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Te Pukenga restructure: No jobs to go at UCOL

The nationwide Polytech Te Pūkenga is being restructured, with 200 staff set to lose their jobs, but local branch UCOL Wairarapa has dodged the cuts.

Te Pūkenga was formed three years ago as a merger of New Zealand’s 16 polytechs and nine industry training organisations, some of which were struggling financially.

Last November, UCOL Wairarapa merged with Te Pūkenga, which has 270,000 students and 9000 staff.

The national polytech has had a string of high-profile senior leadership resignations since its founding.

It announced the restructure in June, forecasting hundreds of job cuts, and said it had an $80m deficit in its 2022 annual report.

Since then, it has consulted with staff about the cuts and received over 8000 submissions.

The final structure has 602 new roles, with 401 being disestablished – a net decrease of 201. Another 51 currently vacant positions will be disestablished, and 350 fixed-term employment agreements will not be extended.

UCOL Te Pūkenga Wairarapa director Carrie McKenzie said most job cuts affect “enabling functions” like human resources, finance, information technology, communications, and executive leadership rather than frontline teaching staff. Those jobs will be centralised instead of having to be replicated in every polytech.

“Uncertainty causes anxiety, but it was clear when this restructure was announced that it was levels above where we sit,” McKenzie said.

Before merging with Te Pūkenga, UCOL Wairarapa was part of the wider UCOL polytech based in Palmerston North.

Although 17 roles are being disestablished across UCOL, none of them are in Masterton.

McKenzie said smaller campuses like UCOL Wairarapa will benefit from the merger.

She said one of the most significant benefits of the merger locally will come from the ability to put on courses with fewer than 16 students.

“There will be centralised funding for regions struggling to meet the 16:1 student-teacher ratio so that we could have a course with four students in Masterton, 12 in Taranaki, eight in Wellington, and they’ll be treated as one cohort,” she said.

McKenzie said all Te Pūkenga campuses can offer courses and use course materials developed by others instead of polytechs having to develop courses in-house.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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