New bill to reinstate postgraduate allowances

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.


17 Comments Posted

  1. I agree! Not only has the Fascist National Govt deprived postgraduate students of student allowances, and indeed all studying for more than 4 years full-time equivalent for Bachelors’ degrees with Honors (which catches those studying for 5 or 6 year Bachelors’ courses such as Law, Architecture, Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science); but also it recently deprived students aged 55 years and older of their allowances! However, the latter could be contested in Court under the Human Rights Act 1993 for age-discrimination, but either an individual Court case or (better still) a class-action has yet to be filed.
    As a Bachelors’ graduate in Chemical Engineering and Accountancy/Management, AND aged over 55, I was thinking of going back to university largely full-time for a Masterate and if possible Doctorate, probably in either Chemical Technology (Waikato) or Business Administration (MBA, most likely AUT or Massey), preferably with a large extramural component. Another possibility could have been a secondary-school Diploma Of Teaching, most likely at Auckland University’s Whangarei Education campus. I would have needed a student allowance because of having to take leave from work to do it, and because of the costs involved. Under no circumstances would I take out a loan for such purposes at my age. Now that student allowances for both Masterates/Doctorates and students over 55 have been canned, all these possibilities are off-the table unless and until there is a change of government, the earlier the better.
    There is a good chance that the Fascist National Govt may not make it to the next scheduled election in late 2014. Watch out for a lost byelection (e.g. in Turncoat Dunne’s Ohariu seat, held by a majority of only 1,000, where he is looking sick and and terrible trouble for breaking his election promise to oppose $tate asset $ales), or a defection (most likely the new National MP replacing Aaron Gilmore, who is a Maori woman unlikely to be sympathetic to National’s policy which have seriously harmed both Maori and women). Either such event will deprive National of its working majority on its controversial anti-social Bills, and soon bring the govt down.

  2. Get over yourself jh0904. You are studying because you want a career which provides job satisfaction and a decent income. Studying for a postgrad course is not some incredible act of sacrifice for the country.

    You are eligible for $170 per week through student loan living costs, so the removal of allowances does not have a huge impact on your cashflow. You also have the university holidays to work and save to meet your living costs. Its not a life of luxury but eminently manageable.

    NZers should be grateful we have a generous system of funding in place – indeed, I would say the main problem in Tertiary study is that these costs (namely interest free loans) are cannibalising actual spending on education proper.

  3. “If enrollments are down because people want an allowance and not a loan, then it’s pretty obvious they don’t place much value on their education”

    I just wanted to point out to Arana that I decided to go ahead with postgraduate study, even though I knew it would be an incredible struggle financially – and I wasn’t wrong. I’m currently entitled to an $80 Accommodation Supplement and that is all. My rent is $195 per week. Needless to say, I’ve eaten very little for the last 6 weeks, and will continue to eat very little for the following 6 weeks. This has made me sick. I’ve been unable to go to the doctor as I can’t afford it. I could get a part time job – only, well … there ARE no jobs. Sorry, that’s not true. There are some jobs. I could work at a bar. I’m already malnourished, might as well add sleep deprivation to that. Of course, this would affect my grades … Oh well.

    People haven’t been avoiding enrollment because they WANT an allowance and can’t get one. They’ve avoided enrollment because they NEED an allowance, and it is no longer available to them. I am fortunate enough that I have been offered a GTA position next semester so it’s just a matter of struggling through the next 6 weeks and hoping I can stay well enough to keep my GPA high enough to continue. Not all PG students are that lucky.

    And, because I’m sure you’ll ask, my undergrad, and subsequent postgrad study is in the human/social services. Little bits of politics and sociology in there, so I guess I’m not worthy – after all, who cares about the people of NZ and their development huh?

  4. The country would develop with the higher educated people.
    Whats the life of the dropped out students who are having passion for studies , are they meant to be idle at home or doing low qualifying job.

