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Final TEAC Report Gets An Overall Pass Mark

Wednesday 7 Nov 2001

ACT Tertiary Education Spokesman Dr Muriel Newman says the final TEAC report has come as welcome relief after some of the draconian recommendations contained in the first three.

"While the devil is often in the detail with these reports, on the face of it this report contains some excellent ideas in line with ACT policy.

"We like specifically: The emphasis on bulk funding, the retention of choice to drive innovation and diversity in courses, the fact that funding will not be based on provider type - which recognises the important role that private educators provide - the splitting off of research and making funding of this contestable, and the recommendation that this Government's student loan interest write-off policy should be discontinued.

"I just hope that Minister Steve Maharey gives these recommendations serious consideration. This Government is developing a reputation for seeking advice and reports and then ignoring them. The recent McLeod report on taxation for example, which cost $985,000, and which largely endorsed ACT's taxation policies has been mostly rejected by the Government.

"In this light I was very disappointed to see Minister Maharey immediately dismiss out of hand the proposal to end the student loan interest write-off policy. This policy has been responsible for a student debt blow out. The closed-mind approach the Minister has taken on this recommendation is not an encouraging sign for how he may consider the rest of the report.

"The report does contain some extremely poor and potentially divisive suggestions which we would hope are torpedoed by the Government. I refer specifically to the recommendations that the funding framework should accord with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, and to proposals that financial penalties be imposed on education providers not meeting the needs of Maori and Pacific learners.

"Any specific targeting should be done on the basis of the disadvantaged - whatever race. These recommendations could be hugely divisive and could see the tertiary education system dominated by interest groups.

"I find it odd in any case that this report should see fit to particularly target Maori and Pacific Island education needs and believe there is a sharp irony in this.

"I have just received replies from Mr Maharey to Parliamentary questions about the ethnic break-down of our tertiary students.

"The answers show that just 17 percent of the students in public tertiary institutions are Maori or Pacific Islanders - while among the private education providers, the proportion is more than double at 36 percent.

"And yet, Mr Maharey has seen fit to stifle the further development of the Private Training Establishments with his heavy handed moratorium on new funding for them.

"The irony here, is that we had the education system itself - through the PTEs - addressing the needs of Maori and Pacific Islanders without any Government intervention - but now the Government itself is spoiling that, possibly in favour of introducing some artificial and grossly unfair proposals which will severely hamper the educators.

"This Government has previously shown a consistent ability to sort out the wheat from the chaff and then implement the chaff as policy. It is to be hoped that this academic ideologue of a Minister recognises that there are some very good practical solutions in this report - and one or two fundamentalist ideas which should not be contemplated," Dr Newman said.


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