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September 15, 2008 | by  | in News |
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A news story that comes too late for the majority of Salient readers Degrees “worth less” (not worthless)

A report released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that compared international education systems has found that New Zealanders with diploma-level qualifications enjoy a “relatively slim” advantage in earning power over their unqualified peers.

According to the OECD’s ‘Education at a Glance’ report, a tertiary qualification has little bearing on one’s employment prospects in New Zealand. The difference in employment rates between those of the population with and without degrees in New Zealand is among the lowest in the developed world.

Universities have defended the worth of degrees, with the Ministry of Education pointing out that the findings were linked to New Zealand’s record-low unemployment rates.

A strong employment market meant that more people with lower-level skills were finding work.

A trend of low income disparities among Kiwi employees meant that “employers pay a very low wage premium for tertiary qualifications”.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh pointed out that tertiary education graduates had “a lower rate of unemployment than [those] who have not completed tertiary education.”

“Research also shows improved societal outcomes.”

Walsh added that tertiary education provided students with skills and knowledge that could be applied in a range of careers, as well as creating new knowledge and economic benefits.

The report indicated that New Zealand has a comparatively high proportion of tertiary graduates – 38 per cent, compared with an OECD average of 27 per cent.

The report also said that the government has increased the university population by making students pay a larger share of study costs, with New Zealand spending proportionally less per student than most other OECD countries.

A Bachelor of Arts degree costs a Victoria University student about $12,220 over three years. After factoring in interest-free student loans, New Zealand students pay a fifth of their total tertiary education costs.

Figures included in the report showed that New Zealand’s annual expenditure per fulltime equivalent student studying in tertiary education rose to US$10,262 in 2005 from $US8,866 the previous year.

However, this level of spending remains low when compared to that of other countries. The OECD average is US$11,512, while Australia and the United States spend US$14,579 and US$24,370 per student, respectively.

While meeting the OECD average, New Zealand’s spending on tertiary education institutions as a percentage of GDP is also comparatively less that its peers. At 1.5 per cent, it is below Australia’s 1.6 per cent and the United States’ 2.6 per cent.

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