Labour announces tertiary education policy

Promises “fair, transparent and sustainable” student support

The Labour Party has announced the tertiary education policy that they plan to implement if they are elected to government. The policy was released by Labour’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Maryan Street. It promises “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.”

According to the statement, the first step the Labour government will take is to reinstate the student allowance for postgraduate students and those studying longer degrees, such as Clinical Psychology. They will also remove the restriction for medical and dentistry students on access to student loans after seven years. “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,” Street says. The statement dubs the abolition of student allowances for postgrads as “a thoughtless and mean initiative of Steven Joyce’s” and claims that some students who were close to the end of their courses have been forced to leave because they could not afford to finish.

The statement also announces Labour’s intentions of reinstating post-doctoral fellowships for recent PhD graduates, capping fees at four per cent (but reviewing the cap on enrolments to make it more flexible), reinstating students’ associations, not proceeding with the Education Amendment Bill proposed by National, and reviewing the Tertiary Education Commission “to reinstate its intended strategic purpose, instead of the tick-the-box organisation it has become.”

Students have given mixed opinions on the policy. “It’s a step in the right direction,” according to fifth-year Law student Finbarr Noble. “Reinstating Students’ Associations is great, as are the promises not to proceed with the Education Amendment Bill and to restore democracy and autonomy to our universities’ councils,” he said. “That said, I reckon it will take more than just modest commitments to restore people’s faith in tertiary education, particularly university education and its value.” Some were more sceptical. Second-year Commerce and Botany student Cambrian Molark noted that “all of the policies sound like great ideas on the surface, although [Labour] haven’t acknowledged where the money to fund the various schemes will come from … they seem promising for students with little attention paid to the details.”
This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2014.
Posted 12:53am Monday 18th August 2014 by Nina Harrap.