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Budget Deals Body Blow To Universities

Media Release 29 May 2009

Budget Deals Body Blow To Universities

The full implications of the Budget for universities are now becoming apparent and the institutions are deeply concerned about immediate funding cuts and the signals from the Government over a lack of future support for the university system.

“This Budget is a body blow to a sector which is a crucial part of New Zealand’s infrastructure and an essential element in economic recovery,” says Derek McCormack, deputy chair of New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee, the universities’ representative body.

“The Government has withdrawn funding already committed to keeping academic salaries at levels which are barely competitive in an international market. This move will make it difficult for universities to retain existing academic staff at a time when they are facing increasing student numbers due to the economic recession.

“Further, the Government has made an explicit statement that no provision has been made for growth in university enrolment. The number of unfunded students in the system this year will continue to grow in 2010 and beyond in a compound effect and this can only result in increasing numbers of prospective students being turned away, potentially to join the dole queue.

“Universities are seriously questioning whether the Government appreciates the impact this Budget will have on universities and their ability to supply the skills professionals the country needs for economic recovery. The Budget will also deny opportunities to a significant cohort of the generation about to enter tertiary education.”

Mr McCormack pointed to a Government statement on its priorities for tertiary education released with the Budget which said the tertiary education system was a key national strategic asset which played a vital role in building the skills of New Zealanders.

“That insight has had no impact on this Budget. Government’s withdrawal of support for a range of tertiary student scholarships is a further contradiction of its statement that the needs of students and the economy should drive the provision of tertiary education.”

While the Budget had delivered some welcome support for university research the overall impact on university education was very concerning and did not support the Government’s statement that tertiary education was critical to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing.


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