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Auckland Students Angered At 5 Steps

Student leaders at Auckland have reacted in anger at the government's policy announcements on tertiary education today, titled 'Five Steps Ahead'.

"'Five Steps Ahead' is nothing more than rhetoric and a branding and marketing exercise in election year. It is shallow, badly thought through and completely misses the critical issues in the sector. It is merely tinkering at the sides of a sector in crisis", said Auckland University Students Association President Efeso Collins.

"Once again, the government has failed to address the real issues in tertiary education. The Government wants to have a knowledge based economy overnight without putting in the legwork. What they should be addressing is rising fees, inadequate staffing levels, the lack of universal living allowances and runaway student debt - currently at $3 Billion."

The funding announcements today are mostly a reallocation of existing funds. The total package of $233 includes up to $176 million from the public good science fund and contingencies and savings. "This of course needs to be contextualised with the $95 million that National took from the Tertiary sector last year in its budget trimming exercise", said Mr Collins.

"Essentially the scholarship packages announced today is money for the elite, it doesn't go anywhere far enough to address access to tertiary education," said Karl Bartleet, Education Vice President. "The announcements are not addressing the rising debt levels of students, brought about by a gross lack of funding. Offering token scholarships to high achievers will not fulfil the educational needs of the community. What about the students who do not even get near a University or Polytechnic because they can't afford the high fees?" said Mr. Bartleet.

Students were also skeptical of the new 'Higher Learning Sector Taskforce', announced today. "The government can commission as many reviews and taskforces as they want, but they cannot turn their back on the fact that it is their under-funding that is causing the ills within the tertiary education sector, said Mr Collins."

"We are also highly concerned at the signals that the market is going to play an even greater role in tertiary education," said Mr. Bartleet. "Max Bradford said today in one of the governments media statements that they will 'refocus enterprise education to make sure it meets the needs of industry' and spoke of 'stronger links between tertiary education providers and business enterprises'. We resent policy that is geared up to meet the needs of business only, and not society as a whole. This is just part of the dumbing down of education by focussing solely on a narrow range of skills rather than a quality holistic education," said Mr. Bartleet.

"The government has clearly demonstrated that it cannot handle the portf olio of education. The attacks and mismanagement is not exclusive to tertiary education, they are being felt in pre-school, primary, secondary and special education also. This government has to go," concluded Mr. Collins. Ends.


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