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Call for increased investment in universities

Association of University Staff - Media Release

Friday, 19 December 2003

Call for increased investment in universities

Despite its strong economy, New Zealand continues to invest less in university education than most other developed countries according to the Association of University Staff (AUS). Responding to the announcement yesterday by Minister of Finance, Dr Michael Cullen, that New Zealand's improving economy had freed up $1 billion more for spending in next year's Budget, AUS National President Dr Bill Rosenberg called on the Government to increase substantially its investment in universities.

Dr Rosenberg said increased spending in university education was consistent with the Budget strategy to advance the Government's policy programme in education and to build a strong public sector generally. It was not just consistent with the Government's intention to develop a knowledge-based society but essential to its success.

Dr Rosenberg said that government funding of universities fell between 1980 and 2002, in real terms, by 35% or just under $4,000 per student. Current plans to increase funding by slightly more (1.2% in 2004) than the inflation rate for the next three years was insufficient to position New Zealand's universities competitively with other developed countries.

"By 2006 the actual government funding for most degrees will still be around $1500 less in actual terms than in 1991," said Dr. Rosenberg.

Dr. Rosenberg says staff workloads have risen considerably over the same period. The number of equivalent full time students per staff member has risen from 12.3 in 1980 to 18.3 in 2002, an annual increase of 1.7%. "As a result," he said, "New Zealand universities are at a crisis point with long-term threats to quality if action is not taken".

"The increased Budget surplus is an ideal opportunity for the Government to re-examine its spending plans and priorities, and to show that its rhetoric about the importance of universities and their staff to the future of New Zealand's economic and social well-being is matched by increased investment.


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