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NZ: Whitireia scraps journalism diploma months after moving into new base

Whitireia journalism students Nico Hendricks and Nikita Rawnsley-Wratt will be some of the last to graduate from the closing course. Image: Rosa Woods/Stuff

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Item: 10233

By Jessica Long
WELLINGTON (Stuff/Pacific Media Watch): Students hungry to become journalists in New Zealand will no longer be able to study at Wellington's Whitireia after the polytechnic cut the course.

Nine months after Wellington's Te Auaha NZ Institute of Creativity opened and students moved in, the journalism programme's three tutors and students were told it would all be over by November's graduation.

Journalism students Nikita Rawnsley-Wratt and Nico Hendricks are two of the last seven students to go through the year-long $6000 diploma. They were told of the final decision last week after fighting for its survival alongside teachers and working journalists for at least a month.

Dominion Post editor Eric Janssen was among those concerned. He said ending the diploma would exacerbate the recruitment dearth and hasten the wrong perception journalism was no longer a viable career.

But Whitireia/WelTec chief executive Chris Gosling said the course was no longer in demand and the institution had done "everything that could be done" to convince potential students otherwise.

He was sorry to see the diploma go, especially because of graduates' historic employability.

"The level of student demand for that programme, for some time now, makes it not viable for us to offer it."

Newsroom ready
Stuff editorial director Mark Stevens, a former chair of the journalism programme's advisory committee, was disappointed with the news.

"Some of our best talent at Stuff has come out of Whitireia, and they always came out newsroom-ready because of the practical focus of that programme.

"It's disappointing to hear a lack of demand being cited as the reason. It's not just an extraordinarily important time for truth and journalism, but there's also not been a more exciting time to do the job with the technology and innovation available to our industry." 

Hendricks studied journalism papers at university but said the hands-on approach the polytechnic gave students was unique. It would be a huge loss and limited students' options, he said.

"It just seems like a completely wasted opportunity. We've got amazing facilities, they've got teachers who know what they're talking about. Cutting it just seems like a really bad idea."

Rawnsley-Wratt said the degree was an opportunity to turn a story-telling passion into a career.

She believed a drop in student numbers was a marketing problem rather than disinterest.

"We've seen people go straight into jobs after this course. It's a field that people want people to come in to."

The course cut comes as the institution has been handed a $15 million Government cash injection due to its poor financial state. The Tertiary Education Commission is also assessing whether to dissolve the Whitireia and Lower Hutt's WelTec's joint council, and appoint a commissioner in its place.

Whitireia is also looking to scrap its circus course.

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Pacific Media Watch

PMC's media monitoring service

Pacific Media Watch is compiled for the Pacific Media Centre as a regional media freedom and educational resource by a network of journalists, students, stringers and commentators.
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