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Erosion of support for higher education raises concerns

Media Release– 21 January 2012 – For Immediate Use

Erosion of support for higher education raises concerns

Auckland University Students’ Association (AUSA) has voiced concern about new pressures being put on postgraduate students enrolling for study in 2013 and the undermining effect of policy changes that unfairly target those students.

“From 1 January the government has removed student allowance eligibility from postgraduate students completing their Masters and Doctorate degrees as well as introducing a wider cap on access to student support beyond 200 weeks,” says Daniel Haines, AUSA President.

“Degrees directly impacted by these changes are those which require postgraduate study in order to become qualified such as psychology or architecture. Students studying medicine, engineering and law are also affected by capping the limit. Medicine is a six year degree, and most law students complete a conjoint degree which requires five years. To complete these degrees, students are now forced to borrow and search for part time jobs, at a time when youth unemployment is at nearly 20%.”

Changes affecting postgraduate students have been estimated to impact on 5000 students across the country and a nationwide student poll under the banner of Keep Our Talent has indicated up to 40% of were considering quitting their studies or looking for better supported opportunities overseas.1

“New Zealand is home to some of the brightest minds in the world, but our true potential will always be held back if there is an underinvestment in our education system. This is also an equity issue. Higher education should not be a privilege for the wealthy but should be a genuine option regardless of one’s background,” says Haines.

Max Lin, AUSA Education Vice-President says the rhetoric that pushing more people into high levels of debt sends the right market signals to prospective students has no substance.

“The only signal it sends is to discourage disadvantaged students from pursuing degrees or higher education which would be most beneficial not only to themselves and to the economy, but to society and their communities. The real problem is it is extremely difficult for students to make this long term trade-off if they will be under severe financial distress,’ said Lin.

AUSA has questioned the insufficient scale of savings that will be created by the cuts, and has backed the call made by Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce to the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations to independently monitor impacts of this policy change.

1 Bella Duncan Amanda Thomas, "Reinstate Student Allowance Access," (New Zealand: Keep Our Talent, 2012).


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