The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand Ltd is a subsidiary of Te Pūkenga - New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology and is the nation’s leading distance and online learning provider. Our focus is on learner success for around 30,000 learners each year.
Since we opened in 1946, Open Polytechnic has specialised in open distance flexible learning (ODFL). Our organisation was created to ensure adult learners could gain the skills they needed for their current or future career, without having to attend full-time study at a physical campus.
Learners from throughout New Zealand and overseas take advantage of the flexibility of distance and online learning to gain the skills they need to progress in their jobs and careers.
We’re one of the largest educators of the current workforce, our graduates can be found in every major workplace throughout the country.
Vocational education that supports a thriving and resilient economy and prosperous communities throughout New Zealand.
We offer over 100 qualifications and around 1,000 courses. Our range of qualifications allows learners to staircase from certificate to diploma and degree level (Levels 1–7 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework). They include technical and vocational training, through to higher professional and continuing education.
We work with industry to develop most of our programmes and courses. We also maintain close relationships with appropriate professional and industry bodies.
All our qualifications meet rigorous and transparent quality standards. They have been approved the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which has accredited us to deliver them.
We are government funded and owned.
History of Open Polytechnic
Over its more than 70-year history, Open Polytechnic has continually evolved to meet the changing vocational learning needs of New Zealand’s workforce.
The organisation began life as the Technical Correspondence School with a roll of 615 learners, opening on 1 July 1946 to provide distance learning from our home base in Wellington. Our role was to provide resettlement training, predominantly in trades and farming subjects, for returned servicemen and women following World War II.
The immediate post-war increase in apprenticeship training resulted in a rapid expansion of roles and courses. Apprentices across New Zealand who were unable to attend suitable courses at their local technical high school were required to enrol at the Technical Correspondence School. Courses in these early years covered farming, motor mechanics, engineering, agriculture, horticulture, surveying, electrics, plumbing, textiles and more.
By 1953, we reached our first 1000 learners and the next few years saw a period of quick growth. About two in every five apprentices in New Zealand were studying through the Technical Correspondence School by the early 1960s.
We were renamed the New Zealand Technical Correspondence Institute in 1963, gaining a similar status to the newly formed technical institutes around New Zealand. During the 1970s, we cemented our place as the largest provider of trade and technician training in New Zealand.
During the 1980s, we grew our offering in professional courses such as accountancy, management, banking and business studies to reflect the societal and economic changes New Zealand was experiencing.
Start of a new era
Under 1990 tertiary education reforms, we were renamed The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand. The reform had a major impact on the Open Polytechnic and resulted in a fundamental change to our role as an education provider.
Previously restricted to providing vocational courses that were not locally available to apprentices and technicians, the reforms meant we could offer a broader range of courses to people anywhere across New Zealand. With this we became the specialist national provider of open and distance learning at tertiary level.
The education reforms meant that the Open Polytechnic was able to start offering degrees and our first learner graduated with a Bachelor of Business in 1995.
Open and distance learning
The following years were a period of ongoing transformation for the Open Polytechnic as we reinforced our role as New Zealand’s specialist provider of open and distance learning at tertiary level and expanded our range of programmes to meet a broader range of employer and industry needs.
During the 1990s the Open Polytechnic took advantage of new technology for the delivery of its courses. Printed materials increasingly became supplemented with audio and video tapes, computer disks and CD-ROMS. In addition learners had access to their tutors via toll-free telephone lines and the internet. From 1997 the first Open Polytechnic courses were being offered via the internet.
We developed an international reputation in the distance learning field with the international distance learning body, the Commonwealth of Learning, recognising Open Polytechnic with the award for Institutional Excellence in Distance Education in 2003.
Open Polytechnic today
Open Polytechnic is one of the oldest distance learning institutions in the world. We have gone from 615 learners in 1946 to more than 27,000 learners today. In 2020, Open Polytechnic enrolled one in every four learners studying in the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnic (ITP) sector in New Zealand.
The qualifications and courses we provide today reflect the 21st century. Learners are able to access courseware online, as well as academic staff support, library services, and additional learning support. Our courses are delivered on our iQualify platform. Developed in-house in 2014, iQualify is designed to deliver an engaging learning experience on any device. iQualify is now also used by a broad range of ITPs, private training establishments, Industry Training Organisations (ITOs), universities, and organisations offering continuing professional development throughout New Zealand for either blended or distance learning delivery.
Degrees at Open Polytechnic are now offered in accountancy and business, applied management, psychology, communication, information technology, information & library studies, social health and wellbeing, environment, social work, engineering technology, and early childhood education. We also offer certificates and diplomas in areas ranging from construction management, engineering, business and small business, psychology, information technology, health and wellbeing, legal executive and real estate, pharmacy, teacher aide and financial advisors.
We work with a variety of other providers to ensure access to education for all, including working with ITOs to deliver the theoretical element for trades training, and providing pathways for learners studying at regional institutions without degree options – enabling those learners to stay in their home towns while studying at a higher level.
In April 2020, all ITPs in New Zealand became subsidiaries of the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST, working title) as part of the Reform of Vocational Education. Formerly a Crown entity, Open Polytechnic is now a limited liability company and subsidiary of NZIST.
Today, Open Polytechnic learners are spread throughout New Zealand and are as varied as our diverse population. We have learners in every region of New Zealand, and also support New Zealand learners studying in more than 40 countries overseas.
Eighty-two percent of our learners are aged 25 or older, with a third of our learners (29%) aged between 30-39 years old. Seventy-three percent of our learners are employed, while 88% of our learners are studying part-time across all qualification levels (Level 1-7).
We have more than 5,000 Māori learners, which makes up 18% of our learner population. and nearly 2,000 Pasifika learners enrolled with us, making up 6% of our total learner population.