Te Pūkenga to be scrapped by new government

Te Pūkenga to be scrapped by new government

The new coalition government led by the National Party has announced its plan to dismantle Te Pūkenga, the national institute of technology and vocational education, and replace it with regional groupings of polytechnics.

Te Pūkenga was created in 2020 as a merger of 16 polytechnics and institutes of technology, with the aim of creating a more unified and accessible system of vocational education. However, the institute has faced several challenges and criticisms since its inception, including multiple restructuring and reviews, staff and student dissatisfaction, and funding issues.

The latest restructuring, announced in September 2023, proposed to cut 450 jobs and let 350 fixed-term contracts expire, while creating 600 new roles . The institute said that this was necessary to align its workforce with its strategic direction and to improve its financial sustainability.

However, the National Party, which won the 2023 general election in a close race with Labour, has opposed Te Pūkenga and its vision of vocational education. The party’s tertiary education spokesperson Penny Simmonds said that Te Pūkenga was a “failed experiment” that had “wasted millions of dollars and disrupted the lives of thousands of staff and students”.

Simmonds said that the new government would consult with the sector and the regions to develop a new model of vocational education that would be more responsive to the needs of employers and learners. She said that the new model would also respect the autonomy and identity of each institution and ensure that they had adequate funding and support.

The announcement of the new government’s plan has sparked mixed reactions from the staff and students of Te Pūkenga and its subsidiaries. Some welcomed the change and hoped that it would bring more stability and clarity to the sector, while others expressed concern and disappointment over the potential loss of jobs, resources, and opportunities.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU), which represents the staff of Te Pūkenga, said that the proposed disestablishment of Te Pūkenga would cause more distress for those who remain and undermine the vision of a more equitable and accessible system of vocational education2. The union’s organiser Daniel Benson-Guiu said that the staff of Te Pūkenga had been working under the constant threat of restructuring and had not seen any benefits of the reforms on the ground.

Benson-Guiu said that the union would fight to protect the rights and interests of its members and to ensure that they had a voice in the future of the sector. He said that the union would also hold the new government accountable for its promises and demand more funding and support for the staff and learners of vocational education

The new government is expected to reveal more details of its policy agenda in the coming weeks, including its timeline and process for scrapping Te Pūkenga and establishing the new model of vocational education. Until then, the staff and students of Te Pūkenga and its subsidiaries face an uncertain future and await further information and consultation from the new government.