Wellington Institute of Technology and Whitireia Community Polytechnic have separately served the Wellington region over several decades. Individually we are distinctive and successful tertiary providers. However if you add together the key statistics, we embody among the largest ITP provision in NZ:
- More than 18,000 students
- An $85m property portfolio
- $118m annual turnover
- 900 FTE employees.
At the beginning of 2012 we formed a strategic partnership, the first of its kind on New Zealand’s tertiary landscape. It’s called STUDENTS FIRST and that is significant, because it keeps reminding us that however precious and closely “owned” are our separate ways of doing things, if those ways do not present a genuine value proposition by way of choice, quality or price to the students of today and tomorrow, then we need to "get over it."
Key features of the partnership are:
- A single governing board of directors, led by Roger Sowry
- A single academic board strategically managing our portfolio of qualifications
- A shared services unit charged with delivering manifestly more efficient and effective services from procurement through to IT and beyond
- A new brand which will strengthen and connect, not obliterate our separate brands, a bit like the Star Alliance brand for airlines
- A seamless information service to students no matter which or whose campus they study at.
- A shared strategy to grow international education business and the export of knowledge services for Wellington, including a big drive to increase the number of international students. This will be hugely assisted by long haul flights to and from Wellington.
In creating the partnership we have learned the importance of really lifting our game to provide a seamless service to the whole of the Wellington region. It goes like this: Historically Whitireia had its 25+ year roots in Porirua/Kapiti region and WelTec had its 100+year roots in Petone in the Hutt Valley.
Historically too, there was a third ITP in the region, Wellington Polytechnic, in the heart of Wellington City. Wellington Polytechnic was taken over by Massey University in 2000, leaving a very large gap in tertiary vocational provision for our region. That was 13 years ago, and although both WelTec and Whitireia have made significant moves to fill the void, the facts speak for what a struggle that has been as we have acted from within our local and historical paradigms.
Our current provision footprint is such that we offer one fulltime place to every 133 Wellington City residents;
- 1 to every 63 Hutt Valley residents
- 1 to every 46 Porirua/Kapiti Coast residents.
This discounts the ability of students to travel, but it does show that if you live in Porirua/Kapiti Coast you are still three times more likely than a Wellingtonian to have a local ITP you can enrol at. If you live in the Hutt Valley, you are twice as likely. All this just underlines how slow the changing of historical boundaries and concepts of “our place” can be.
The ability to meet new realities (in our case the existence of a very large city with no “home” ITP) is even more challenged by the difficulties of achieving a coherent vision of what our region as a whole needs from tertiary education especially when we talk to local authorities. Conversations have to be duplicated or quintupled in order to find out what the economy of the region really needs: and that takes a lot of time and iterative effort.
Students First is making great progress, and we’re currently exploring the options for a shared and greatly expanded Wellington City presence through a single centre for the creative and performing arts and media technologies. At the same time, there will be investment in other excellence centres within the Porirua/Kapiti Coast and the Hutt areas.
We believe that our Students First partnership is a model that the rest of the tertiary education sector will wish to keep a close eye on as we go forward. We look forward to continuing dialogue with Wellington businesses, industry, employers, and all those committed to the growth and success of our region as the future rolls out.