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Tertiary funding priorities in disarray

Hon Bill English

National Education Spokesman

23 April 2004

Tertiary funding priorities in disarray

Tertiary institutions which focus on providing quality teaching and which have missed out on the initial allocation of the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) will be frustrated to see how the tertiary dollar is spent haphazardly elsewhere, says National's Education spokesman, Bill English.

The vast resources that the Government has poured into the useful exercise of assigning the $18.2 million PBRF this year is a mere fraction of the $115 million spent on community education courses.

"In 2003, there was an unexpected $70 million growth in community education funding. At Tarawhiti Polytechnic alone there was a $16.7 million increase in 2002-2003 - slightly less than this year's PBRF allocation. This was spent on courses such as 'twilight golf', personal grooming and Maori sing-along courses. At the same time, our top researchers and tertiary educators are fighting for a much smaller piece of the pie," says Mr English.

This year just 10% of funds allocated for research are distributed through the PBRF; this will increase to 100%, or $185 million, by 2007.

"Even when the PBRF distributes all its funding, it will be only about a third more than what is currently spent on community education courses that the Minister himself has described as of 'dubious quality'," says Mr English.

In its first year, the PBRF exercise has proven both time-consuming and costly for many institutions. The Vice Chancellors of Auckland and Victoria Universities have complained that associated compliance costs will exceed any gains in revenue.

"Our best and brightest are missing out while the Government pushes us down the path towards becoming a nation of well-groomed golfers," says Mr English.

"For all its talk of research and high achieving, the Government's tertiary education strategy has failed to bring spending into line with rhetoric".


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