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July 15, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Pay More, Get Less

Getting a degree in New Zealand doesn’t get you ahead as much as you may think, as figures show New Zealanders who gain a university degree benefit less than their international counterparts.

The ‘Education at a Glance’ report, released by the OECD in June, shows New Zealand graduates can expect to earn far less than graduates from other developed countries. New Zealanders with a tertiary education earn, on average, 18 per cent more than secondary-educated workers—less than half the OECD average of 57 per cent.

The figures were used by critics to slam the Government’s current approach to education. Critics used the report to rebut Minister of Tertiary Education Steven Joyce’s claims that providing students with knowledge, skills and qualifications means “better jobs and higher wages”.

“Tertiary students are rightly proud of the education they achieve, but what these figures reveal is a system consisting of a captive market in which students pay and borrow more, but eventually get less,” said NZUSA President Pete Hodkinson.

NZUSA recommended increasing spending on tertiary education, abolishing fees, and reversing recent cuts to student support. New Zealand ranks 20th of the 33 OECD countries on per-capita tertiary-education expenditure, and 19th out of 30 for spending per student. New Zealand spends NZ$13,174 per student, 23 per cent below the OECD average of $17,106. The US, UK, and Australia all spend above the OECD average.

Green MP Holly Walker criticised Steven Joyce’s rationale behind current tertiary-education policy, saying the report showed it wasn’t working.

“Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has been justifying his cuts to student allowances and loans by arguing that you earn more if you study, so you can afford to pay your own way. Except, the figures from the OECD fly in the face of his arguments.

“Steven Joyce needs to value students and graduates, not punish them. I hope that these findings are a wake-up call for the Minister,” said Walker.

Tertiary Education Union national president Lesley Francey described the report as a “direct rebuke” for Steven Joyce.

“It tells him that his actions are putting the world-class education he lauds at risk.”

Despite the low premium provided by a New Zealand tertiary education, the report shows New Zealand’s population is more highly qualified than other OECD countries’, ranking in the top ten for tertiary-education completion. 39 per cent of New Zealanders aged between 25 and 64, and 46 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds hold a university degree; this is above the OECD averages of 32 and 39 per cent, respectively.

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