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May 6, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Moaning and Loaning

The Green Party has announced a private member’s bill to reinstate postgraduate student allowances, which were terminated by the Government in the 2012 Budget.

This comes in response to Official Information Act figures which show a significant decline in postgraduate enrolments across New Zealand for the 2013 academic year.

The OIA figures show that Auckland’s postgraduate enrolments have dropped 7.1 per cent this year, while Otago’s have dropped even further, by 8.5 per cent. Between 4000 and 5000 postgraduate students became ineligible for the Student Allowance due to the changes.

Holly Walker, the Green Party spokesperson for tertiary education, has drafted the bill in an attempt to remedy what she calls a “short-sighted policy”.

“Removing postgraduate allowances shows the Government’s disregard for higher education. National is wasting the potential of some of the best and brightest people in New Zealand by limiting higher education to those who can afford it,” said Walker.

As the Bill is a private members’ bill which does not have Government support, it is unlikely to gather the support necessary to pass should it be drawn from the ballot.

Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce disagrees that the change in allowance eligibility has created a barrier to would-be postgraduate students, saying it is more likely students are choosing to enter the job market as employment rates increase.

“The Greens are completely wrong, and once again they’re just leaping to a political solution, which is spending more money.”

At the time the allowance was removed, Joyce stated his aim was to rebalance the Government’s overall tertiary education spend, “between expenditure on student support and investment in tuition and research”.

The Government predicted that the change would save $33 million over four years. This cost has effectively been passed on to
students, who now must borrow living costs under the student-loan scheme. Expenditure on tertiary education in 2010/2011 was $620 million, which Joyce called a “blowout… due in part to policy settings of the previous government”.

A 2010 report by the Ministry of Education and Statistics New Zealand found that graduates with a doctorate go on to earn salaries almost 50 per cent higher than those with bachelor degrees.

The next private members’ bill ballot is likely to be on 16 May.

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