Time to invest in our tertiary education system

A Labour Government will fully review the student support system – including allowances, loans, accommodation support and scholarships – with a view to increasing access and making the system fair, transparent and sustainable, Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Maryan Street says.

 “But even before we do that, we will reverse National’s abolition of student allowances for postgraduate students and those in recognised long programmes, such as Clinical Psychology.

“New Zealand needs more highly skilled people for a knowledge-based future and preventing postgraduate students from accessing allowances stands in the way of that. It was a thoughtless and mean initiative of Steven Joyce’s and has already forced some students nearing the end of their long course to leave because they couldn’t afford to finish.

“Labour has already announced we will remove the restriction for medical and dentistry students on access to student loans after seven years.

“We will also reinstate post-doctoral fellowships for recent PhD graduates, scaling up to a cost of $6 million a year, so that they can be supported into research careers here instead of overseas. We need to keep our best brains here, not lose them permanently offshore.

“Labour is putting aside $1 billion per year to keep up with cost of living increases and demographic changes in health, education and other public services; and tertiary institutions will get their share of that. We have costed our spending policies and while there are no big ticket promises immediately, we believe the modest commitments we are making will set up the sector for improved access and quality in the future. 

“We will keep the cap on fees at 4 per cent but we will review the cap on enrolments to make it more flexible, particularly in times of high unemployment.

“We will stop National’s attacks on universities by not proceeding with the Education Amendment Bill and by restoring democracy and autonomy to our universities’ councils. We will also reinstate Students’ Associations because of the important role they play in the lives of students. And we will also review the Tertiary Education Commission to reinstate its intended strategic purpose, instead of the tick the box organisation it has become.

“Labour will encourage collaboration rather than competition amongst our tertiary providers and will work with the sector to deliver the whole range of quality tertiary programmes needed for our future,” Maryan Street says.

Labour's Tertiary Education policy can be found here.