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OECD recognizes need to put a lid on costs for students

NZUSA Media Release – 13 September

OECD recognizes need to put a lid on costs to tertiary students

The central finding of the OECD’s newly released annual report card on education, that unreasonable costs for tertiary students act as a barrier to improving social equality, is being supported by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

NZUSA also backs the OECD’s conclusion that unreasonable barriers to tertiary education lead to negative impacts on social mobility and employment prospects for current and future students. The report reveals a range of “stark differences” that stand in the way of opportunities that would otherwise allow all young people to access tertiary education, especially those who come from families mired in poverty and subject to structural discrimination. Revealing those differences has also been welcomed.

In addition the OECD poses some questions that point to useful measuring sticks:
• Is a person less likely to complete secondary school or gain a university place if they live in a disadvantaged part of town?
• Is it harder to top up your skills or retrain as an adult if you are above a certain age, or if you are a woman?
• And what can governments do to help level the playing field?

In the face of cuts in New Zealand, the OECD recommends public expenditure on tertiary education be kept at current levels or grow because of the wide array of public benefits and positive “fiscal effects on the benefit side” that it delivers. According to the OECD, rising levels of tertiary education serve to produce individuals who generally have better health (lowering the public health bill) and who are in a better position, throughout their life depending on levels of debt, to spend more on goods and services.

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There is a concern that in many OECD countries, institutional expenditure has not kept up with expanding enrollments and that expenditure on core services, when calculated per student, has fallen away. This is of particular concern to economists because if the cost of education for each student is not accompanied by improvements in educational outcomes, it raises the spectre of falling productivity levels.

OECD figures for 2009 show the New Zealand Government’s spending in real terms per student in tertiary education is holding steady, but has fallen seven points below the OECD average for 2005-2009 since other countries have been expanding their spending. The spending per student in New Zealand had fallen behind the following countries: Australia, Belgium, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.


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