Parliament opens debate on controversial law that will cut funding to public institutions

Posted By TEU on May 11, 2017 |


Tertiary Update Vol 20 No 17

Parliamentary debate on a new law that will fundamentally change the future of tertiary education opened on Tuesday, triggering accusations from Labour and the Greens that National is prioritising private for-profit providers.

The law enshrines a funding approach that has already been trialled at some levels of tertiary education provision and led to the closure of courses in small rural and regional communities where institutes of technology and polytechnics have lost out to for-profit providers.

In one recent example, NorthTec lost every single dollar it was forced to compete with private companies for, contributing to an overall funding cut of 11 percent, while the Ara Institute of Canterbury has cited competition from for-profit providers as one reason why it is planning to close six courses.

Labour’s tertiary education spokesperson, Chris Hipkins told Parliament that the bill would remove any presumption that the Government would consider its ownership interest in tertiary education institutions when making funding decisions.

“This is an abrogation of the notion that the Government has a responsibility to provide for a network of public tertiary education institutions throughout the country,” he said.

Public institutions serve a different purpose to for-profit providers because they ensure that there is a base level of educational provision in all parts of the country. The fully contestable, market-driven model this law will introduce is not going to deliver those same outcomes.

Shifting tertiary education to market-based principles of funding allocation favours those who are strongest in their control of the market.

“This is going to result in private providers being able to cherry-pick the aspects of tertiary education provision that are the most profitable, leaving the polytechnics and the institutes of technology with the least profitable parts, and no recourse back to Government to say that they need to have additional funding in order to continue to provide that education,” Hipkins told Parliament.

Shortly before the debate, the TEU presented a ‘stress dossier’ of more than 500 anonymous staff stories showing that the current system is putting pressure on staff to pass students.

This is a system that has never been the subject of a review to determine what impact it is having on teaching and learning.

Opening the system to profit helps National politically, as it erodes the public-sector basis for tertiary education policy decisions, gets capital circulating around the system, leads to more people being hired on insecure, short-term contracts and reduces the collective influence of staff in public institutions.

Gareth Hughes, the Green Party spokesperson for tertiary education said:

“We know that these are the consequences from the sector’s experience with competitive funding for level 1 and level 2 courses.

They compete by lowering wages, they compete by lowering working conditions, and what we have seen is the ability to cherry-pick specific courses.”

The Bill’s first reading debate was cut short at 10pm when Parliament adjourned for the day but will continue on Thursday afternoon.

To join the TEU’s campaign to protect public tertiary education, click here.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Review the system before enshrining a botched approach in law, TEU says
  2. Vic’s Living Wage day adds to pressure on VC
  3. Good effort, but Productivity Commission misses the mark

Other news

The University of Otago has published a new Māori Strategic Framework – Otago

Victoria University’s Council has approved initial funding of $10 million to provide rehearsal and performance spaces at Wellington’s Town Hall –  Victoria

The Auckland University of Technology has launched a new scholarship for people ages 20 and over who want to embark on a career change – AUT

Nursing Education in the Tertiary Sector has released the March 2017 graduate destination data for registered nurses – NETS

Greater Wellington Regional Council has agreed to consider a 25 percent discount for tertiary students on all buses, trains and ferries across the region – Stuff

Nicola Willis, National’s candidate for Wellington Central, has backed calls for fairer fares for tertiary students – Salient

Tauranga has launched a new International Education Strategy – NZ Herald

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