOs have quit as mega-merger ‘takes its toll’…/half-of-nzs-16-polytech-ceos…

🔗 Mega-polytech deputy chief executive resigns from ‘dream job’ after eight months…/megapolytech-deputy-chief…


The merger of 16 polytechs to create a new bureaucracy was never needed. Not only will this lead to worse student learning experience, the botched roll out and redundancies of staff will not help the already underfunded education sector.