Newly-appointed EIT chair Geraldine Travers says the institute is well placed to deliver on many of the Government’s priorities even as polytechnics nationwide contemplate sector reform.
“The winds of change are blowing through the New Zealand ITP [institute of technology and polytechnic] sector,” Travers says, “but we are the right people and in the right place to be able to capitalise on that change.
“There are sad tales of mismanagement at a number of polytechnics around the country. That’s not us – we are a flagship of good practice. Everything we do is what the Government and educational authorities want us to do.”
Minister of Education Chris Hipkins recently outlined a programme of work aimed at reforming the sector to ensure its sustainability and effectiveness in delivering tertiary education across the regions.
Over the next six months, the Tertiary Education Commission will be working with polytechnics and the wider community in exploring and testing options for change. As part of the ITP Roadmap 2020 project, TEC will also be looking at what is being done in other countries and what that might look like in New Zealand.
Travers agrees that she has taken over the role of EIT chair at a challenging time for the sector but points out that the Government is keen on regional development, including house construction and building infrastructure.
“We are in a position to help them with that vision with our trades training,” she says of EIT’s School of Trades and Technology.
Travers’ extensive background in education includes 19 years as principal of Hastings Girls’ High School, during which time North and South magazine flagged it as New Zealand’s best state secondary school.
Earlier in her career, she was assistant principal at Havelock North High School (1991-93) and principal of St Mary’s Diocesan School of Girls in Taranaki (1993-2017).
In 2015, she was awarded a MNZM for services to education. She also serves the community in her role as a Hastings district councillor.
Travers was appointed to EIT’s Council in June 2008. She takes over her expanded role from David Pearson, the longest-serving chair in New Zealand’s polytechnic sector.
“David was a superb chair through a wonderful period of stability, consolidation and progress,” she says. “I’m very aware that we’re now moving into a period where Government has expressed its desire for a high level of scrutiny of the sector.
“At the very least it is going to be very interesting and I’m excited to be in the role. EIT is a wonderful asset for Hawke’s Bay.
“Having to leave the region to gain a tertiary qualification is expensive and for some fields of study here is exactly the right place to go. To be able to study quality programmes in your own neighbourhood is pretty special.”
Travers feels the priorities of schools are now more aligned with the wider opportunities available in the tertiary education sector, and that is empowering for minorities who might not otherwise have considered studying for qualifications.
Her 10 years on EIT’s Council had reshaped her own thinking about the value of polytechnics.
“Everywhere I come across polytechnic-educated people. That’s where so many of our entrepreneurs come from. Even in the last couple weeks I’ve met polytechnic-educated people who have started their own businesses, which is something that none of my university friends have done.
“It takes bravery to set out and start something where nothing existed before.”
Travers is a ministerial appointment, as is new Council member Wendie Harvey, who has significant experience in governance in serving on the boards of Hawke’s Bay Airport Ltd, Port of Napier Ltd and Quality Roading and Services (Wairoa) Ltd.
Also sitting on the eight-member Council, Ross McKelvie and Jacoby Poulain have had their appointments renewed.