Vice Chancellors should tell the truth
Student representatives are taking issue with the New Zealand Vice Chancellors Committees’ (NZVCC) mis-representation of student support spending and urge them to come clean on the real figures which reveal universities receive huge funding injections every year off the back of young New Zealanders going into debt simply to get an education.
“The misleading and malicious comments from the NZVCC regarding universal student allowances are inappropriate, inaccurate and will do little to win them any public sympathy. Yes the entire sector is under-funded, however a policy win for students should be applauded for what it is – a worthy principle and a step in the right direction. We look forward to the rest of the sector in time getting the support they also deserve”, said Liz Hawes, Co-President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).
Ministry of Education documents clearly show that only 23% of New Zealand’s tertiary budget is spent on student support, not 42% as NZVCC incorrectly asserts. The rest comes in the form of student loans paid directly to tertiary institutions to pay for tuition fees. In reality this is basically a fee subsidy from government to the Vice Chancellors, which individual students have to go into debt to fund. Once this is adjusted for, New Zealand is only just spending over the OECD average of 18%.
“The Vice Chancellors would do better to encourage more government spending on tertiary education overall, rather than initiating in-fighting in the sector and denigrating good policies that benefit their key stakeholders, students, and that are being warmly welcomed across the country”, said Hawes.
A further Ministry of Education research report highlighted that receiving a student allowance has a direct positive impact on academic performance.
“When students are adequately supported financially they can focus more on their studies and improve their achievement and completion levels, spending less time out of the classroom in paid work trying to make ends meet. Lecturers have long supported us on this point, and it’s about time the VC’s caught up,” said Hawes. “Improved academic performance enhances the quality of an institution’s reputation and qualifications, so support for universal student allowances is actually in the best interests of the universities themselves,” concluded Hawes.