The Government’s decision in last year’s Budget to remove eligibility for student allowances from postgraduate students has to be one of its most short-sighted decisions ever. Not only that, but it was misleading – when they announced it, they made it sound as if students who had already started postgraduate qualifications in 2012 would not be affected, when in fact they were.
As a result, it was predicted many students would either drop out of postgraduate study midway through their qualifications, or simply not enrol in the first place.
Those predictions seem to be coming true now that the first enrolment figures for the 2013 academic year are becoming available from universities. I requested figures from all eight universities under the Official Information Act and the results of these were reported by TV3 over the weekend. Across the board, they show a decline in postgraduate enrolments against a general trend for these to increase each year before this policy was introduced.
For example, Otago University has experienced a decline of 8.5% and Auckland University postgraduate enrolment numbers are down by 7.1%.
Removing postgraduate allowances shows the Government’s disregard for higher education. National is wasting the potential of some of the best and brightest people in New Zealand by limiting higher education to just those who can afford it. It’s clear how strongly people feel about this – when we launched an online submission to Steven Joyce asking him to reinstate postgraduate allowances, it was signed by over a thousand people in just a few days.
It’s shortsighted, and wrong, and for that reason I’ve drafted a member’s bill that would reinstate eligibility for student allowances to postgraduate students. It’s called the Education (Student Allowances Eligibility) Amendment Bill and it will be in my name in the next Parliamentary ballot.
I hope it gets pulled so that Parliament has the chance to debate this policy in full now that that evidence of the effect that it is having on postgraduate numbers is confirming just how harmful it will be.