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Don't Increase Student Fees Say University Staff

Don't increase student fees say university staff

The Association of University Staff (AUS) has called on other New Zealand universities to follow the lead of Massey University by not increasing student tuition fees for 2005. The Massey University Council voted last week, by seven votes to six, to reject recommendations by University management to increase tuition fees by 5 percent.

The call from AUS follows a proposal from Waikato University's Finance Committee to increase tuition fees by between 3.39 and 3.48 percent for next year. This proposal will be considered at the University Council meeting next month.

AUS General Secretary, Helen Kelly, said that increasing student fees would add to existing student debt, which had already reached an intolerable level, or would further limit the participation of students in university education.

Ms Kelly said that further public investment was needed in the university sector, and this was well illustrated by Waikato University's statement that it needs an additional $4.5 million next year simply to keep pace with rising costs. "Waikato University needs to join with Massey and other universities to pressure government to increase funding to meet these costs. Placing more debt on students will not solve the long term problem of underfunding."

Government funding of universities per student has declined by 21 percent in real (inflation adjusted) terms over the decade to 2002, and New Zealand's public investment in tertiary education is now lower than the average for other OECD countries as a proportion of GDP. It is significantly lower than in Australia and the United States.

"It is clear is that Government needs to boost funding rather than leaving tertiary institutions having to consider further increasing student tuition fees," said Ms Kelly. "Fees must be kept as low as possible, but in order for that to happen funding needs to be seriously addressed. The Government can well afford this with a $7 billion budget surplus, and the spending would fit in well with its economic and social strategies."

Auckland, Waikato, Canterbury, Lincoln and Otago universities and the Auckland University of Technology are due to set their 2005 fees over the next two months


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