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Government will meet challenge of tertiary fees

Government will meet challenge of escalating tertiary fees and falling quality


17 April 2000

The previous government left the tertiary education sector in a 'dismal' state, and this government has inherited the mess and is committed to cleaning it up, the Alliance’s education spokesperson has told a public meeting in Porirua.

Liz Gordon said news that tertiary fees had risen by 27 percent in two years, and were a major contributer to inflation, shows the depth of the problem the government faces.

Dr. Gordon, who also chairs the Education and Science Select Committee, told the meeting that rising costs were not an indication of improved quality in the sector.

“The costs of tertiary education can be directly attributed to the National Government’s fostering of a hugely increased private tertiary sector and open slather competition between institutions for what is now a decreasing pool of students."

Dr. Gordon said that students were paying the price for a failed government policy which has inevitably reduced the quality of courses.

“For students, competition was supposed to bring down the price and improve the quality. The reality is the reverse of this."

She said that staff redundancies were inevitable in the 'expansionist' tertiary institutions such as Massey University.

“Apart from the upcoming loss of talent to the country, this means that students will be herded like cattle into ever larger classes, increasingly forced to learn by rote instead of critical analysis and limited to ‘tick the box’ assessment methods. All of this, of course, at increased cost to themselves, if current policies were allowed to continue."

Liz Gordon is also concerned about the viability of the private tertiary sector which, she says, was “born in a period of expansive competition, and is not well structured to cope with declining enrolments.

“There will certainly be financial as well as pedagogical failures in this sector."

She said the previous government’s policy of 'let the buyer beware' is being re-examined within the context of a government policy which now emphasises co-operation throughout the education system.

“We will need to assist young people to complete their qualifications, rather than simply blaming the victim for not choosing their courses better."

Dr. Gordon said that the new government is beginning to put policies in place to solve the problems of the tertiary sector.

“Labour is committed to ensuring that fees don’t go up and the Alliance is certainly keen to see them come down.

“The problems of redundancy in the public sector, quality and sustainability in the private sector and competition in both will be part of the response to be developed by the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission.

“As well, parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee has agreed to a public inquiry into fees, loans, allowances and other matters to do with the resourcing of tertiary education and we will be calling for submissions within a fortnight," she said.

ENDS

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