Rhetoric & Reality 4: Tertiary Education

Written By: - Date published: 11:30 am, June 23rd, 2009 - 5 comments
Categories: education, national, spin - Tags:

National sure does talk a good game before an election. This time we’re looking at their rhetoric on education, especially tertiary education:

Key: I’m passionate about ensuring today’s young people get the education they need to succeed. Education is a liberator.. It’s what makes it possible for a kid from even the most challenging background to climb the ladder of opportunity.

Key: …our five-point plan for the economy to make New Zealand a wealthier, more successful country. This plan includes: … An unwavering focus on lifting education standards.

National’s policy: National will work for a dynamic tertiary education system that ensures New Zealanders from all educational backgrounds have opportunities to gain world-class skills and knowledge, and are able to progress to higher levels of learning.

We all know how the reality turned out after the election. Marty G listed National’s budget cuts to education, things like Adult Education programmes, Early Childhood Education Professional Development, and Literacy, Language and Numeracy. There was some money in the budget for new schools (good!), but tertiary education got clobbered, with funding “increases” that don’t even keep up with inflation and are therefore effective cuts. Some of the issues are discussed here:

In the aftermath, those protesting most loudly have been tertiary education students and those running the institutions they attend, both sides for once unified in their mutual dissatisfaction with the Budget’s changes to tertiary education funding. The $22 million-a-year government Tripartite Funding, used over the past two years to increase salaries for university lecturers and researchers at New Zealand’s eight universities, has been slashed.. Tertiary scholarships worth $98m that helped poor students and bonded others to stay in New Zealand have been axed, along with planned increases to industry training funds. This is despite Prime Minister John Key saying at February’s Job Summit in Manukau that he was keen on increasing levels of industry training right now. The universities are outraged. … Recently, Australia responded to the global recession by investing more than A$5 billion in tertiary education and the United States has invested US$30b. Our Government is, conversely, heading the other way. The slashed funding will simply send university researchers and lecturers overseas, because New Zealand won’t be able to address the pay disparities internationally, McCutcheon contends. … The funding arguments come at a time when the recession and subsequent rise in unemployment have led to an upsurge in enrolments in higher education. Many universities and polytechnics have been carrying unfunded students, but they claim that that is becoming increasingly difficult and they may be forced to turn some away. They argue there is no point reducing the cost of study if the quality of universities students attend declines through underinvestment.

Despite increasing rolls and the vital place of tertiary education in the economy, despite these funding cuts, and despite expecting tertiary institutions to carry unfunded students, National are talking very tough:

“Don’t run out of money, because I’m not going to give you any.” That was the blunt message from Finance Minister Bill English at the annual Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics conference in Wellington yesterday. … “Well-run institutions will succeed, regardless of size. Badly-run ones won’t succeed and may end up going out of existence,” he said. “It’s past the time Government can offer continuous support to reinforce failure. You fix it, or we will find someone else who will make the decision that needs to be made.”

Some would suggest that it is classic National tactics to deliberately run down public institutions, claim they are broken, and sell them off for the private sector to “fix”. Are we seeing the start of that process in tertiary education?

5 comments on “Rhetoric & Reality 4: Tertiary Education”

  1. RedLogix 1

    Of course the real issue is going to be youth unemployment. During any recession the first group to get hit are young adults trying to get that first critical step onto the career/trade/workplace ladder. Right now there will be lots of young folk leaving schools and facing very few constructive options, leaving them wide open to a whole lot of very bad, destructive options on offer.

    Labour had a clear committment to a funding some form of education for all youth up to the age of 18. It was a major enhancement to our now very dated ‘leaving age of 15’ model that has not been serving us at all well for some time now. In response National sort of waffled about how committed they were to education.. but have done nothing much beyond this miserably funded ‘Youth Guarantee Scheme’.

  2. Duncan 2

    ahhh the joys of national government

    rhetoric and privatisation

    …oh and tax cuts for those who dont need it

    The problem with our politics is the same problem we have in society
    “every man for himself”
    its this mentality that is holding us back and it is this mentality that is shared by National.

    I’ll just add this to my list of reasons to skip the country and not pay off my student loan when i finish university

    one of these days I’ll write a letter to Uncle Key and ask him to give me good reasons to stay in New Zealand with our current direction of government.

    Sure as hell isnt becoming a country i would want to raise a family – we dont even have police cars anymore

  3. Greg 3

    How can you justify spending increases on tertiary education? You want to subsidize the (soon to be) richest in society by taking money off all tax payers. Another example of the great transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich.

    • Ag 3.1

      How comical. A large proportion of those in the highest tax brackets attended university before 1990, and thus got more or less a free ride.

      I have no idea why anyone would want to go to a New Zealand university these days. Australia seems a better option.

  4. Greg 4

    I’m not sure exactly what meaning is meant to be attached. But I agree this is exactly the problem!

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