Distance Learning: The “Risk Mitigation” Case for Independent Governmental Performance Measures in New Zealand

Distance Learning: The “Risk Mitigation” Case for Independent Governmental Performance Measures in New Zealand

Luke Strongman (Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, New Zealand) and Polly Kobeleva (Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3978-2.ch011
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Global challenges faced by Institutes of Technology or Polytechnics (ITP) are complex. With a particular focus on distance learning, this chapter discusses the key variables of global challenge (or threats and drivers) to ITPs and shows how these variables may be mitigated for organisational advantage. In addition, the focus of the argument is directed to an equity imbalance currently experienced in the distance learning ITP sector in New Zealand. Namely, that distance learning providers must compete under the same funding criteria as contact or face-to-face providers despite differences in learning delivery mode.
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The Current Environment For Institutes Of Technology And Polytechnics In New Zealand

The present employment environment in New Zealand remains influenced by the pressures for increased efficiency and competitiveness instigated with the deregulation of the economy in the mid 1980s and 1990s with some divestment in manufacturing industry and infrastructure and growth in service industries coupled to a growth of the knowledge economy in the first decade of the new millennium. Within this climate, whilst correspondence or distance learning has long offered alternatives to face-to-face tertiary education, the present volatility of the labour market and the possibility of home study make distance education the first choice for learners who seek flexible learning options for the purposes of upskilling within or between careers, or transitional employment between vocations.1 New Zealand’s universities and polytechnics, all compete for funding from Student Achievement Component (SAC) or Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). The tertiary environment in New Zealand is characterised by insufficient public funding (although the government would argue it is enough provided services are run properly) and by the pressures to globalise, streamline curriculum portfolios, and take increased organisational responsibility for financial and educational performance (Waring, 2002, p. 26). As a result, there is strong competition within the ITP sector between providers for available government funding. As such, increasingly ITPs must be run as ‘academic businesses’. Thus, there is a continual pressure to maintain financial as well as educational viability. Any business must operate with an awareness of external or internal threats from risks that, for the most part, must be balanced with drivers for achieving operational efficiencies or mitigated against by planning.

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