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Investing in universities’ vital contribution

NZVCC Electronic News Bulletin Vol. 6 No. 20 7 November 2006

Lead item …

Investing in universities’ vital contribution

A paper which details the rationale for increased public investment in New Zealand universities was publicly released today. An Investment Approach to Public Support of New Zealand’s Universities has already been presented to Tertiary Education Minister Dr Michael Cullen and its contents discussed with Tertiary Education Commission officials.

The paper constitutes one of the NZVCC’s responses to the current tertiary education reforms intended to support the Government’s economic transformation agenda. Its executive summary notes the reforms are predicated on optimising investment in tertiary education to maximise the benefits to New Zealand from the application of public funds. In documenting the NZVCC’s support for this approach, the paper uses a research-based argument to demonstrate the need to increase the current level of investment in New Zealand universities. It identifies the fact that increasing the level of that investment will produce significant benefits and calls on the Government to act decisively to correct the current imbalance in its tertiary education investment profile. The chief means of doing so would be a reduction in investment in non-degree tertiary education and increasing public expenditure on education and research which would bring the greatest returns to all New Zealanders.

In identifying “the problem” as the need to increase the level of investment in universities, the paper points to “the solution” as being a better-balanced investment in a constrained environment. Analysis of the solution includes a look at the country’s pattern of investment in tertiary education, particularly as a function of educational level and type. “The justification” section looks at how increasing the level of university investment will produce benefits to the nation such as improved economic development, an increased contribution from international education, enhanced participation among under-represented groups, improved taxation and employment-related returns to government and increased university performance and quality. In its final section – “the actions” – the paper spells out what is required to better balance the pattern of tertiary education investment.

An Investment Approach to Public Support of New Zealand’s Universities is available for download as a PDF on the home page of the NZVCC website:

The same location has a further PDF of the NZVCC submission on the Ministry of Education’s discussion document Developing the Second Tertiary Education Strategy. The submission refers to the “investment approach” paper and notes that the Tertiary Education Strategy (TES) is part of a sequence of documents that are meant to be mutually reinforcing. The sequence of those documents is the Government’s overall, goals, TES (a 5-10 year outlook), Statement of Tertiary Education Priorities (STEP – a 3-year outlook), the investment plan and institutional profiles. The NZVCC submission recommends that the next STEP should identify “increasing the level of investment in, and the quality of benefits from, universities” as a priority.

University research and economic transformation

Hot on the heels of research that shows New Zealand universities are creating wealth at a greater rate than some of their overseas counterparts comes an injunction from Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen that the country needs to capitalise on research or get left behind. He made the comment at last week’s Research Organisation “Capitalising on Research” Forum in Auckland, noting that research was critical in a knowledge-based economy. Research provided the economy with people to create sophisticated, high-value products, as well as new ideas and ways of doing things. Further, international students, researchers and research were an integral part of the research sector.

Ernst & Young research shows that between 2003 and 2005 the market value of companies started by New Zealand universities grew from $76 million to more than $430 million. University Commercialisation Offices of NZ ((UCONZ) says the findings show the country’s universities are matching or significantly outperforming overseas benchmarks. Per dollar invested, New Zealand universities produce more than twice the number of new companies than the United States average and 50% more than Canada. In terms of patent applications, New Zealand matches the US performance and out performs Canada. UCONZ spokesperson Dr John Chang says the research confirms New Zealand is getting very good value for money from investment in university research.

The second day of the “Capitalising on Research” summit included private sector involvement with three parallel workshops given over to the questions of what the New Zealand research system needs to deliver, how can business be encouraged to invest more in R&D and how can New Zealand enhance research collaboration. The final discussion was devoted to developing a shared agenda for the country to capitalise on research. This built on themes identified by Dr Cullen in his speech the previous day when he asked research providers for their thoughts on research internationalisation, collaboration and uptake. “Are we taking enough advantage of overseas knowledge and attracting high calibre postgrads to New Zealand? How can we increase the uptake of research by end users – is there sufficient discussion and collaboration with firms or regional councils to identify specific knowledge gaps?”

New chair for copyright committee

Professor Peter Watts from the University of Auckland’s law faculty has been appointed as chair of the NZVCC Standing Committee on Copyright for a three-year term following the retirement of the former chair, Professor Terry Sturm.

Major reorganisation for Danish universities

The Danish Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation has announced a major reorganisation of Denmark’s universities and research institutes aimed at strengthening research capacity. From next year, the country’s 12 universities will be reduced to three large institutions and five smaller operations. Copenhagen University, Arhus University and the Danish Technical University will form the larger entities and undertake two thirds of all research, with Copenhagen University becoming the largest in Scandinavia. The University of South Denmark and Aalborg University will be strengthened through mergers with government research institutes. A national food forum will be established to ensure optimum co-ordination, utilising the strong international position of Danish food research. Denmark has a population of 5,400,000.


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