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May 25, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

President’s Column


The current recession has brought about commentary on the importance of tertiary education, and an accompanying growth of students enrolling in tertiary institutions. More people than ever before are undertaking post-secondary study. Last year alone, Victoria University awarded more than 5 thousand degrees and diplomas.

Nowadays, a degree or two is often a prerequisite to entry level jobs in many industries. Students feel pressure to complete their qualifications in as short a time as possible, and those in the work force are aware that further study and up-skilling may be necessary for them to retain their existing job.

Over past decades the role of tertiary education has changed. The range of tertiary courses and study options has greatly diversified, and the makeup of those participating in tertiary study has vastly extended as well.

Tertiary education has clear benefits for those who participate in it, though it is in the interests of society as a whole for there to be public provision of tertiary education. There continues however to be debate concerning the extent to which education is a private good (beneficial to the individual) or a public good (beneficial to society at large). It is this debate which underlies decisions by politicians and policy makers regarding tertiary policy.

Public funding of tertiary education has undergone significant changes in the past 20 years.

At present students pay 1/3 the cost of their tertiary study through fees, with the remaining 2/3 paid via public funds obtained through taxation. Until the late 1980s over 90% of the cost of fees was paid from public funds.

How tertiary institutions are funded has also seen changes. Up until 2006 funding was calculated using a ‘bums on seats’ model whereby institutions received a certain amount of funding for each student that enrolled in a course of study. The philosophy behind this was that students could choose which institution to attend and that funding would be allocated accordingly.

Since 2006 funding models have moved toward encouraging institutions to specialize in areas of expertise, rather than the provision of funding being based solely on enrolment numbers. For instance, the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) involves assessing the research performance of institutions and then funding them on the basis of their performance. While proponents argue that the PBRF ensures excellent research is encouraged and rewarded, this system also tends to support the completion of certain types of research to the exclusion of others. A further criticism of this model is that increased emphasis on research has resulted in a decreased emphasis on teaching.

So what can the tertiary education sector expect now?

The Government’s 2009 Budget will be delivered this Thursday and will outline the Government’s spending priorities for the next year. National recently confirmed that there will be no increases to tertiary education funding in the Budget, and no adjustments to student allowances.

The National Government’s Minister of Finance, Bill English, has announced that the previous Labour Government’s commitment to a CPI increase in tertiary funding will not be included in the upcoming Budget or indeed in following National budgets. The removal of adjustments for tertiary education institutions could mean a funding cut of around 7-11% in real terms over 3 years.

These statements come on the back of rumours concerning the possibility of indexation removal from student allowances, and the reintroduction of a decentralized, institution-led fee setting process. In sum, the political, economic and educational context affecting students in 2009 appears very different to that of recent years.

Against the backdrop of the recession, some are fairly pessimistic about what the future may hold for the tertiary sector. Stay tuned.

In solidarity and service,



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Comments (5)

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  1. Ham says:

    Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room

  2. Mikey says:

    Yeah, no mention of the swine flu at all. :-(

  3. Kerry says:

    After the ’29 crash, Teacher’s Colleges were closed until the economy ‘recovered’, for about 3 years. Universities cut their hours – VUW only taught night-school classes to those who were still employed in day-jobs downtown.

    Funding cuts may just mean that we’re getting off lightly this time… or maybe the Council will finally reveal that they can only sustain the institution by servicing International students exclusively, at 2 – 3 times the tuition rate of NZ citizens, thus balancing the budget and also avoiding pesky issues like student protests (‘cos we all know the exchange students don’t protest, on pain of losing their study visas)

  4. David says:

    wank wank wank you’re boring fuck off.

  5. Skins De'Slick says:

    Jazz, baby, hush now. Come lay by the fire with Skins; let his smooth baritone reach your quorum. I move that love be made… I put forth a motion… and another… and another, baby girl, until you ain’t amending nothin’ no more. Skins knows how hot the fire is, but shhh, Jazzy, baby, because that fire ain’t no one’s business. Ours will be one executive meeting you’ll want to last alllll night.


    Skins De’Slick

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