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May 17, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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Dear Steven Joyce,

I’m graduating this week. I’ve spent four years studying at Victoria University, and I’ve rather enjoyed my time at this fine institution. I’ve learned lots of things, made lots of friends, and lots of doors have been opened to me as a result of studying here.

But I’m worried. Last week Vic decided to stop new domestic student admissions for trimester two this year. The door was shut. Quite firmly. No more new students this year. There’s no more money. Vic can’t fund any more domestic student places. Prospective students are, effectively, being turned away and told to try again next year. Good luck. May the force be with you.

You see, the thing is here Mr Joyce, the university is kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. It can’t rake in any extra cash from domestic students—the fee maxima policy prevents it from doing so. Fees can only ever increase by a maximum of five per cent each year. While this keeps the average fee-paying student and their student loan relatively content, it begins to put a strain on the university’s financial books.

To add insult to injury, at the last Budget, National effectively cut funding to universities, by removing consumer price index-based funding adjustments. A whole host of scholarships and other tertiary education funding was axed as well. In the name of fiscal responsibility amidst the global financial crisis, sure the cuts were justified, but job losses saw many people return to study. Increased student numbers were only to be expected. Inevitably, universities have been trying hard to shoulder a lot of that burden generated by increased demand. But events last week showed they can’t anymore. Not without more funding from the government.

Vic closed new domestic admissions full stop. Otago capped enrolments across a significant number of courses. It is understood that other universities are looking at similar measures. What’s a prospective student to do? Jobs are hard to come by. Paula Bennett seems to hate people on the dole. The options are pretty limited. It’s time to step up Mr Joyce.

The people who will be turned away from universities had an entirely reasonable expectation that they could enrol at a university and commence their studies. Doesn’t New Zealand pride itself on open access to education? Shouldn’t we be encouraging more New Zealanders to upskill and gain tertiary-level qualifications? Isn’t this good for economic prosperity, or something?

Universities have been crying out for more direct investment for years. No government is yet to take heed of this cry. Mr Joyce, this is your chance to make a difference. It’s your chance to stamp your mark on the tertiary education portfolio. It’s your chance to fund universities, the hot beds of innovation that they are, appropriately. The same doors that were opened to me should be opened to other young people too.

I, like many others, will be wearing my graduation gown while you sit in parliament listening to Bill English announce the 2010 Budget. I cling to a slither of hope that maybe, just maybe, you’ve been listening to what universities have been telling you all this time—they need more money. Please. Don’t deny others the same access to a university education that both you and I have enjoyed.

Kind regards,

Sarah Robson
Very, very nearly a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington

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About the Author ()

Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

Comments (1)

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  1. dan says:

    How can all the low income men find wives and girlfriends without an education. Would you marry a truck driver sara or are you looking for a graduate only. We will create a caste system in this country graduate class and non graduate class. Im happy for only the best to go if there were real alternatives and jobs out there for people not suited to academic study. The world is now exclusive to graduates and people without them should pay flat tax on there second jobs.


    Bitter 30 year old without qualifications who got turned away but earns crap money and want to improve himself.

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