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September 12, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Vice-Prez (Education)

Following the QS World University rankings being published last week, some of you may have heard about current funding and investment issues in New Zealand Tertiary Education. Given that this week’s Salient theme is ‘Tertiary Education’, it seems fitting to discuss this a little bit more.

The QS World University rankings are based on a university’s academic reputation, employer reputation, academic citations, staff to student ratio, and proportion of international students and international staff. The QS release last week saw Auckland, Canterbury and Victoria all drop in their international ranking. Victoria, in particular, dropped from 225 to 237. The University of Otago was the only NZ University to improve its standing. So what does this mean for us as students?

Well, it is not just politicians in opposition, but QS themselves, who have attributed the fall of NZ universities in international rankings to the relatively low level of public investment in the Tertiary Sector.

You see, over the past few years there has been consistent under-investment in tertiary education. This has seen tertiary institutions, such as Vic, restrict entries into courses and programmes. What this means is that doors are shut to able students, fees continue to climb, courses and programmes are closed and resources (including staff) are stretched nearly to breaking point.

All of this is happening when more people are wanting to study at a tertiary level and are entering into tertiary study. Universities are in a bind, they have to select students upon entry who they think are ‘suitable’ for study, they also have to increase class size, restrict student-contact time with staff and increase staff to student ratios just to meet the societal demands within a tight budget-climate. On top of this, staff are under even more pressure as they also have to meet their research commitments in a PBRF environment.
So, what are the effects of this continued underfunding and why should it matter to you?

• Under-funding threatens the quality of education you receive in your institutions. Less money means fewer resources, fewer tutors, less contact time with lecturers as they focus on research, larger classes—the list goes on.
• As the funding gap between NZ and the rest of the world widens, NZ institutions will lose out in attracting international academics and teachers.
• Less money spent of vital student services, such as Student Health, Counselling and learning support, all of which contribute to a University retention and completion rate.
• A change in the types of students being allowed entry. Just due to current political changes, fewer mature students are entering into tertiary education and refugee and migrant students are finding it harder to get the support they need to enter and complete studies.
• Increased pressure to see internal budgets rationalised which, at Vic, has seen programmes and courses of study being cut, most notably Gender and Women’s studies last year.
• And upon writing this column, the University has just released a consultation document seeking to disestablish the current structure of the CUP Programme and consequently the CUP Programme itself. This is due to the fact that from 2012, Vic will no longer be funded to provide sub-degree programmes.

For the economic and social future of New Zealand it is vitally important that we have a well -funded tertiary sector. This is not an issue to be taken lightly. *

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Comments (2)

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  1. parry says:

    if it’s so bad, why do we never hear a peep out of vuwsa about it. Aren’t you meant to be a voice for students?

  2. BFG says:

    The self-evident incorrectness of the above comment boggles the mind.

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