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Demand For Skills Acquisition Should Be Met

Media Release 14 May 2009

Demand For Professional Skills Acquisition Should Be Met

Increasing demand for university places in science, engineering and teaching should be met because New Zealand’s economic recovery is dependent on a workforce which includes these professional skills, according to the universities’ representative body.

New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee chair Professor Roger Field says with one university reporting a seven per cent increase in first-year enrolments in such subjects, now is not the time for the Government to be cutting back its investment in university education.

“New Zealand universities have made the point in recent days that economic recovery is very much dependent on the quality of available human capital and that view was backed by the Australian Treasurer in his budget speech.

“The current funding cap on New Zealand universities has already resulted in some institutions carrying hundreds of unfunded students this year and that situation will compound next year, costing the universities millions of dollars.

“Universities in that situation face a stark choice; restrict student enrolments by limiting the number of places available and tightening up on those who can progress or reduce quality through cost cuts.”

Media reports that tertiary education would suffer in the Budget to be delivered later this month had been supported by Government statements that it will not meet forward commitments on tertiary education spending made by the previous administration.

“The strategic imperative here is the need to ensure New Zealand has sufficient numbers of scientists, engineers, teachers and other professionals when the economic upturn comes. Any restraint on the number of university places in the disciplines involved will be counter productive in the medium term.

“While there is clearly a need for fiscal restraint in the current global economic crisis, austerity measures should not include choking off demand for university education in areas vital to the New Zealand economy,” Professor Field says.


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