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Addressing the burden and benefits of tertiary study

Media Advisory - 29th August 2017
Addressing the burden and benefits of tertiary study

AUT has welcomed the debate following the Labour Party’s policy announcement on tertiary education emphasising the need to understand the unique role it plays in the lives of individuals and the country.

Vice-Chancellor, Derek McCormack noted the policy has underlined the individual burden university and tertiary study can create as well as the benefits provided to individuals and their broader community.

“University and tertiary education are avenues to socioeconomic advancement and therefore should be readily accessible to people who do not have financial means but do have the potential and aspiration to succeed.

“University and tertiary education produce professional and technical skills we all rely on in our complex society. We need to cast the net as wide as possible to draw the fullest range of our intellectual potential into the best supply of these skills which we all benefit from,” said McCormack.

The benefits of a university education are well understood, however it increasingly requires sacrifice and often hardship.

“Our students have made it clear the cost of study and associated living costs are well in excess of current allowances or the limits on loans for living costs. This forces most students into work throughout the year while trying to study at the same time, potentially reducing their chance of succeeding in and completing the education that we all, as well as they, are paying for,” he said.

McCormack noted that free education has some value but the other ways of addressing the burden of university and tertiary study should also be considered, such as loan repayment thresholds and rates, greater access to cost of living support by breaking the chain to parental income for more students, loan write off schemes and studentships for sought after qualifications with bonded periods for work in New Zealand or our specific regions and sectors in need.

Another matter not addressed by any of the policy positions of the political parties is the need for high quality tertiary education in an economy like New Zealand’s, which is susceptible to losing its bright students overseas to other highly competitive university options.

“Our tertiary education also needs to diversify from agriculture and tourism towards innovative skills based enterprises in the new technologies.

“Over the past decades the government tuition payment rates to universities and tertiary institutions have consistently declined in real terms, putting an increasing burden on the student – and with the controls on fee increases, the overall result is a reducing of the ability for many institutions to maintain their viability and for others to keep pace with the demands for quality of teaching and research.

“If we need to broaden access to university and tertiary education, we must ensure it continues to be worthwhile for all by assuring, with proper maintenance of funding, that it can meet the quality that will provide optimum benefit to both the individual student/graduate and all of us as a nation.”


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