What next for tertiary education after the election?

Posted By TEU on Sep 28, 2017 | 2 comments

Tertiary Update – Vol 20 No 28

Party leaders have begun the process of trying to gain the support of New Zealand First to form a government following Saturday’s inconclusive
election result.

Winston Peters confirmed yesterday that he would say nothing more about possible coalition partners until after the final tally of votes is released on 7 October, with a final decision expected before 12 October.

Tertiary education could be an area both major parties use to woo New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin, herself a passionate advocate of accessible education at all levels and a committed opponent of National’s tertiary education Bill.

Speaking to media earlier in the week, Jacinda Ardern said tertiary education was an area of common ground between New Zealand First and

“We do have some shared values around making tertiary education more accessible,” she told reporters.

One of the most significant issues for our sector that could be on the table in both sets of coalition negotiations is the future of the tertiary education Bill that National failed to pass before the election.

The fate of the Bill is difficult to predict but with Tracey Martin voicing strong opposition to the changes National was proposing, New Zealand First could make scrapping it a condition of going into government with National.

Labour and Greens also opposed the Bill, so should New Zealand First opt to govern with both parties then the Bill would surely be ditched.

The Greens could also insist a Labour New Zealand First coalition go further by exploring alternatives to competitive funding.

Both the Greens’ and New Zealand First’s policies on funding appear to align well with Labour’s commitment to ensuring a network of regional public provision, a promise that stands in stark contrast to National’s market-first approach.

Another area where Labour and New Zealand First may find common ground is around the issue of international education.

New Zealand First said it would ensure sufficient funding to the sector to avoid institutions being dependent on international students, something National has sought to entrench in recent years.

Similarly, Labour said it would shift the focus of international education away from revenue generation towards quality.

One of the only commitments Bill English made on tertiary education before the election was to set a target to increase the value of international education in New Zealand to $7 billion by 2025.

National’s approach to tying the financial viability of tertiary education institutions to attracting increasing numbers of international students is clearly at odds with New Zealand First.

An arrangement between Labour, Greens and New Zealand First would also likely see the introduction next year of Labour’s fees free policy for the first year of tertiary education from 2018.

It was obviously a big issue for Labour during the campaign and there is some similarity with their two potential coalition partners.

The Greens, for example, committed to lowering fees and phasing out student debt, so would presumably support Labour’s policy, whereas New Zealand First proposed turning student loans into a ‘skill debt’ instead of a financial one.

National was silent on the issue of fees and student debt.

Some increase in student support is likely whoever Winston Peters supports, however exactly what that increase in support would be could differ.

National committed only to increasing accommodation support from April next year without saying by how much, whereas Labour, Greens and New Zealand First each promised to increase living allowances.

The Greens said they would make transport and energy more affordable for students, but with neither Labour nor New Zealand First making similar commitments it is difficult to know if this policy would survive negotiations between all three parties.

Similarly, National did not have policy on affordable transport and energy for students, meaning a Bill English government propped up by Winston Peters would be unlikely to address either issue explicitly.

Enhancing student voice could be on the cards whoever New Zealand First goes into government with.

Whilst Labour and National were silent on the issue, New Zealand First said they would work with the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations to ensure students had more of a say in decisions about tertiary education.

Our high-level analysis of two most likely governing options suggests that in tertiary education there is more common ground between Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First, than between Winston Peters and Bill English.

However, any prediction about which way Peters will go should be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. Half of tertiary funding from private sources
  2. Yet another private provider loses its accreditation

Other news

The Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with two Taranaki iwi to better support Māori learners – WITT

The Ministry of Education has published the first three parts of its annual Profile and Trend report, which covers participation, achievement, resourcing, capability and research – Education Counts

Victoria University of Wellington’s Council has voted to increase undergraduate and postgraduate tuition fees by 2 percent in 2018, the maximum increase allowed. The Student Services Levy was increased by 3.5 percent – VUW

The Open Polytechnic has launched a range of new Library and Information Studies qualifications – Voxy

More than 100 companies have written an open letter to the New Zealand public saying tertiary education qualifications were not required for some of their roles – NZ Talent

Four industry training organisations have published a report on the success of Pasifika learners’ in workplace settings – Ako Aotearoa

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