We desperately need governments that think long term. We don’t get them. National are the worst, the stupidity of their policy, economically, environmentally and socially, makes me despair. How stupid do you have to be, for example, to run down the university sector? Professor Harlene Hayne, acting chair of Universities New Zealand, highlighted the issue last week:
Grim warning as New Zealand universities slip in global rankings
Auckland University is listed 175th, down from 164 last year. Otago ranked 251-275 (down from 226-250) and Waikato fell to 301-350 from 351-400. Victoria (276-300) and Canterbury (301-350) held their rankings.
But Universities New Zealand (UNZ) says the downward trend is likely to continue unless the government offers more support. Acting chair Harlene Hayne says the rankings have grown increasingly important over the last decade and international students use them when choosing where to go.
“The unfortunate reality is that New Zealand universities have realised all the easy gains and the long term trend is downward,” Professor Hayne says, adding government funding for students had been declining in real terms over the past two decades and universities had been forced to cut staff.
She says it isn’t just an academic issue with universities contributing over $900 million annually to New Zealand’s economy.
Oh look – the same thing happened last year:
Shortfall in tertiary funding blamed
New Zealand universities’ slide down world rankings has tertiary education leaders uneasy – saying Government investment in the sector is falling short of what’s needed for them to keep up.
Yes, it’s the funding:
Since 2009, government funding for tertiary education, including student support has fallen from $4.6 billion to $4.2 billion. If it had adjusted for inflation that 2009 figure of $4.6 billion would now be $5 billion. Treasury forecasts that tertiary education spending will remain nearly flat until at least 2018 while inflation will rise another 11 percent by the end of 2018.
Over a similar period (2009 to 2012), the number of actual student places (not funded student places) grew by over 20,000 people. The tertiary education system is funding more people for less money while costs rise.
Tertiary education funding has fallen dramatically in the last five years according to an independent report by BERL economist Ganesh Nana.
The report, commissioned by the Green Party, backs up analysis by TEU over recent years showing that government funding for tertiary education has fallen in real terms by half a billion dollars, and will continue to fall according to Treasury projects by a further half a billion over the next five years.
The report shows the government is spending nearly $4000 per student less in real terms than it did in 2009. “This year, measured in 2014 dollars, the government is spending only 80 cents on each student for every dollar it spent in 2009,” said TEU president Lesley Francey.
National fudge the figures to try and claim that funding has increased. But the reports quoted above tell the truth. In my own Department and Division funding cuts caused the loss of many positions (mostly teaching related) last year. Cuts in the quality of education inevitably follow.
We have three more years of “brighter future” to look forward to:
BUDGET FIGURES REVEAL TERTIARY SQUEEZE COULD BE FOR THE LONG HAUL
CTU economist Bill Rosenberg has unearthed figures in the Government’s budget that show falling government expenditure as a proportion of GDP over the next four years, a sign that tough times are not over for the tertiary education sector.
Published budget plans aim for the state to shrink from 33 percent of GDP in the year to June 2013, down to 29.9 percent in the year to June 2018. Finance Minister Bill English has told his party faithful he would like to see it down to 25 or 26 percent.
Rebuilding the tertiary sector will be just one of the many challenges facing the next sane government.
I am a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Otago. I do not speak for Otago in any official (or indeed unofficial) capacity. My posts on The Standard are my own opinion only.