Holly Walker

Postgrad allowance cuts have not affected student numbers – yeah right

by Holly Walker

So Steven Joyce believes his decision to remove access to student allowances for postgraduate students has had no effect on the numbers studying. Really?

Appearing before a select committee yesterday, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said that this cut had made very little difference in university enrolment numbers around the country.

The issue is that we’ve got numbers that say the opposite.

When the Government first announced this policy, I was pretty sure this would result in a decline in student numbers as I knew there’d be many who wouldn’t be in the financial position to study at postgraduate level without access to an allowance, so I asked for enrolment figures from all eight universities.

All but one University showed a decline in postgraduate enrolments, which was against a general trend for these to increase each year before the 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’s currently in the ballot.

I’m hoping that the bill will get 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.

Published in Economy, Work, & Welfare by Holly Walker on Thu, June 13th, 2013   

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