Polytechnic enrolments fall to 2020 levels

The spike in polytechnic enrolments seen last year has collapsed, leaving the institutes with about the same number of enrolments as in 2020.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Chief executive of the national polytechnic and workplace training organisation, Te Pūkenga, Stephen Town, told RNZ enrolments at its 16 subsidiary polytechnics had dropped because of high employment.

“We’re down. It ranges across the ITPs, kind of eight to 12 percent. What that does is return us to 2020 levels. So 2021 was a one-off and we’ve come back down to 2020 levels,” he said.

The institute had forecast a deficit of $110 million but Town said that estimate was overly-pessimistic and it was working on a more accurate figure.

The deficit was due to falling domestic and international student numbers, and rising costs, Town said.

He said Te Pūkenga wanted to avoid cutting staffing before next year, when it formally takes over its subsidiary polytechnics.

Meanwhile a goverment briefing from March showed the Tertiary Education Commission was worried by delays in key parts of Te Pūkenga’s development.

It said Te Pūkenga’s “business as usual” work was satisfactory, but warned that it had spent less than budgeted on expenses related to its creation and had fallen behind in important work.

In particular, it had delayed by six months its “programme business case”, which would set out the detail of how it would operate.

The report said the delays prompted TEC and the institute to commission a strategic review to identify risks to the institute’s transformation programme and possible solutions.

Town said the business case was probably the single most important document the institute had developed to date and was due to go to the institute’s council next month.

“What we’re trying to do is explain through the programme business case how we go from the current financial stress that we’re experiencing to a more viable and long-term position,” he said.

He said the strategic review of the institute’s work provided seven recommendations, some of which it had already completed.

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