Wellington Scoop

Dismantling a writing course at Whitireia

by Mandy Hager
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.

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.

Not only this, the institutions have been encouraged to divert ludicrous amounts 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.

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. https://mandyhager.com/2017/07/18/for-arts-sake-the-politics-of-arts-and-arts-education/

First published by the Kapiti and Coast Independent

DomPost: 27 Whitireia programmes to be cut


  1. Pip Adam, 24. May 2019, 17:01

    This is extremely upsetting news. I have read some amazing work out of this programme. It’s heartbreaking. [via twitter]

  2. Nicola Easthope, 20. June 2019, 18:26

    I am a graduate of the Grad Diploma in Creative Writing at Whitireia, and I tell you, it was one of the happiest and most creatively productive and supported years of my life. The quality of programming, teaching, mentoring and networking was exceptional, and launched my poetry life. This news is gutting in every way. What a shame, Whitireia.

  3. Kay, 22. June 2019, 16:34

    How can you expect student enrolments for a 3 year course when they’re seeking short-term options? How can you expect student enrolments when there’s no promotion of the courses? Who even knows Te Auaha exists? The staff are dedicated and do the best they can, but management hamstring them at every point of the race.

  4. Lesley Marshall, 22. June 2019, 21:46

    I’ve been privileged to work as an outside assessor and mentor on this programme and am a huge admirer of the tutors’ dedication and skills, and of the writing their students produce. The loss of this programme to our arts community is a tragedy.