Private training establishments grew rapidly in the late 1990s. By 1995 they accounted for about 16 per cent of equivalent full-time tertiary students (EFTS). PTEs began to fill the space vacated by many polytechnics as they moved away from vocational and ‘lower level’ courses to supply diploma and degree courses.
Education Review reported that by 1996 the profile of courses offered by PTEs was very similar to that offered by polytechnics five years earlier. It was predicted that PTEs would soon account for nearly a third of EFTS as they continued to grow at a rate much faster than state-owned institutions.
By 1997 there were calls for more government funding for PTEs, as it emerged that PTEs had access to only $7 million of the government’s $1.2 billion funding for tertiary education. The PTE sector hoped to see more equity with the state sector.
However, it was made clear that to be eligible for government funding, PTEs had to be registered with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) and accredited to offer local courses or unit standards. Different subjects attracted different levels of funding too. Priority one areas included early childhood and primary teacher training.
Education Review also identified quality concerns around the education offered at PTEs – an issue that has plagued these institutions for many years since. In 1996 it reported than nearly one in five tutors have no tertiary qualifications and nearly all PTEs need further training for their staff. A quarter offered courses not recognised by the Government.
The Ministry of Education commissioned a survey of the nearly 1,073 PTEs listed with NZQA and found that 83 had closed and a further 130 were not valid listings.
The tertiary funding review in 1997 also put industry training organisations (ITOs) under strain as a funding decision left some ITOs competing with polytechnics for trade training places. The ITOs appealed the funding cuts, leaving the polytechnic trade training funding in limbo.
The upshot of the funding review was a new system called the Universal Tertiary Tuition Allowance funding system, which introduced a ‘level playing field’ for private providers. However, it was to be short-lived as a change of government looked to introduce a revised funding system in 2001.