The sector has welcomed some targets of the tertiary education provision from this year's Budget but pointed out many gaps as well.
The $132.1 million allocation for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment includes:
· $69.3 million for increased tuition subsidy rates at qualification level three and above, supporting providers to continue to deliver quality skills for industry.
· $52.5 million for the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) to promote high quality research in tertiary education.
· $6.8 million to support sustainable growth in the international education sector to strengthen the net benefit to New Zealand and its value to our regions.
· $3.5 million of reprioritised funding to meet increased demand for workplace-based literacy and numeracy programmes in 2018, giving more people the skills and confidence to engage in the workplace and community.
Universities New Zealand chair Professor Stuart McCutcheon has welcomed the increases to research funding, acknowledging the additional funding for the PBRF and the Endeavour fund.
“This is essential to help New Zealand address the pressing issues we face and to stimulate innovation and growth within the business and export sectors.”
However, McCutcheon expressed disappointed that the government has failed to substantially increase its investment in teaching and learning.
“The 1% increase across-the-board tuition subsidy increase announced today is below the expected Consumer Price Index of 2.2%. So university funding isn’t even keeping up with cost increases,” he said.
Executive director Chris Whelan agreed, saying that New Zealand’s universities will start to slip down the global rankings unless the underfunding is rectified.
Tertiary Education Union’s Sharn Riggs is concerned that the increased funding is being directed away from public institutions and into the hands of private businesses. "While public funds are pumped into failing, profit-driven providers, other public institutions remain under-funded, and face even further cutbacks if a planned law change goes ahead,” she says.
Meanwhile Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams has expressed concern that of the $132m of tertiary education expenditure, just $2.7m has been directed towards industry training and apprenticeships, despite 200,000 jobs having been created over the last three years, and the government's target of 50,000 apprentices by 2020.
"The world of work is rapidly changing. We need to question the proportion of tertiary education resource directed to delivering large qualifications to young people before they embark on 50-year careers," Mr Williams says.
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