Ministry responds to funding cuts with commercialisation

Press Release – Tertiary Education Union

The Ministry of Education released its briefing to the incoming minister to the public last week. Or, at least parts of it that are not being withheld under the Official Information Act were released.Ministry responds to funding cuts with commercialisation

The Ministry of Education released its briefing to the incoming minister to the public last week. Or, at least parts of it that are not being withheld under the Official Information Act were released.

The ministry begins its briefing by noting that total expenditure on tertiary education as a percentage of gross domestic product (excluding student loans) fell from 2.0 percent in 2009/10 to 1.9 percent in 2010/11. Total tertiary expenditure, excluding student loans, will fall by a further 4.8 percent over the next five years.

The admission that the government is actively and continuously cutting tertiary education funding shapes many of the recommendations the ministry makes. Its overarching approach is to target increasingly limited funding on those areas and students it believes will best match the government’s economic growth goals.

It also aggressively seeks external private funding, both through export education, and by greater links between tertiary education, research and private companies.

TEU national president Dr Sandra Grey says funding pressures are leading the ministry to abandon a commitment to broad-based, equitable and accessible education.

“The ministry’s narrow focus on picking winners for the economy and on generating private income to cover its public funding shortfall undermines New Zealand’s historical commitment to open accessible public tertiary education,” said Dr Grey.

TEU general staff vice-president Helen Kissell said, “The intention of the ministry to interfere with the autonomy of tertiary institutions to ensure they aren’t teaching or researching in ‘lower priority’ areas, as defined by government, is a fundamental threat to academic freedom.”

ENDS

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