Mandy Hager’s Brickbat For Bureaucrats

Students at Whitireia Polytechnic, Porirua

Award-winning author Mandy Hager supports the teachers, but has a large brickbat for education bureaucrats.

She says: ‘For the last 10 years I’ve been lucky to be employed as a novel-writing tutor on New Zealand’s oldest creative writing programme at Whitireia.

Many successes, and lives enriched

At the time I joined this organisation, it was known for its diversity of students and the nurturing nature of our programmes – enabling those with a love of the written arts to flex their creative wings and add to the body of NZ literature.  

We’ve had many successes, awards won, books published, lives enriched.

But over time I’ve watched as the previous government’s ideologically blinkered approach has forced this institution into a competitive model that is solely judged on bums on seats and ‘efts’ – the funding model by which decisions have been made.

While tutors have seen their support systems not just slashed but totally dismantled, students have been forced to pay ever higher fees, adding to the overall student debt that is currently holding many of our graduates back from home ownership and life security.

Students and staff at a Whitireia Poly gathering


Empire building and the bureaucrats

Not only this, the institutions have been encouraged to divert ludicrous amount of money on what can only be seen as empire building through large building projects, much of the funding for this relying on overseas students who pay fees.

Now that the overseas students have dried up, our institution is failing — and those at the top have pulled up the ladders, allowing tutors and students to flail while they protect their high-paying jobs.

‘My job will be disestablished’

In the process they are dismantling several of their most high-profile and successful courses, such as ours. At the end of this year, my job will be disestablished.

At a time when creative thinking and problem solving is going to be required to help pull us out of our global mess, it seems very short-sighted (and foolish) to be backing away from the very courses that will help us move forwards and bind people together through the communication of ideas and thoughts.

For more on why the arts and arts education matters, visit my website for an essay I wrote that appeared in North and South in 2017.

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