Privatisation and deregulation not the solution

Deregulation, privatisation, and shifting more of the cost onto students isn’t the way to address inequality, lack of innovation and declining participation in tertiary education, says Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.

“It’s this kind of more-market neo-liberal ideology that has driven the huge growth in inequality that we have seen in recent decades.

“The Productivity Commission’s report “New Models of Tertiary Education” contains some useful analysis of current problems but privatisation and deregulation aren’t the right answers.

“Deregulation certainly resulted in more innovation in the building sector, and years later we are still mopping up the leaky buildings fiasco that followed. We simply can’t afford to repeat those mistakes in education. Peoples’ livelihoods and futures are at stake.

“The report places far too much emphasis on the private and personal value of education, and not enough emphasis on the value higher levels of education provide to society and the economy.

“Loading more of the cost of tertiary education onto students through the re-introduction of interest on student loans and a ‘voucher’ type funding model will only serve to deepen inequality, not lessen it.

“The Commission too closely associates the value of learning with monetary measures and in doing so overlooks the wider public good.

“The current “bums-on-seats” demand driven model of student funding hasn’t done a very good job of matching people with skill needs, and taking that approach even further as the report recommends is not likely to fix the problem.

“We’ve got huge skill shortages in a whole range of areas and the very hands-off approach from the Government has made things worse, not better. There are, however, a few bright spots in the Commission’s report. I welcome their emphasis on better careers advice, which is consistent with the plan Labour has already announced. We also welcome the opportunity to discuss more modular learning and flexible modes of delivery.

“Overall, while the Productivity Commission has identified a range of real and important issues, their prescription amounts to the more of the same neo-liberal ideology that has caused so many of the problems they have outlined,” Chris Hipkins says.