Funding of tertiary education – TEU Policy

Posted By TEU on Nov 29, 2011 |


Tertiary education is part of our public/social infrastructure.  It provides opportunities and education for all who are no longer in compulsory education.  It also provides skills and education to support our economy and our communities.  By investing in tertiary education we give our whole country opportunities, not just those who study.  Tertiary education also provides opportunities for research development and critical thinking that contribute to our understanding of current issues and to finding solutions to future challenges.

As the Tertiary Education Strategy 2010-2015 notes, higher education levels have been linked to better general well-being, better health and greater social mobility.  Tertiary-educated people are more involved in the community and are more likely to vote and stand for public office.  Tertiary education promotes debate, democracy, culture and expression.

For Māori the opportunity to access tertiary education through a well-funded and accessible public system is one way by which individuals and their whānau, hapū and iwi can realise their development aspirations, as well as contribute to their communities, society and the economy.


Tertiary education has the capacity, if well-funded, to provide much needed skills and knowledge that can contribute to a strong and sustainable economy and vibrant, positive communities.  Investing in tertiary education is an investment in the future wellbeing of our country.

Tertiary education provides individuals with the opportunity to continue to develop their human and social potential through the advancement of knowledge and the acquisition of skills.  The purpose of a tertiary education extends beyond acquiring skills for employment, by providing individuals with the knowledge and skills to contribute to the wellbeing of their communities and our society.  Therefore in order to ensure that citizens can make a positive contribution to our communities and societies, the funding available to the tertiary education sector needs to support a broad range of programmes and disciplines and be focused on supporting students and ensuring staff have good working conditions.

Principles underpinning good tertiary education funding policies

The TEU believes that the following principles are fundamental to the development of good tertiary education funding policies:

Education is a human right

The provision of quality public education for all citizens is a crucial pillar of democratic societies.  An adequate level of public funding for education must be sustained regardless of fluctuations of the economy, because it is through education that our society, communities and individuals will flourish.  In times of economic difficulty, every endeavour should be made to prioritise additional funding to the tertiary education sector, because it is through investment in education and research that our society develops and maintains the necessary skills and knowledge to withstand such global crises.

Education is a public good not a commodity

Education contributes to the wellbeing of society as a whole and is therefore a matter of public concern; as such, it should be seen as a common, public good, not a privately owned commodity.  Whilst education has private benefits, its greatest benefit is to society and communities – it is a resource that can be used for economic gain, but its yield is directly related to what we invest in it.

Education has a vital social and economic transformative role

Education plays a key role in building and defending democracy; it contributes to individual fulfilment and wellbeing and to community development; it is a prime mechanism for promotion of equality, non-discrimination, and understanding among people from different backgrounds.

Quality education requires quality teachers and quality researchers

Decent working conditions contribute to quality learning environments.  Education unions therefore have a vital role to play within the education sector in advocating for these conditions and promoting the features of an ideal education funding system.

Features of good tertiary education funding policies

The TEU believes that good tertiary education funding policies should include the following elements:

Public funding is reserved for public tertiary education institutions

A high quality accessible public tertiary education system gives all citizens the opportunity to participate in higher education and contributes to strong communities and a strong economy.  Focusing public funding on resourcing public tertiary institutions also reinforces the principle that education is a public good rather than a private commodity.

Adequate funding levels

Funding of tertiary education institutions is maintained at levels that ensure providers can provide quality learning experiences for a broad range of students.  Maintaining adequate levels of funding also includes providers having sufficient resources to ensure that working conditions for staff support the provision of high quality teaching, research and support services for students and the institution.

Funding reflects the educational profile of the community the institution serves

The funding system needs the flexibility to take into account the educational profile of the community the institution serves, population concentration or spread, ethnicity, and national, regional and industry requirements.  These factors will differ from region to region thus requiring any funding system to be flexible enough to meet identified national or regional needs.

Distribution of funding should encourage a collaborative tertiary education sector

Collaboration between providers is desirable and should be informed by a detailed national strategy for tertiary education provision that outlines the short, medium and long-term skills and education requirements anticipated for our projected population.

Passed by Annual Conference Nov 2011

Policy review date: 15th October 2013


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