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No real commitment to great universities

No real commitment to great universities
25 May 2017

Vice-Chancellors say that while the government has invested heavily in some aspects of New Zealand’s future it is yet to show a commitment to creating the great universities that will be central to the country’s future.

Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Chair of Universities New Zealand, says that through their teaching and research universities create great benefits for all New Zealanders. He acknowledges that the 2017 Budget brings a number of increases to research funding.

“We welcome the additional $7.5m of funding for the Performance Based Research Fund that will increase again to $15m from 2018/19. We also acknowledge the increase in funding to the Endeavour fund of $81.9m over the next four years. This provides support to high quality research carried out by researchers from across the wider sector.

“This is essential to help New Zealand address the pressing issues we face and to stimulate innovation and growth within the business and export sectors.”

However, universities are disappointed that the government has failed to substantially increase its investment in teaching and learning, the activities that prepare the citizens and leaders of tomorrow.

“The 1% increase across-the-board tuition subsidy increase announced today is below the expected Consumer Price Index of 2.2%. So university funding isn’t even keeping up with cost increases.”

The Executive Director of Universities New Zealand, Chris Whelan, says this is putting more pressure on a university system that is already struggling to maintain teaching quality.

“The key issue is that New Zealand’s universities continue to be underfunded for the tuition they provide. Our universities now receive just 95% of the OECD average per student. That puts our funding at the same level as countries like Slovenia, Spain, and Estonia.

“Despite this, our universities are all ranked in the top 500 of world universities and deliver teaching and research that matches that of countries like Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States who receive 30-90% more funding per student.

“Earlier this month, the respected Universitas 21 comparison of 50 university systems, singled out the government when attributing the fall in New Zealand’s resourcing rankings to “the reduction in government funding as a share of GDP".

“Today, the government again failed to seize the opportunity to put this right and to enable us to create the truly great institutions that competitor countries have and New Zealand needs.”

“As a consequence of continued underfunding, we will see further slippage in university rankings despite the hard work and commitment of university staff. Universities will struggle to provide young New Zealanders access to a world-class university education. They will struggle to develop innovative research that benefits all New Zealanders. And it will be more difficult to attract international students to New Zealand universities – students who currently bring $1 billion to the economy annually.

“Government should be investing in the development of skills and knowledge to build an innovative, internationally-competitive, knowledge-based economy.

“This requires New Zealand to be able to deliver world-class teaching to carry out world-class research. This budget fails New Zealand and New Zealanders by contributing to further erosion of a system that is already at breaking point.”


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