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Productivity Commission Report a Missed Opportunity

20 March 2017

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Productivity Commission Report a Missed Opportunity to Put Students at the Centre of the System

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) is disappointed by the recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s final report on new models of tertiary education, released today.

While the Commission has made some promising recommendations, including the provision of better careers education for prospective and current students, it has failed to meaningfully advance student interests.

“This report is a missed opportunity to put students at the centre of the education system. The Productivity Commission has said they have empowered student choice, but instead they’re giving power to tertiary education institutions to do what they like,” says Jonathan Gee, National President of NZUSA.

The Commission has gone outside their terms of reference to push for the introduction of interest on student loans.

“The Commission was tasked to 'focus on fee-setting and not on student support (i.e. student loans and allowances),' yet it has gone ahead and suggested imposing interest on student loans. They have gone outside their brief in support of an unpopular and ineffective proposal.”

“The Commission is being disingenuous by suggesting that the Government subsidises those who get more private benefit (i.e. higher incomes) as a result of their qualification. The subsidy actually goes to those who do not have higher incomes and therefore do not repay their loan as quickly. People who earn more get very little subsidy as their loans are paid back quicker.”

“Interest on student loans sends the wrong message to prospective students and their parents about who we want to access tertiary education.”

NZUSA is also concerned about the recommendation to abolish University Entrance.

“Students want the certainty of having a target that gets them into a university. Removing it is not in students’ interest.”

Recommending that the Government should adjust fee subsidy rates over time to reduce subsidies (or pay no subsidies) is short-sighted and does not acknowledge the public good of greater participation in tertiary education.

“The suggestion that some courses offer higher returns than others is a big generalisation. For example, applying less of a subsidy to law graduates could incentivise them to work just as commercial lawyers rather than in community law centres, as they struggle to repay their student loan.”

NZUSA, however, welcomes the Commission’s call for better career education for school students.

“Good, consistent career information and guidance for school students is severely lacking. Improving career education helps all students from all backgrounds get a better understanding of what qualifications they need to achieve their dreams.”

“The Productivity Commission proposes deregulation to support innovation, but by doing so it fails to protect, let alone enhance, student interests in tertiary education.”

ENDS


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