RWNZ has provided a submission to the Productivity Commission (the Commission) expressing concern about the equity impacts of its proposed reforms to the Tertiary education system.
In its draft report ‘‘New models of tertiary education’ the Commission proposes a number of changes to the current funding and delivery of Tertiary education, including suggesting that the Government reintroduce interest on student loans and scrap University Entrance requirements. “On the whole, we are disappointed that the Commissions report approaches the issue of Tertiary education from a purely market based and individualistic perspective. The important public benefits of an inclusive and equitable tertiary education system appear to have been ignored ” says National President, Fiona Gower.
RWNZ’s submission voices particularly strong opposition to the proposal to reintroduce interest on student loans stating that this would make tertiary education financially unachievable for many New Zealanders, particularly those from lower socio-economic groups. “An interest bearing scheme is also unfair for women, who may face higher repayments because they continue to earn less than men” says Fiona Gower.
“Students from rural areas are also unfairly affected by this change. Many end up borrowing much more than those from urban areas, because they have to fund the costs of moving out of the family home to access Tertiary education”.
In its submission RWNZ also voice concerns about the proposal for ‘Individual Student Education Accounts’, which the Commission recommends, would be capped at the equivalent of three years study. It points out that this could exclude less well off students from studying in more highly skilled areas like law and medicine, which involve longer periods of study. This proposal also suggests that students that get it wrong first time miss out on the opportunity for further government assistance for future study. RWNZ say its also thinks that Universal Entrance should continue to be based on National Secondary School Curriculum Standards.
One positive aspect of the report is the recommendation that the Government open up the market to a wider range of education providers. In its submission RWNZ, suggest that allowing Agricultural degrees to be delivered by more industry-based providers could assist in overcoming the low number of students graduating with degrees in this field.
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