The merger of two Canterbury tertiary institutions promises better and more relevant opportunities for students from North Otago to Kaikoura. From the start of 2016, Christchurch-based CPIT and Timaru-based Aoraki Polytechnic have combined their courses, resources and staff under the name of the Ara Institute of Canterbury. It is a merger that works for both entities and the ultimate winners from the exercise should be their future students – people like you.
CPIT has been busy since the tragic Christchurch earthquakes, with big increases in the number of students studying and gaining trades and related qualifications. At the same time, Aoraki has been providing programmes in smaller centres such as Oamaru, Ashburton and Timaru where lower unemployment meant course numbers have not been growing. The polytechnic was losing around $4.5 million annually and its future looked bleak.
Merging the two means students and businesses in the Canterbury and North Otago region will continue to have access to high quality, relevant training and pathways to either employment or to higher education opportunities. Ara in te Reo Maori can be translated to mean ‘pathways’.
The merger will see the development of future courses which are relevant to the region, courses based around agriculture and other primary industries as well as courses in hospitality, ICT and engineering. Ara will ensure that the region maintains access for its communities to quality vocational and applied tertiary education opportunities.
Another outcome from the merger will be growth in what are called ‘blended learning’ programmes. These allow students to use technology to study at various locations with subject experts being based centrally and tutors based closer to the students. For students this will mean access to a wider range of programmes which can potentially be undertaken at times and places that suits the students. The result: more opportunities for more students.
While the Ashburton, Timaru and Oamaru facilities Aoraki operated will be a core part of Ara, the merger has seen Aoraki’s teaching in Dunedin being taken over by Dunedin Polytechnic. This involves around 160 current students who are studying early childhood education, hairdressing, journalism and film and TV production.
So far in 2016 the merged Ara seems to be finding support. Enrollments are up and the combined 7,500 equivalent full time student roll is looking like being 10% ahead of 2015 numbers at CPIT and Aoraki. The total 2016 numbers for Ara include around 600 international students.