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May 25, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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Belly Dancing + Real Estate x Helicopter = Tertiary Education Fail

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I hate to sound like a bad-news-bear but on Thursday the National led Government will announce their spending priorities in their first Budget and all signs point to us being the first students in almost a decade to face tertiary education cuts.

In recent weeks Finance Minister Bill English has announced both in Parliament and in the media that commitments to adjustments in tertiary funding (such as CPI increases) will not be honoured in this Budget or future Budgets – effectively cutting funding by 7 to 11% in real terms over the next three years.

These statements come on the back of rumours of a return to interest on Student Loans, the possibility of indexation being removed from Student Allowances and Living Costs and a new Student Loan payback scheme that only makes economic sense if interest was charged. There is also talk of the removal of the Fee Maxima, which would result in increasing fees, and the stagnation of student entitlements and support.

It’s time like this that we need a Minister who is an advocate for quality and understands the importance tertiary education. But we have Anne Tolley – inept and out of her depth. From asking what a VC (Vice-Chancellor) was, to avoiding engaging with national student leadership, instead falling over herself to meet with private education providers.

But hey, what could we expect from a Minister who took a helicopter ride to get a ‘overview’ of tertiary education in Auckland, whose most impressive qualification includes a certificate in belly dancing and has more experience as a real estate agent than as a Minister?

National did have some policy however. Their inspiring vision ranged from simplifying the tertiary education funding system, reducing central bureaucracy support, encouraging students and improving the interface between schools and tertiary education institutions. (Yawn).

They pledged to retain Fee Maxima. Retain interest-free student loans and annual inflation-adjusted increases for living costs during their campaign. But how likely it is to stick to these promises is very ambiguous.

They knew New Zealand was entering a economic downturn but National appear intent on using the global financial crisis as a justification for slashing state spending in all core areas including education.

If the Government took the “great recession” seriously they would invest in education and support New Zealanders wanting to up-skill themselves as the Australian Government is doing investing a further NZ$700 million into tertiary education.

So what can students expect from this years Budget? Nothing much. Anne Tolley has all but confirmed there will be no increases in funding for Universities and student support – further jeopardising and undermining the quality of tertiary education we have access to.

Is this the “Brighter Future” New Zealand voted for?

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