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University Education Important For Nation

Association of University Staff - Media Release

Attn Education Reporter
Thursday, 29 January 2004

University education important for nation

University education and research are vitally important to the development of New Zealand's future economic and social development according to the Association of University Staff (AUS).

AUS National President, Dr Bill Rosenberg, has raised concerns about a media release from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) this week in which the TEC Chair, Dr Andrew West encouraged secondary school students and their parents to view a study path which leads into vocational, instead of academic education.

Dr Rosenberg said he found Dr West's logic extraordinary when he said that "having a high percentage of the population with degrees does not necessarily lead to increased economic prosperity" in his call for increasing the vocational skill mix in education.

"This misses the real point which is that economic prosperity is most unlikely without high numbers of our population being educated to degree level", said Dr Rosenberg.

"Dr West has obviously overlooked that universities produce New Zealand's doctors, dentists, engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs, all of whom contribute directly to New Zealand's economic growth," he said. "In addition university graduates greatly strengthen New Zealand's public service, social and cultural environment, and there is increasing international evidence that economic development falters without this underpinning. Similarly, university research is fundamental to economic development and is consistent with the Government's focus."

"Relative to other countries, New Zealand still has a low percentage of university qualified people in its workforce," said Dr Rosenberg. "Only 14 per cent of our workforce has a university qualification, compared to 19 per cent of the Australian workforce". (OECD data 2001)

Dr Rosenberg said that he while he agreed it is essential that our tertiary education system provides for a wide range of educational and training needs and that vocational education should be more respected as an option than is currently the case, "the TEC would be better employed promoting the whole the whole of the tertiary sector. These statements raise concerns that it does not have an even-handed view," he said.

ENDS

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