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Governments education work programme welcomed

Universities New Zealand says the Government’s release of more detail of its education portfolio work programme for the next three years is welcome, and it comes at an important time for a system under pressure from a long-term decline in real per-student funding.

The last major reform of New Zealand’s education system was back in 1989. Though the system has been tinkered with many times since then, it is still organised as it was back in 1989, despite massive changes in society from factors such as technology and globalisation.

“We welcome the release of the work programme, as it gives further clarity to the sector about the government’s policy programme and the timeframes for the changes it wants to make,” says Universities New Zealand Chair, Professor Stuart McCutcheon.

“We agree with the government that the system isn’t currently serving students and New Zealand as a whole as well as it could be and doesn’t provide clear guidance and career planning for young people as they transition to adulthood.

“However, we are looking forward to working with the government to improve our education system, particularly around improving outcomes for Māori and Pasifika learners, improving the transition from school to the workforce, and the review of research funding and the PBRF system.

“If the government’s plan is to succeed, it must also commit to increased investment in the quality of teaching and research. Raising quality is the key to unlocking the potential of the whole system.”

Universities New Zealand Executive Director, Chris Whelan says, “For our eight universities, the most important issue continues to be that they are underfunded for the tuition they provide to students. New Zealand’s funding for universities lags behind the OECD average, and is on a par with countries such as Slovenia, Spain, and Estonia.

“It is a tribute to our universities that they are all still ranked within the worlds top 500, delivering teaching and research that competes with countries like Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which all receive 30-90% more funding per student.

“In addition to the work programme announced today, the government must increase its investment in New Zealand’s universities if it is to truly achieve the goals it has set for itself and avoid further erosion of a system that is stretched to its limit.”

“We need this work programme to produce real results for the university sector and for New Zealand. We can’t afford to settle for another round of talkfests with no action.”

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