Students, Quality And Fairness Key To Future For Tertiary Education

  • Wyatt Creech

Quality courses for students delivered by financially and educationally sound providers are at the heart of the Government's tertiary education White Paper released today.

The White Paper follows a lengthy period of consultation and policy development following the release of the Green Paper in September last year. More than 380 public submissions were received.

"A high performing tertiary sector is essential for New Zealand's future. The White Paper establishes the ground rules and looks forward to a tertiary sector tuned to meet the diverse and changing demands of the future.

"If New Zealand is to foot it on the world stage and if our students are to get the education they need for the new century we have to ensure tertiary institutions are delivering relevant and quality courses and that the system is fair," Education Minister Wyatt Creech said.

"The tertiary sector in New Zealand is a diverse one. We want the reforms to ensure diversity is promoted and encouraged without creating unfairness and inequities."

Mr Creech said the decisions also ensure New Zealand is internationally competitive in the quality of its qualifications, teaching and research and that tertiary education institutions have well focused councils and management.

"We also want tertiary education to take advantage of new technologies and provide real value for money for those who pay - students and the taxpayer," Mr Creech said.

Key Decisions

Locking in Quality

Quality Assurance
A new organisation, Quality Assurance Authority New Zealand, will see that every university, polytechnic, or other provider of tertiary education has its teaching and research rigorously tested for quality. Taxpayer funding will depend on quality assurance and validation tests being met.

To improve decision making tertiary institutions need clearer, more focused, governance and management. There will be an upper limit of 12 on the membership of tertiary councils, including academic staff, outside experts and students. There will be graduated interventions for high risk institutions to protect the taxpayers' investment.

Financial Viability
All publicly funded providers will have to demonstrate that they are financially sound. Institutions will have to prove ongoing financial solvency and viability before they receive government funding. This will reduce the risk of institutions falling over and leaving students high and dry.

A contestable pool for high level research will be set up to ensure research at the leading edge is carried out in tertiary institutions. The pool will start with a fund of $20 million.

More efficient information gathering systems will be put in place to ensure students and the public are better informed about available quality approved courses.

Legal protection for terms like ?university?, ?polytechnic?, and ?degree? will continue.

Promoting Fairness

Since 1990, every university and polytechnic has been funded as though they were equally well set up with buildings and other capital assets. This has not been fair on those institutions with poorer facilities. Tuition subsidies will be adjusted to even out the disparities.

Universal Tertiary Tuition Allowance
Government spending on tuition subsidies will rise over the next three years by $155 million. The total for 1999 will be $1.185 billion. Tuition subsidies will go to all New Zealand students on the same basis no matter where they are studying. There has been a cap on the number of subsidised places up to now. That cap has been taken away. All students regardless of where they are studying, if they are studying a quality course will get funded.

Study Right
Study Right, introduced seven years ago to favour younger students, will go. Study Right has not worked as intended. Generally it has not been passed on to those students it was targeted to. The funding from Study Right will be channelled back into all students regardless of their age.

"We're all striving for the same goals, high quality, efficient and effective use of all our resources, and a wide range of opportunity for all New Zealanders, young and old. The White Paper presents policy directions which will help meet these goals," Mr Creech said.