We have just put out Labour’s tertiary policy. It follows on the big effort that we’ve made to lift skills in our workforce. No need to remind people that times are tough and it’s tough getting any new money. But I think we’ve got a pretty solid mix here that will make a difference.
The key aim is produce the best graduates we can – and keep them in NZ – to help us grow a smart, high-value economy.
The policy has some specifics targetting some of our smartest. It puts back the post-doctoral scholarships for scientists who finished their PhDs that was canned last year. This is critical for not only keeping our best here and giving them time to consolidate their studies, but bringing some of our best back. After all, we’ve already invested massively in these people.
We’ve also put additional funding aside for funding our very best where they are world beating. The ‘brilliant scientist’ concept is simple – give sufficient funding to our best scientists and academics to employ the staff they want, buy equipment they need and then let them get on with it. Smart people attract others – from around the world. Backing our best with resources will grow expertise in core areas where our talent is top shelf. And we DO have some fantastic talent. Those researchers will receive funds personally and are free to choose the NZ institution – or business – where they want to set up.
Other parts of the policy: we must maintain and raise the levels of our universities. Recent results show we are slipping in the world rankings and there’s little doubt that funding is a key part. We run universities that are some of the most efficient in the world, where an extra dollar can really make a difference. Our policy maintains our level by inflation proofing our universities and sets our commitment to increase it.
We need to maintain the affordability of our tertiary institutions so all NZers that reach the standard can access a high quality tertiary education, no matter what background they come from. There’s aspects in the policy here for that too, fixing tuition increases at 4% and restoring $2 million to the Training Incentive Allowance to give a lift to those who want to get a tertiary education – solo mums for example – to get some support. Remember this is the one that helped Paula Bennett before this government axed it.
And we’ve put back the money for adult and community education. Cutting $13.5 million and collapsing it was a travesty. More than 150,000 people no longer access night schools who once did. This is a no-brainer for people wanting to get back into learning.