One big happy family: uni, polys and wānanga collaborate

June 2014


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Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and the University of Waikato have been working together for more than a decade to increase tertiary education opportunities in the Western Bay of Plenty.

In 2006, the polytechnic and the university formalised their unique relationship by signing a partnership agreement. The agreement allows students to staircase seamlessly between the two institutions while delivering research and education solutions that will ultimately help address skill shortages in the region and help the community support its own economic growth.

In 2010, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi joined the Tertiary Partnership and in early 2014 Waiariki Institute of Technology also joined, extending opportunities to the entire Bay of Plenty region. This is the first collaboration of its kind in New Zealand.

Dr Alan Hampton, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic chief executive, says that while the four institutions remain autonomous, collectively through the partnership they are looking for opportunities to work together that will benefit students and the Bay of Plenty region.

“We strive to provide access pathways to higher education, increase the range of programmes, certificates, diplomas and degrees offered in the area and combine on research with particular relevance to the region,” says Dr Hampton.

“We also aim to support and grow development in our Māori communities through improved levels of participation and success in tertiary education.

“The partnership institutes are also collaborating on a major capital project to build a new shared campus in Tauranga’s CBD. We believe the CBD campus offers better options to work together to profile the region as an education destination as well as providing the education options that our region needs for long term sustained growth. Funding support for the development is being sought within the region.”

The creation of a CBD tertiary campus is seen by the partnership’s community stakeholders and partners, including Tauranga City Council, Western Bay of Plenty District Council and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, as an important contributor to a strong and vibrant city centre, enabling opportunities for further investment, economic development and better public spaces that will benefit the wider region.

A number of potential sites have been considered but the Tauranga CBD is the most appropriate for the medium to long term needs of the institutions. Modern tertiary delivery centres around community integration and a CBD location is also attractive to today’s students (international and domestic) who benefit because of their easy access to other amenities such as retail, hospitality and financial services.

Each of the partners already works closely with both local industry and communities. It is these close ties that have enabled collaboration to bring about the Titanium Industry Development Association (based at the Polytechnic’s Windermere Campus) and the Coastal Marine Field Station adjacent to Tauranga Harbour. The formation of the latter allowed the partnership to mount a quick response after the Rena grounding to provide critical baseline data before oil began leaking from the ship. Subsequently the partnership marine team (under Professor

Chris Battershill of the University of Waikato) has developed and implemented an Environmental Monitoring and Protection Programme for the site.

Large numbers of students have already benefited from the pathway opportunities provided between the polytechnic and the university. For example, students completing a New Zealand Diploma in Business can pathway through to the University’s Bachelor of Business Analysis, Bachelor of Management Studies (majoring in accounting, marketing, finance, tourism, public relations or strategic management), Bachelor of Tourism or the Bachelor of Social Sciences.

Other pathway opportunities exist for the Diploma in Computing/Bachelor of Science (Applied Computing), Diploma in Environmental Management or Diploma in Marine Studies/Bachelor of Science (Biological Sciences), Diploma in Tourism/Bachelor of Tourism and the three different Diplomas in Engineering (mechanical, electrical and civil)/Bachelor of Engineering.

Diploma in Marine Studies and Bachelor of Science (Biological Science) graduate Rex Fairweather is one of many students who has benefited from the pathway opportunities.

“I began my diploma in 2010 as a mature student and found the course fulfilling and the tutors knowledgeable and inspirational. In October 2011, the CV Rena grounded on the Astrolabe reef and I volunteered to assist in the sub-tidal reef monitoring programme with the Polytechnic,” says Fairweather.

“In 2012 I began a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in biological sciences through the University and also conducted voluntary work associated with Rena through the University’s Coastal Marine Field Station.

“I believe there is an increasingly strong future in the field of marine science within New Zealand for those interested in pursuing this field and would not hesitate to promote the advantages of this pathway.”

There are 271,248 people in the Bay of Plenty now, estimated to reach 403,000 by 2051, of which the highest growth will be in young Māori. Government data shows the region lags well behind the national average of 14.2 per cent of people who have bachelor degree qualifications or higher. As a result, skill shortages will significantly impact the region’s ability to support its own economic growth.

The Tertiary Partnership aims to respond to this projected skill shortage by providing work-ready graduates who will continue to make sustained improvements for our region for generations to come. 

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