  5. I don’t see the point of this bill. National can veto it on budgetary grounds, alone.

    Why not put something in the ballot that would have a chance of positive change? i.e. there are many areas of education that could be reformed at lower costs and provide more benefit to society, which would more likely be debated on and passed.

  6. Another way of looking at it would be to offer free courses through coursera, or similar. One model that could work is all courses are free, but you pay if you want tutorials, or marking, or exams, or certification.

    That way, you open up access to education to many for low/no cost. Those who want to get certified in an area pay the appropriate cost.

  7. Arana – I’ve always thought we should fund tertiary courses weighted to the percentage that get work in that field within a year of the course.

    So we have a general funding rate, and of that if 50% of law grads get work, they get funded at 50%, if 95% of engineers get work they get funded at 95%, and if 3% of photography grads get work they get funded at 3%.

    Within that you could also have differentiated weighting or scholarships towards the top students, so the best in each field have low fees.

  8. Why not take the needed skills immigration list, subsidise those courses, and charge everything else at 100%?

    This benefits both the taxpayer and the student.

    It’s wrong to “encourage” people into graduate and post-graduate study for which there is little or no requirement in the labour market. That is not to say people shouldn’t undertake such courses, but they should not do so on the back of the taxpayer, especially when the country *needs* skills in other areas.

  9. Secondly, when does one start making some investment in their own education? One would hope after so many years study they will be in a niche sector raking in the big bucks – so why should the rest of us pay for their large future salary?

    …then it’s pretty obvious they don’t place much value on their education

    Its actually worse than this; its not the students that don’t place a value on education, its the employers of New Zealand. The big bucks don’t flow from an education.

    Who says so? The OECD, Education at a Glance 2012. table A8.1. New Zealand has the fifth lowest salary premium for University-level and advanced research programmes tertiary education. Still, it could be worse: the salary premium for Vocationally oriented tertiary education is 1%.

    If you dig deeper and look at the personal cost to salary benefit ratio of tertiary education, then New Zealand is the worst in the OECD, at 0.64. The Australian number is 0.31. OECD Average is 0.26.

  10. They have access to student loans.

    If enrollments are down because people want an allowance and not a loan, then it’s pretty obvious they don’t place much value on their education. In any case, your statistics need work if that’s all the data you’re going on, Holly.

    There *might* be an argument for subsidy of needed skills, such as engineering (with a bond), but I can see no argument for, say, a teenage tradesman subsidising, say, a 30-something to do a Phd in music/politics/sociology/basketweaving.

    If you think those areas are valuable to you, fine. Take out the available loan.

  11. Yeah na i’m not convinced this is an issue. Firstly the student loan is still available. Secondly, when does one start making some investment in their own education? One would hope after so many years study they will be in a niche sector raking in the big bucks – so why should the rest of us pay for their large future salary?

    I don’t think your idea of bonding students would work Yorkstyke – I suspect it would just result in more sitting idle on the unemployment benefit. Remove the need for the student to invest anything (i.e. risk) and the danger is you have 1,000 with a PhD in Music sitting idle because actually society needs 1000 PhD Engineers. We have enough qualified but unemployed graduates who can’t find work and have to go overseas to find it (after we’ve funded them a nice wee education). Most are even grateful enough not to repay their student loan.

  12. As a returned student trying to complete my MA with two children (one at school and one at university) the cost of our user pays education is basically prohibitive and only made possible with the student loan system. That’s why it exists. Rhetoric about the knowledge society and the need improve the general level and standard of education achievement across the population is surely puffery when the government raises the barrier for post grad education. It is not the only example of the government shooting itself in the foot to save a few bucks in the short term while turning a blind eye to the negative medium/long term consequences of its policy. It is ridiculous and a shameful indictment on New Zealand society and particularly the government that we even have to defend loans for post grad study.

  13. Good on you, this is what we need. Imagine trying to cut down on kids who are really trying hard to gain good degrees. No wonder they all disappear overseas when they finish uni. It would be much better to bond them for 3 to 5 years than charge them fees.

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