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More investment needed for universities

17 May 2006

More investment needed for universities

The Association of University Staff (AUS) is calling for greater investment in New Zealand universities in the 2006 Budget to ensure that they are sufficiently funded to meet the country’s research and education challenges of the twenty-first century.

AUS National President, Professor Nigel Haworth, has warned that the university sector is facing a funding crisis, particularly in terms of salaries, and that this is likely to compromise the high quality and good reputation of New Zealand’s university system unless it is addressed as a matter of priority. He said that, for example, when compared with Australian benchmarks, New Zealand universities produce graduates at about half the cost per graduate, primarily because New Zealand salary levels have fallen behind acceptable international levels.

Professor Haworth said that New Zealand will need between 700 and 800 new academic staff by 2010-11, a time when it is predicted that there will be a worldwide shortage of academics. By then, the European Union countries alone will need an additional 10 to 15,000 new academic staff just to cope with increasing student numbers.

“Every university system in the world is currently in an increasingly competitive market to recruit and retain top-class scholars and support staff,” Professor Haworth said. “Providing funding targeted at improving salaries is an important part of ensuring the vitality and the high quality of New Zealand universities.”

Professor Haworth said that the long-term well-being of the nation would be better served by increasing investment in universities as a part of the 2006 Budget, rather than by cutting taxes as has been advocated by those with a more narrow and short-term outlook.

To publicise the issue of low university salaries and the need for additional funding, union members at Lincoln University will hold a pre-Budget soup kitchen on Wednesday 17 May. It will run between 12.40pm and 1.40pm outside the University Library.

ENDS

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