Operating Environment

2011 was a period of low economic growth with continued demand for tertiary education. As in previous years and in accordance with Government policy, funding was reprioritised away from lower-quality qualifications and programmes (those with low completion rates or poor educational outcomes) to fund growth in others that are seen as more likely to benefit New Zealanders and contribute to economic growth.

Tertiary organisations continued to seek efficiency gains in 2011, working collaboratively with other providers, reviewing programmes to ensure they meet stakeholder needs and align with the Government’s priorities, and exploring additional sources of revenue.

The Government’s focus throughout 2011 was to create more places in areas of high demand, ensure that providers were able to meet their costs, and make available additional resources to support the Christchurch rebuild (including both repairing tertiary education infrastructure and aligning education and training options to meet the needs of the rebuild). In order to make progress on the Tertiary Education Strategy 2010–2015 and get the best value from its spending, the Government introduced a range of initiatives aimed at strengthening educational and financial performance.

Some key areas of focus in 2011 were:

Tertiary sector’s response to the Canterbury earthquakes

On 4 September 2010 and 22 February 2011 major earthquakes struck the Canterbury region, causing widespread damage to buildings and infrastructure, and the second resulting in significant loss of life. The earthquakes severely disrupted a number of tertiary providers in the region, especially the University of Canterbury, Lincoln University, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT), the Christchurch campus of Aoraki Polytechnic and the University of Otago's health sciences facilities in Christchurch.

Students and staff across Canterbury responded admirably to the unprecedented impacts of the earthquakes, and did an exceptional job in resuming normal activity despite the physical damage and the ongoing aftershocks. Tertiary providers in the surrounding regions offered to share facilities and services. An important early priority has been to restore business as usual activities.

Lincoln University had the least amount of structural damage and the start of its academic year was delayed by only a fortnight. Lincoln supported other education providers and organisations by providing teaching facilities and other resources. The University of Canterbury’s academic year had started one day before the earthquake on 21 February 2011. It was able to re-open three weeks after the earthquake, delivering lectures in temporary facilities. Prefabricated buildings were erected for classrooms and offices, and students were given the opportunity to take up domestic and international exchange programmes.

CPIT, located within the cordoned-off ‘red zone’, was able to be fully operating by the beginning of April from their main campus. It was able to deliver all but two of its advertised courses, some delivered from temporary sites across Canterbury.

The Southern Institute of Technology, with its Christchurch site in Hornby largely unaffected by the earthquake, was able to provide teaching facilities to other institutions, which assisted Aoraki Polytechnic and CPIT to continue delivering throughout 2011.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has worked closely with TEIs and other agencies in the sector, including the Ministry of Education, and has focused its Canterbury earthquake response on two priority areas:

Pasifika Trades Training Initiative

In 2011 the Pasifika Trades Training Initiative was developed to raise the profile of and provide more trades training within the Pasifika community, and to support the continued development of a skilled workforce for the rebuild of Christchurch specifically and for New Zealand's overall growth more generally.

Three hundred fees-free places in one-year trades training programmes will be made available over two years (2012 and 2013). A key element of this initiative is the role of Pasifika church leaders, who will provide leadership within the Pasifika community in collaboration with other community leaders and the TEOs.