The term polytechnic, from the Greek πολύ polú
meaning "many" and τεχνικός tekhnikós
meaning "arts", is commonly used in many countries to describe an institution that delivers technical education, other countries do not use the term and use alternative terminology. Polytechnics, in name, have existed since at least the 18th century but became increasingly popular since the post-WWII expansion in technical education.
Singapore retains a system very similar to the British system distinguishing strictly between polytechnics and universities. Under this system, all Singaporean students sit for their 'O'-levels after four years of secondary school. They then apply for a place at either a polytechnic or a Junior College. Polytechnics offer three year diploma courses in subjects such as information technology, engineering subjects and other vocational fields. Junior Colleges, on the other hand, offer two year courses in more traditional subjects such as English, History, the pure sciences and others after which students take their 'A'-levels, a university entrance examination.
See also: Education in Singapore
Polytechnics were tertiary education teaching institutions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland until the Further and Higher Education Act, 1992 allowed them to become universities, the comparable institutions in Scotland were collectively referred to as Central Institutions .
Academic degrees in polytechnics were validated by the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) from 1965 to 1992. After this time, the new universities awarded their own degrees, with the Open University offering degrees outside the university system. Sub-degree courses at these institutions were validated by the Business & Technology Education Council (BTEC), and many of them contiue to offer BTEC qualifications.
Many polytechnics were formed in the expansion of higher education in the 1960s, others can trace their history back much further than this. One of the most famous polytechnics was the London Polytechnic, which was originally founded in the 19th century. Ulster Polytechnic remains the only polytechnic to unite with a university, a trans-binary merger; this occurred in 1984.
Historically, British polytechnics were seen as ranking below universities in the provision of higher education, due to their lack of degree-awarding powers and the fact that they concentrated on vocational rather than academic courses. Even since 1992 differences still remain between the former polytechnics (and other post-1992 universities) and the older universities in terms of pay, conditions for staff, public perception and research budgets.
Although many of the former polytechnics remain at the bottom of the University League Tables, some former polytechnics have steadily moved up, and can now be found in the top half of the tables of all universities.
See also: British universities
New Zealand polytechnics are established under the Education Act 1989 as amended, and are considered state-owned tertiary institutions along with universities, colleges of education, and wānanga; there is today often much crossover in courses and qualifications offered between all these types of institutions. Some have officially taken the title 'institute of technology', while one has opted for 'University College of Learning ' (UCOL), and another 'Unitec New Zealand' instead. Many if not all now issue at least bachelor-level degrees.
Since the 1990s, there has been consolidation in New Zealand's state-owned tertiary education system. In the polytechnic sector: Wellington Polytechnic amalgamated with Massey University. The Central Institute of Technology explored a merger with the Waikato Institute of Technology , which was abandoned, but later, after financial concerns, controversially amalgamated with Hutt Valley Polytechnic, which in turn became Wellington Institute of Technology . Some smaller polytechnics in the North Island, such as Waiarapa Polytechnic, amalgamated with UCOL . (The only other amalgamations have been in the colleges of education.)
Only one university has successfully been elevated to university status: the Auckland Institute of Technology, while Unitec has had repeated attempts blocked.
See also: List of polytechnics and institutes of technology in New Zealand and Education in New Zealand
Institutes of Technology:
Polytechnic type institutions survive in many other countries, there is often not the same distinction between polytechnics and universities that was seen in Britain, some are often seen as being quite similar in terms of standards. Examples of polytechnic type institutions:
Some institutions describe themselves as both polytechnics and universities. These include:
- Anglia Polytechnic University, UK
- Beijing Polytechnic University , China
- California State Polytechnic University USA
- Hong Kong Polytechnic University
- Polytechnic University of New York, USA
- Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico
- Universitatea Politehnica Bucureşti, Romania
- Universidad Politecnica de Madrid , Spain
- Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya , Spain
- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, USA
- Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) , Troy, New York, USA