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Tertiary education fee cap a backward step

Tertiary education fee cap a backward step for sector

A cap on tertiary education tuition fees from 2004 announced today will do little to lift tertiary education participation and will contribute to the decline of the sector, according to Education Forum policy adviser Norman LaRocque.

The government today announced a tertiary education sector reference group to advise on the design of the fee cap system which will enable the government to set the maximum tuition fee that tertiary education providers can charge students.

Mr LaRocque said a key concern with the fee cap policy is that, although the prices tertiary institutions charge will be capped, the prices they pay for staff and other inputs will be pushed up by wider economic factors.

"Tertiary institutions must compete in an ever more competitive global environment. Over time, their ability to attract and retain high-performing teaching and research staff could be eroded by fee caps. The running-down of human and physical capital in the sector will be a very real prospect," Mr LaRocque said.

"This is not in the interest of students, staff, institutions or indeed the country. It is certainly not a recipe for innovation and world-leading teaching and research."

Fee caps will also do little to broaden participation in tertiary education - either generally or for traditionally disadvantaged groups. There are much better policies for addressing the twin challenges of adequately resourcing tertiary education and broadening participation, Mr LaRocque said.

The re-regulation of tuition fees goes against international trends, which have seen tertiary institutions being given more - not less - freedom to set tuition fees. And it goes against the advice of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission, which recommended against central fee-setting in its Fourth Report, released last year.

"New Zealand is not alone in facing a growing demand for tertiary education, along with the challenges of a constantly changing labour market and fiscal pressures. Capping fees will do little to help address these challenges."

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