Sunday, April 1, 2012

An 8 Point Plan for Tertiary Education


This is the Tertiary policy NZF ran on in the 2011 Election.

"The key to our nation's economic and social future lies in education.  While tertiary education
cannot be allowed to be solely focused on skills for employment, such a focus must be a
significant element of any system.  The tertiary system must be designed  to maximise both
economic and social objectives, enhancing needed vocational skills and academic acumen.

AN EIGHT POINT PLAN FOR TERTIARY EDUCATION

1. Student Allowances provide financial assistance for full-time students.  At present, the
Student Allowance is means-tested on personal income and, for students under 25,
parental income. This means that only 57 per cent of students (2008 figure) receive the
Student Allowance.  New Zealand First will abolish income tests and introduce a universal
living allowance for all full-time students (including those aged 16 and 17) in tertiary
education from 2012.  A paper prepared by the Ministry of Education in 2008 calculated
the cost of a universal student allowance at approximately $728 million per annum.  We
estimate this would benefit almost 47,000 students and lead to a substantial reduction in
borrowing.  Students are the only group in New Zealand society forced to borrow to live.
New Zealand First will campaign vigorously to give all students a fair go.

2. Since tertiary education fees were introduced by Labour in 1989, student debt in
New Zealand has spiraled out of control.  As of 2010, the national student loan debt was
over $11 billion and growing at a rate of almost a billion per annum.  This is unsustainable
and it‟s forcing thousands of our best and brightest overseas.  It's time for a change of
direction.  New Zealand First recognises that our nation has significant skills and 36
workforce shortages in areas such as teaching, nursing, medicine, social work,
information technology and the physical sciences.  We will introduce a debt-write off
scheme so that graduates in these areas may trade a year's worth of debt for each year of
paid fulltime work in New Zealand.

NZ First will introduce a dollar for dollar student debt write-off scheme for graduates who
remain and work in New Zealand.  With student loan debt approaching $12 billion (2011)
and much of that debt never to be repaid, this scheme faces the reality that much student
debt is not an asset but simply bad debt.  In that respect given that those who take up the
scheme will be working and paying taxes in New Zealand there is not a cost factor.

3. It doesn't help that the Government continues to under invest in the tertiary sector.  The
present National-ACT-United Future-Maori Party government has cut funding at a rate of
$250 per student (or 3.2 percent between 2008 and 2009). It's no wonder, then, that
student-staff ratios have decreased and the number of tutorials been slashed.  This is
affecting the quality  of teaching and putting many students at a disadvantage.
New Zealand First will restore CPI Adjustments for Tertiary Education so that funding
increases match the rate of inflation.  We will also increase support and funding to
regional Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics. It's unacceptable that in a time of high
unemployment polytechs are facing $70 million in cuts.  The Minister of Education has
even said some may be forced to close their doors. New Zealand First will enhance
access to higher education for all New Zealanders and ensure that regional institutions are
adequately funded.

4. The trades must also receive greater recognition so as to ensure that our nation has the
skill base needed to support economic development.  New Zealand First will invest more
in the Industry Training Fund and  substantially  increase the number of apprentices per
year.

5. New Zealand's tertiary fees are amongst the highest in the world.  New Zealand First is
committed to lowering tuition fees. We want to move towards a zero-fees model. One
way we might achieve this is by placing a cap on tuition fees and lowering them at a
progressive rate.

6. Under the National-ACT-United Future-Maori Party government, youth unemployment has
reached a phenomenal rate in New Zealand.  While welfare is not a long-term solution to
the problem, it is important that we provide people with a safety net.  With this in mind,
New Zealand First will ensure that all able-bodied persons under the age of 25 who are
unemployed are either enrolled in industry training or participating in community work
schemes through the NZ Conservation Corps and Youth Services Corp, the New Zealand
Defence Force or organisations in the community/voluntary sector. We must foster a
culture of social responsibility and sense of purpose.

7. At present, New Zealand lags behind the rest of the world in terms of research and
development.  New Zealand First will actively encourage strategic alliances between
industry, the Crown Research Institutes and tertiary institutions.  We  will increase the
number of government-funded research grants and scholarships available to graduates,
universities and employers.

8. NZ First is deeply concerned about the decline of our student associations and their ability
to represent student views.  Since the passage of Voluntary Student membership 37
legislation the ability for students to have a voice has been seriously eroded.  We do not
believe it is possible to have a viable university or student culture without an independent
student voice.  NZ First would therefore ensure that tertiary institutions fund proper
student representation and will enter discussions with the former on a financial model to
ensure it happens."

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