Mana Mātauranga.

By Martyn Gosling, Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington

Lola arrived in my class wearing a Swanndri flecked with straw. She was working in equestrian and hospo – the similarities are obvious – and had decided to give university a go. It was evident at that first tutorial, from her precise notes and exacting questions, that she had an exceptional mind. Before long she had abandoned thoughts of HR, and she graduated from Victoria with a BCom in Marketing and an LLB. The point: she would never have attempted university without the fees-free first year. We all know others like her.

I haven’t seen the fine print, so I don’t know whether the fees-free final year covers a university year of three trimesters or just the last courses in any calendar year, but the perverse outcomes seem clear. Yes, we can imagine any number of Lolas not attempting university because the cost and risk is too high. But we can also imagine the increased pressure to pass students because to fail, or drop, a course at any stage will make a substantial difference to when those students get a refund, and how much it might be. TEC’s bean-counters monitoring course and degree completion rates, and FTEs, will be working overtime.

And the Budget? Isn’t a Budget where political platitudes become our nation’s strategy, where we see vision for Aotearoa New Zealand enacted? Well… the last time we saw long-term vision in a Budget was with Roger Douglas, rightly or wrongly, 40 years ago. With the Gluckman review underway it would be a bit much to expect a visionary tertiary strategy in the Budget, or anywhere else. But for all the Lolas out there mucking out stables or clearing tables, who may have contributed more, and wanted more, than servant status, well done, Willis and Luxon, because you’ve robbed them of any vision at all.