Students could be left without places to study in their local communities because of an emerging $6 billion funding crisis, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) has warned.
Treasury figures analysed by the TEU show that cumulative underfunding to the sector reached $3.7 billion this year from 2009 levels. Based on current figures the funding hole will increase to more than $6 billion over the next three years.
Minister for Education Chris Hipkins has committed that all New Zealanders will have access to quality lifelong learning opportunities. To make this happen, Finance Minister Grant Robertson will need to use the forthcoming Budget to set out a plan to increase annual spending to tertiary education.
Funding to the tertiary education sector was slashed by Simon Bridges’ friends in the last National Government. Last year the sector was given 10 per cent less than it had in 2009, the year after National took power.
Funding cuts have far outpaced the drop in student numbers over the same period. And the situation is only set to get worse as cash-strapped institutions look at ways to slash costs to deal with the flawed approach of the previous government, including cutting courses – and in the last year alone instigating more than 130 reviews covering all aspects of tertiary provision.
Sandra Grey, national president of the Tertiary Education Union, said: “Tertiary education is facing a ticking time bomb thanks to the failure of National to give our vital public institutions enough to meet the cost of training future builders, mechanics, nurses, teachers, and scientists. No wonder courses have closed; regional teaching spaces have been shut down; and arts and humanities programmes have been slashed. And no wonder so many students are living in poverty.
New Zealanders agree to pool resources through taxation – whether it is money to run schools, to keep us healthy, to build roads and houses, or to provide clean drinking water. Tertiary education is no different. It is not a nice to have extra – it is the teaching and training that connects our children to their future, to jobs that we all depend on.
Polling by the Council of Trade Unions released today shows that a majority of Kiwis support higher or new taxes to maintain funding for schools, hospitals and transport systems.
“Chris Hipkins has a big job to clean up the mess left by National, but that cannot be an excuse to shirk the responsibility he has to make our sector work. Starting at this year’s Budget, he and Grant Robertson need to set out a plan about how we as a nation pool our resources to rebuild an education sector that is healthy, dynamic and meets the needs of students, whānau, and communities, exactly as experts in the tertiary sector have called for,” Grey said.