The Bay’s three major tertiary providers have all reaffirmed their commitment to the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership, which aims to improve access to tertiary study and provide greater study options for students in the region. Leaders from Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and the University of Waikato met in Whakatāne recently to sign a renewed Deed of Cooperation agreement.
The Deed is being revitalised following a review of the partnership and the establishment of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology, after the disestablishment of Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Waiariki Institute of Technology in 2016. The partnership was initially founded in 2006 between the former Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and the University of Waikato. In 2010, the partnership expanded to include Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi and in 2014 the former Waiariki Institute of Technology joined the group. While the three institutions remain autonomous they continue to look for opportunities to work together.
Toi Ohomai Chief Executive Dr Leon Fourie said the partnership brings richness and strength to the region. “By collaborating with each other, we can better meet the educational needs of our learners and the future resourcing requirements of our region," he said. Each of us offers a unique learning environment to cater for different learning needs but we also make it easy for students to pathway into other courses across the partnership so they can continue to receive the specific qualifications and skills they’re looking for.”
The purpose of the partnership is to create enhanced opportunities for students in the Bay to access tertiary education by offering a range of qualifications from certificates and diplomas, all the way up to postdoctoral study. It also aims to increase regionally relevant research which supports social and cultural development and economic sustainability, and support tertiary participation amongst Māori.
Professor Alister Jones, University of Waikato Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, says the University and, originally, Bay of Plenty Polytechnic have worked together since the 90s to increase tertiary opportunities in the Bay. “The partnership is currently working towards the development of the new CBD tertiary campus in the heart of Tauranga city, which will open in 2019. It will provide a university campus experience for students and a nationally and internationally recognised Bay of Plenty hub for teaching, learning and research.”
The tertiary providers are continuing to explore and develop joint programmes and initiatives under the partnership. New pathways for students between Toi Ohomai and University of Waikato qualifications are being developed for 2019 and beyond.
Professor Wiremu Doherty, Chief Executive of Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi, says it's exciting and unique to have a university, a polytechnic and a whare wānanga working together to provide a broad-spectrum approach for students seeking tertiary education. “Awanuiārangi has always had bilateral arrangements with each of the partners, and we are committed to continued collaboration to provide a full spectrum of tertiary offerings within our region. Greater flexibility and seamless movement for students between organisations is key. This partnership is an opportunity collectively to use our individual strengths as wānanga, university and polytechnic to develop a truly collaborative approach that provides students with a first-class tertiary education without leaving our region.”
Nigel Tutt, Chief Executive of the Bay’s economic development agency Priority One, said the tertiary education partnership enables a strong tertiary sector through the offering of cohesive, comprehensive and future-focussed programmes. “This unique situation where our tertiary institutions partner together is a great example of collaboration in the community and greatly benefits our increasingly knowledge-based economy,” he said.
Under the partnership, pathway programmes - including bridging, certificate, diploma and degree qualifications - are offered between the institutions. A number of scholarship programmes are also jointly administered every year such as Project Ignite and Summer School.
The tertiary providers also collaborate on marine and environmental research projects, most notably following the MV Rena grounding in 2011, where the effects of the wreck and pollution on Astrolabe Reef were investigated. The subsequent success of postgraduate research programmes is largely attributed to the collaborative research during the Rena event.
Recent research projects also led to the first ever Marine Biotechnology Convention held in Tauranga in 2017 under the tertiary education partnership. Other collaborative events include Treasuring the Bay and Inquire Inspire public lectures and the Coastal Marine Field Station Open Day and Sea Week.