Financial pressures force Unitec to trim some programmes

Unitec has been forced to close or wind up a number of programmes as it continues to try and battle its way out of financial strife. A number of these closures could affect you.

Unitec has found itself in all sorts of trouble in the last few years. The student roll peaked some years ago at around 10,000 EFTS but has declined steadily to approx 6800 this year. Further declines are expected in 2019.

When the numbers were strong, Unitec offered some 130 programmes at foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate levels. With a 30% drop in students, it has been forced to scale back the number of programmes and courses it provides. With the reduction will come a drop in staff numbers expected to be in the 100-200 area.

Check out the canned courses

The following courses which school leavers could be part of will NOT be offered at Unitec next year:

  • Bachelor of Arts
  • Bachelor of Communication
  • Bachelor Applied Science Human Bio (Osteopathy)
  • Bachelor Health Social Development
  • Bachelor of Sport
  • Bachelor Performing & Screen Arts - some parts
  • NZ Cert Horticulture Services
  • Dip Contemporary Music
  • Short courses in International Languages
  • NZ Cert English Language L2
  • NZ Cert English Language L3 - some parts
  • NZ Cert English Language L4 - some parts
  • Bachelor Communication

A number of Masters and other postgraduate courses will similarly not be offered from next year.

So what’s gone wrong at Unitec?

It seems that a few years back, senior leaders at Unitec wanted to achieve:

  • better matching of graduate skills with industry needs,
  • more flexible learning, and
  • more online teaching and learning.

To do this, Unitec decided to:

  • Replace some teaching staff with staff from industry who were not trained teachers, taking the focus away from students.
  • Outsourced student services to an outside business, Concentrix. This caused problems with their call/contact centre and it is believed many enrolments were lost in the process. Contact became even harder when Unitec took away telephone receptionsts.
  • Directed all first year health students into an online-only programme for their first semester, losing a number of students along the way.
  • More: Here’s more on the problems Unitec faces

No winners from the changes

Many of these changes left their own staff behind, but rather than look at why staff were disafected, Unitec did away with their staff surveys.

Also important to consider was the strength of the NZ economy in recent years, meaning more jobs were available leading to less enrolments at tertiary institutions. After making some poor calls, Unitec was caught in a perfect storm.

The result was a drop in trust in Unitec from schools, parents and industry. No one was winning here.

Where to now for Unitec?

The staff driving many of the unsuccessful changes have now left Unitec, but their debt and legacy linger. The institution has sold off land and will need to take a $50 million loan from the government to keep afloat and to pay off staff being made redundant.

Winning back the confidence of schools, parents, industry and most importantly, future students will be the major challenges now facing NZ’s largest polytechnic.