Data released by the Tertiary Education Commission shows student numbers have increased over the last year for courses at levels 1 and 2, and the competitive component of levels 3 and 4.
However, the overall number of equivalent full-time students (EFTS) declined by 239 in the 12 months since April 2017.
The TEC data – helpfully summarised by Tertiary Insight – shows the Government’s contribution to the direct costs of teaching, learning and other costs driven by student numbers. Otherwise known as Student Achievement Component (SAC) funding.
Data is provided on the number of EFTS delivered in April 2017 and 2018; the number of EFTS estimated to match the funding allocated to institutions; and a comparison between EFTS delivery and EFTS commitment.
The data shows EFTS for courses at level 3 and above have dropped by 0.2 percent since April last year.
Some will leap on this figure as proof that the Government’s policy of giving first-time tertiary students one year of free study has not worked. However, that could be misleading, particularly as the purpose of the fees-free policy is to improve affordable access to tertiary education.
Sharn Riggs, national secretary of the Tertiary Education Union, said:
“Of course we would hope to see an immediate increase in enrolments, but first and foremost we need to be focusing on making access to tertiary education more equal – not to mention helping to ensure students do not graduate with crushing debt.”
Commentary about the impact on overall enrolment numbers just shows the difficult job Labour has ahead to convince people that the success of the policy is measured against its original intention.