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Tertiary education is the big loser in the budget

Tertiary education is the big loser in the budget

It seems the government has taken the axe to tertiary education almost more than any other area, says Maryan Street, Labour’s Tertiary Education Spokesperson.

“Everywhere you look in Tertiary Education in this Budget, you see cuts or added costs for students and institutions,” she said.

“Bill English and Steven Joyce have annihilated Adult and Community Education – as if they hadn’t learned anything from the intense public outcry last year. They have taken $3.4 million out of schools and the community groups they fund. That will, in all likelihood, shut down the last of the night school programmes, despite Mr English’s past admiration for night classes. They have taken $4.4 million out of ACE in tertiary institutions and another $6.9 million out of ACE provided by other community organisations and providers.

“That shuts down second-chance learners’ opportunities to get back into formal learning and get some qualifications.

“They have even taken $657,000 out of the Workplace Literacy Fund, and literacy was supposedly one of this government’s targets,” said Maryan Street.

“The government trumpets funding for 1735 extra students in universities. Let’s be clear – these are not 1735 new students. Most of them are already in universities but being carried and funded by the universities themselves. That leaves 765 new places at the most and when you spread that across our 8 universities, that is fewer than 100 students per university. When universities are writing to hundreds and hundreds of students to say ‘don’t bother enrolling, we can’t take you’, this doesn’t cut it.

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“Similarly for polytechs – the 455 new places, when divided across the 20 polytechs, averages out at 23 places per polytech.

“This goes nowhere near meeting demand in these institutions, and certainly goes in the opposite direction from other countries like Australia, which is investing heavily in very real terms in its tertiary education institutions,” said Maryan Street.

“It also goes nowhere near providing industry with the skills they require for future growth. This is a recipe for stunting our economy, not advancing it,” she said.

“Then there is the 4% Annual Maximum Fee Movement: this is effectively a cut for those institutions which are not currently sitting at the maximum fee payable for their course. They would have been able to raise their fees by up to 5% before reaching the maximum cap but are effectively being given a 1% cut in the amount they can charge. “So they are not happy. The government is clearly shifting the burden of cost of tertiary education away from itself and on to institutions and students.

“On the other side of the equation, students are going to have to find an extra 4% for course fees, plus GST, which has gone up to 15%. Their 2% compensation for the GST increase, if that is what they are going to get in their Student Allowances, is not going to cover the GST increase fully, let alone the new fees increase. And lots of students are not eligible for Student Allowances.

“Steven Joyce and Bill English have cut off people’s tertiary education opportunities, not invested in them. Students will be worse off and we will see a decrease in the numbers of people gaining tertiary qualifications.

“This is a high price to pay for a tax cut for the wealthy,” said Maryan Street.


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