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April 16, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Study Shows No Significant Effects Felt by Removal of Post-grad Student Allowance

A recently released report by the Motu Research Institute has shed new light on the Government’s removal of student allowances for postgraduate study and how this has affected New Zealanders.

The report outlines the 2013 decision by the Government to remove allowances for students going into postgraduate study, other than honours degrees, and details the observable effects this has had.

Prior to 2013, eligible postgraduate students could apply to receive up to $240 a week under the allowance. The 2013 budget scrapped this measure leaving postgraduates with only the $173 (now raised to $229.23) weekly loan, which must be paid back.

The report says that there has been a negligible impact on students going on to further study, and that the only noticeable effect has been the increased likelihood of students taking out student loans.

The report also concludes that the removal of postgraduate student allowances has had no drastic impact upon the total number of students who entered postgraduate study, the pre-entry wages of students, student loan borrowing for compulsory fees, or the amount of paid work students performed while they were studying.

While Dr Isabelle Sinn’s report states that few adverse effects have been felt, the Postgraduate Students’ Association (PGSA) of Victoria University’s position is that the change has had a deleterious effect on students in numerous ways.

When asked for comment on the report, the PGSA said that the 2013 decision “has made the prospect of postgraduate study more difficult for students across New Zealand, including at VUW”.

“Domestic Masters enrolments have been particularly affected, although the decline in financial support of those seeking higher degrees has deterred many from continuing study, and has burdened those who have continued studying with significantly increased student loans. From the PGSA’s experience it is clear that a significant number of postgraduate students are forced to work long hours alongside their study in order to survive, and as living costs continue to increase, postgraduate study is becoming more precarious.”

Special mention is given by the PGSA to students who come from vulnerable circumstances, such as those of limited means or those with children, whereby this change has likely dissuaded many of them from pursuing postgraduate study.

According to the PSGA, the removal of allowances has been a contributing factor in driving Kiwis abroad in search of higher wages to be able to pay off the student debts they have been forced to take out.

Dr Sinn does note in her report that there may be policy effects that were not picked up by their methodology.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) said in a press release on 6 April 2018 that they were urging the Government to keep their campaign pledge to reintroduce the student allowance for postgraduate study, with a link on their website directing people to a petition started by the New Zealand Union of Students.

Labour had promised to reintroduce the student allowance as a campaign pledge but no start date has yet been announced by the Government.

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