Hayne hails Labour's funding promise

Harlene Hayne
Harlene Hayne
Universities will be forced to cut the quality of education they provide if the Government does not increase funding, University of Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne says.

Prof Hayne yesterday singled out the Government for failing to properly fund universities, while praising Labour's tertiary education policy, which included the promise of extra cash.

Prof Hayne's praise comes after Labour released its tertiary education policy yesterday, promising to reverse the abolition of student allowances for postgraduate students and get rid of proposed changes to university councils.

Labour's Tertiary Education spokeswoman, Maryan Street, also said tertiary institutions would ''get their share'' of the $1 billion per year it had promised to set aside to keep up with ''cost of living increases'' in the public services.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce struck back at both Prof Hayne and Labour yesterday, saying universities had been well funded during the global financial crisis.

Prof Hayne, as Universities New Zealand acting chairwoman and as Otago University vice-chancellor, welcomed Labour's promise of increased funding.

''Over the past decade, university funding has only increased at about half the rate of inflation, while the cost of providing an education has increased at nearly double the rate of inflation.

''The education sector has partially offset this funding gap by cutting costs and growing international student numbers.

''But all the easy gains have been realised and, without more funding, the only way to keep balancing the books in future is going to be by dropping quality,'' she said.

Prof Hayne said Universities New Zealand was also pleased Labour had committed to not going ahead with proposed changes to the size and make-up of university councils.

Mr Joyce strongly disputed Prof Hayne's suggestion quality would drop if the Government did not increase funding.

''I just think that is completely incorrect. We have increased funding over the last five years to universities by 18.6% ... and actually, they have done very very well, compared to most other organisations through the global financial crisis.

''Of course I've never yet met a vice-chancellor who doesn't want more money, but I actually think taxpayers have actually been very supportive [of universities].

''I think Harlene has just got the old 'give me some money' sign out.''

He also accused Labour of not costing its tertiary education policies, adding it would be a case of ''back to the future'' when it came to the student loan ''blow-out''.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz