Universities NZ chair Pat Walsh used the institution’s annual report last week to call for greater public investment in universities, saying the future sustainability of New Zealand’s universities is at risk.
“Years of inadequate public investment is taking its toll, placing major constraints on the universities’ ability to enhance the quality of teaching and research so that they remain viable, internationally competitive institutions.”
Pat Walsh, speaking on behalf of the country’s vice-chancellors, argued for funding to be redirected from student support into research and teaching.
“Rather than following the lead of countries that invest heavily in their universities and have achieved internationally recognised university systems, New Zealand disproportionately allocates its funding to student financial support.”
However TEU national president Lesley Francey says that fixing chronic public underfunding in universities cannot come at the expense of student support.
“Universities NZ starts from a mistaken premise. The current government has cut huge amounts out of student support recently and what remains is predominantly student loans that it can record as an asset and hope to reclaim in future years. But, even if that were not the case, good student support is about providing potential students and future students who might not otherwise get the chance, with the opportunity of education. It is what allows universities to be a transformative experience not just for our wealthiest citizens but for everyone.”
Lesley Francey says she hopes that Universities NZ will take a more holistic approach to tertiary education that recognises the value of public investment in the whole sector, including polytechnics, wānanga, students and those who currently miss out on tertiary education.