NZ Must Emulate Aus Funding Boost For Universities
Media Release 13 May 2009
NZ Must Emulate Australian Funding Boost For Universities
The Australian budget has delivered that country’s universities A$5.3 billion of investment in teaching, research and innovation over six years and New Zealand university heads say that investment principle must now be followed here.
Delivered last night, the Australian budget commits A$2.6 billion from an investment fund for priority infrastructure projects in universities and research agencies. Professor Roger Field who chairs the New Zealand universities’ representative body – the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee – says that treating universities as an essential part of national infrastructure is the correct approach during a global recession.
“As the Australian Treasurer said in his budget speech, that country’s recovery depends heavily on the quality of their human capital and their ability to educate their people and innovate in business. Exactly the same applies here and it will be a serious mistake if the New Zealand Budget later this month doesn’t include a similar increase in investment in our universities.
“The Australian university investment package includes A$934 million for teaching and learning projects and A$491 million over four years to uncap the number of university places from 2012, starting with increased places from next year. University places in New Zealand remain capped and increased enrolment as a result of the recession is likely to see our universities carrying significant numbers of unfunded students next year.”
While Professor Field acknowledges the difference between the two countries in terms of economic size, he points out that Australia and New Zealand are facing very similar economic pressures.
“It is the Australian government’s investment approach that really marks the difference between the two countries’ attitudes to their university systems. As Universities Australia said in its budget comment, funding university teaching and research is part of a formula for a sustainable outcome for the economy.
“Another feature of Australia’s budget treatment of universities is the move to further improve inflation adjustment to university funding from 2012 – the equivalent measure here has been less than the actual rate of inflation in recent years and far short of the annual cost increases universities actually face.”
Professor Field says if the New Zealand Budget fails to deliver adequate compensation to universities for increased student numbers and the effects of inflation, the university system will come under serious pressure in it efforts to maintain quality, assets and student services.
“Our message is simple – New Zealand universities need investment now to ensure the country has the necessary human capital going forward and to protect the New Zealand university system’s international reputation.”