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Report Challenges Myths About Tertiary Reform

Report Challenges Myths About Tertiary Reform

A report released yesterday challenges several myths about the 1990s market-driven tertiary education reforms being bad for education, according to Norman LaRocque, policy advisor for the Education Forum.

The report, commissioned by the Australian Commonwealth government as an input into the review of Australian higher education, brings together comparative information from several countries, including New Zealand.

The myth that New Zealand didn't spend much on tertiary education (private and public) in the 1990s is shattered by figures that show:

Total expenditure on tertiary institutions as a proportion of GDP grew rapidly between 1993 and 2000 - from 1.5% in 1993 to 2.5% in 2000. During that time, New Zealand moved from behind to well ahead of Canada and Australia. By the year 2000, New Zealand ranked second to the US in expenditure on tertiary education institutions as a proportion of GDP - 2.5% versus 2.6% in the United States. New Zealand was well ahead of Sweden (1.8%), Canada (1.8%), Australia (1.4%), Germany (1.4%) and Ireland (1.1%). New Zealand was second only to the United States for total expenditure on tertiary institutions per capita in 2000. The report also shatters the commonly held view that New Zealand wasn't producing enough of the right type of jobs for a successful economy. In 1999, New Zealand had a higher proportion of graduates in science/agriculture, maths/computer science and engineering/manufacturing/construction than successful economies such as the United States, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands (although the number of engineers was low).

The report, entitled University Resourcing: Australia in an International Context and prepared by the Australian Productivity Commission, comes on the heels of another report, prepared by Australian Education International (AEI) and IDP Australia, showing that New Zealand's university costs for international students are generally lower than Australia, the United States and Canada.

"The information in the Productivity Commission and AEI/IDP Australia reports should give us pause to reflect on the myths that surround the reforms of the 1990s and the current prescriptions for 'fixing' the tertiary education sector that are included in the Tertiary Education Reform Bill," Mr LaRocque said.

"Other countries have recognised that New Zealand tertiary education policies were heading generally in the right direction during the 1990s and they are being emulated now around the OECD. New Zealand, meanwhile, is moving backwards."

Note: Summary statistics on the AEI/IDP Australia report and the Productivity Commission report are available on the Education Forum website

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