Budget unlikely to deliver on PM’s skills priority.

Hau Taki Haere | Tertiary Update Vol 27, No 8

If you’re not funding tertiary education properly, you can’t claim to care about skills, science and infrastructure. That’s TEU’s message to the government as they prepare to deliver the first budget of Chris Hipkins’ premiership.

In a pre-budget speech, to the Employers and Manufacturers Association in Auckland, the Prime Minister said “for me, my priority this Budget will be driving a focus on Skills, Science and Infrastructure investment to grow our economy and make it more secure. These three areas will all receive extra support in the Budget.”

He went on to say that “investment in skills and trades training has been such a focus for the Government over recent years and will continue to be going forward.”

But TEU’s Te Pou Ahurei | National Secretary Sandra Grey says she is not expecting any major shifts that will deliver on the Prime Minister’s stated aims or back up his claims about where his government’s priorities lie.

“What we’ve seen over the past five years is largely a continuation of successive previous governments’ focus on austerity (Chris Hipkins calls it ‘no frills’) and a corporate approach to funding in the tertiary education sector. Investment has continued to lag behind inflation, the ‘bums on seats’ funding model remains and as a result institutions have continued to cut staff whenever enrolment numbers dip.”

“Te Pūkenga was formed with a sound vision underpinning it but it has been left to languish ever since. The leadership is now talking about significant job cuts to an organisation whose constituent parts have already been cut to the bone.”

“No significant changes to this approach have been signalled or seem likely in the short term, but we will stand ready to be pleasantly shocked.”

Sandra Grey also adds that if the Prime Minister really wants to focus on science he might do well to take note of the New Zealand Association of Scientists [NZAS], who came out strongly against job cuts at Otago last week.

NZAS Co-President Dr Lucy Stewart said “The university sector is at a crossroads, as its present financial model is clearly not working. We’ve seen major cuts to staff numbers at Waikato, Massey and AUT in the last three years. We can’t afford to gut our science capability and reputation at a time when health, social and environmental challenges are only growing. However, if we continue down the current path of university funding and operation, this seems inevitable.”

Also in this update:

Other stories:

Spotlight on new wānanga framework as ministers appear before select committee – Stuff

Staff at five universities strike in fight to end reliance on casual labour – Melbourne Age

University of Otago quiet on volunteers for redundancies as union plans stop-work meeting – Stuff

Te Pūkenga hopeful work-based funding change will offset other income drops – RNZ