Teachers and other people who choose to work in education are generally quite positive, upbeat people – I think a sense of humour is a prerequisite to surviving and thriving in that environment! Despite that, I’m seeing a lot of long faces and stressed people when I visit tertiary institutions, and the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) has produced figures that go some way to explaining why.
The TEU has produced a summary of what has been happening to the funding of polytechs, and in particular regional polytechs, since Steven Joyce took over as tertiary minister in 2010. It is not a pretty sight, and underpins the sector’s claim that they are being obliged to do more and more with with less and less, to the extent that our educational institutions are struggling to fulfil their core functions.
The numbers reveal that the polytechs are being systematically underfunded, at a time when the government is (quite rightly) touting the importance of education and increasing the skills base in New Zealand, which is critically important for our economic and social wellbeing.
“The government has cut funding for regional polytechnics by a total of $60 million since 2010. It has also cut funding to the seven urban polytechnics by a smaller amount of $400,000. In both instances these cuts are exacerbated because inflation of 8.7 percent over the period mean the cuts are much worse”.
So at a time when there is an obvious and urgent need to boost regional development, increase the skills base, and reduce youth unemployment, the government is slicing to the bone the funding for organisations that could be and should be a big part of the solution. Is this the real cost of the budget ‘surplus’ that will no doubt be announced with great fanfare later this week? Rings a bit hollow in the ears of those trying hard to offer a high quality education to people and regions that would derive benefit from it.
In the meantime Lincoln University is being obliged to cut staff; graduate nurses are being told there are no jobs for them; the dreadful Education Amendment Bill, that would put the Minister in charge of selecting university councils, and kicks teachers off the Teachers Council, is grinding its way through select committee. Time for a change I think!