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July 21, 2008 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Britain closes purse for former subjects

The British government’s decision to cut funding for a scholarship programme that has enabled hundreds of New Zealand students to pursue tertiary education in England has been met with anger and criticism from academics and past recipients of the scholarship.

Currently, Britain spends nearly $5 million on the programme, providing about 100 scholarships a year for students from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, the Bahamas, Cyprus, Brunei, Malta and Singapore.

However, from next year, Britain will no longer finance the awards for students from developed countries, including New Zealand. Instead, funding will only be limited to scholars eligible for assistance within the British aid budget.

The Commonwealth Scholarships was established in 1959, aiming to provide a network of study opportunities throughout the Commonwealth. Past recipients include Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen and Law Commissioner John Burrows.

The announcement was quickly met with an online petition containing 2000 signatures in protest, with a number of distinguished alumni appealing to the British government to avoid “taking a unilateral step that… undermines [the] Commonwealth educational partnership.”

Similarly, Association of University Staff (AUS) national president Maureen Montgomery described the decision as “shortsighted and insular.”

“Hundreds of New Zealanders have benefited from these scholarships in the past and many have gone on to make a great contribution to this country and to the intellectual capital of Britain itself,” she said.

Furthermore, on behalf of the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC), Auckland Deputy Vice-Chancellor said that the NZVCC was “disappointed” at the British government’s decision.

“I think it is a closing of opportunities that a number of New Zealanders have had over a long period of time so we regret it certainly from that point of view.”


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