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Universities Urge Government To Support Them

Media Release 1 May 2009

Universities Urge Government To Support Them

Disappointing is the university reaction to a ministerial speech made to a tertiary education summit in Wellington focussed on “Contributing to the Nation’s Future”.

Professor Roger Field, who chairs the New Zealand universities’ representative body, says Tertiary Education Minister Anne Tolley mentioned universities just once in her summit address, preferring to emphasise “improvements” in tertiary education administration and vocational education. This, at a time when a new economic study shows investing in universities has an unusually large payoff in terms of annual GDP growth..

“The body I represent, the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, has continually pointed out in recent months universities’ key role in this country’s economic recovery and growth.

“Universities do appreciate the Government is facing financial constraints and that the Finance Minister is planning economic recovery over the medium term by investing in productivity.

“Our plea is not to overlook the universities’ role in that recovery. As New Zealand climbs out of the recession we will need a skilled workforce, particularly the skilled professionals that universities educate.

“Universities have consistently expressed their desire to work with the Government on a plan that treats them as a vital element of the nation’s infrastructure where investment will stimulate both economic recovery and social prosperity.

“In her speech, the Minister did acknowledge that tertiary education organisations are currently facing significant enrolment pressures but in the context of new month’s Budget said money would be tight.

“She has also been reported as saying that institutions that enrol more students than agreed with the Tertiary Education Commission may now have the government’s endorsement. That leaves universities in the position of carrying increasing numbers of unfunded students over the next few years. The direct result of that could be financial deficits and constraints on universities’ ability to fully contribute to economic recovery.”

Professor Field said universities would continue to engage with Government to get their role in economic recovery and growth recognised and to advocate policy changes that would maximise their contribution.

ENDS

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