Damning claims about Unitec's restructuring in new report

The Unitec logo.
The Unitec logo. Photo credit: Newshub

A cost-cutting scheme at Auckland's Unitec has been heavily criticised in a new report.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) commissioned report found the leadership team replaced staff with contractors and rejigged entire departments despite warnings not to.

However Unitec claims the report contains inaccuracies and "entirely unsubstantiated" speculation.

Senior leaders at Unitec announced the restructure in 2015, saying at the time the changes would lead to better employment prospects.

"Over time, students will benefit from much more flexible study options designed to meet the needs of their future employers," former chief executive Rick Ede told Stuff.

But the TEU's national president Sandra Grey believes the changes would never have worked.

"Education is not like a business that sells a single product, it's a very complex business," she told Newshub.

Staff who contributed to the report said executives had a "pre-determined agenda" and Ms Grey said morale had been deeply affected.

"The reality is the continual decision of senior leaders to take action without talking to staff has meant that staff had nowhere to go and that their lives have been made a real misery," she said.

According to Ms Grey, the institution has been left deeply affected by the restructures.

"People have lost their jobs. Students aren't getting the education that they once did at Unitec in some of the programmes that were most hard hit," she said.

Unitec has responded to the report, saying many of the recommendations in the report have already been implemented.

New interim chief executive Merran Davis says change has begun at the top with the executive leadership team reduced from seven to four, and she's "working closely" with TEU.

Unitec says the report also "contained inaccuracies" due to its small sample size, and included speculation from interview subjects which was "entirely unsubstantiated".

Unitec is facing a shortfall of $19 million in 2018 and $27 million for 2019, and is facing falling student numbers.

In July, Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced he would appoint a commissioner at the struggling institution, rather than the current council.

"Following consultation and considering 23 submissions, I have notified the existing Unitec council of my plans to dissolve it and appoint a Commissioner to address Unitec's financial difficulties," Mr Hipkins said.

Unitec says it has been impacted by the sector-wide decline in student numbers over several years and the drop in revenue combined with strong investment to modernise its infrastructure.

It is now focused on achieving a return to surplus.