STEM subjects win out in Budget



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Budget delivers a further $113 million in funding for tertiary education and skills training.

The Budget included $85.8 million over four years for significant targeted increases in tuition rates at degree level and above, including a 7.5 per cent increase for science, a 20 per cent increase for agriculture, and increases for optometry, pharmacy and physiotherapy.

Engineering was the other subject to win out yesterday, with $11.4 million over four years to increase the number of engineering graduates.

$5.9 million over four years was also allocated to support an increase in demand for Trainee Medical Intern Grants.

The Budget also included $8.4 million contingency to grow Māori and Pasifika Trades Training. It included $900,000 in operating funding over four years and $1 million of reprioritised capital funding to expand the Youth Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Tool. Also announced was the introduction of ‘Rate My Qualification’, a tool which allows employers to provide direct feedback to tertiary providers, and students to see what qualifications employers value.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce said that demand for tertiary education is reducing, thanks to a stronger economy with more people in paid work and a decline in the size of the population aged 18-25.

“Normally when demand for tertiary education reduces, the per-student funding model means the amount of spending also reduces. However, the Government is retaining existing funding levels for tertiary education overall and reallocating some money to priority areas in this year’s Budget.”

Joyce says the Government is utilising funding that would otherwise remain unused to invest in higher per-student EFTS rates, and in manifesto priorities such as engineering and Māori and Pasifika trades training.

Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams welcomed the government’s continued commitment to skills in Budget 2015, especially in engineering and agriculture, and boosts for Trades Academies, and Māori and Pasifika Trades Training.

However, Williams was disappointed that 75 percent of new tertiary education spending is for degree-level and above.

“The Tertiary Education Strategy’s top priority is ‘deliver skills for industry’. That’s exactly right, but the dollars and the words need to match,” he said.

The national student union NZUSA has welcomed moves by the Government to reduce the fee increases institutions can charge students, but president Rory McCourt has expressed concern that the Budget does nothing to address the “$14 billion student debt mountain” that keeps on growing, or the high rents students are faced with in the main centres.

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