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Cuts to student support in yesterday's Budget will allow the Government to put more emphasis on engineering, science and research, Minister for Tertiary Education Steven Joyce says.
As previously announced, the Government increased the burden on students and people with student loans by pulling the plug on the voluntary repayment scheme; increasing student loan repayment rates; freezing the parental income threshold; and capping student allowance eligibility at 200 weeks. Postgraduate students will no longer be eligible for the student allowance.
This saw students take to the street in Auckland, with about 400 people - supported by the Auckland University Students' Association - blockading two streets to protest the Budget.
Otago Polytechnic Students' Association president Rebecca Hohaia said the change that would affect students most was increasing student loan repayments from 10c to 12c per dollar earned over the threshold.
Mr Joyce said changes to student support would save the Government $240.3 million in 2011-12 and an extra $276.3 million over the following four years.
"Rebalancing ... [tertiary education spending of $4.3 billion] allows us to free up money we can reinvest in improving the quality of tertiary education we provide, and help our overall fiscal position."
New investment included an extra $158.9 million over four years for engineering, science and research-led learning at tertiary institutions.
"To retain our compe-titiveness internationally, we need increased investment in engineering, science and research," Mr Joyce said.
Other changes included increasing funding to private training establishments by $29.5 million over the next four years and investing an extra $37.7 million over the next four years to fund 3000 more fee-free places as part of the Youth Guarantee Scheme.
The Government also cut $5.4 million in funding for adult and community education in universities.
The Tertiary Education Union criticised the changes, with president Dr Sandra Grey saying tertiary funding would remain below 2009 levels until 2016.
The Government should instead be increasing investment in tertiary education to "overcome the global financial crisis", Dr Grey said.
• Increasing student loan repayment rate from 10% to 12% of income.
• Removing the voluntary repayment bonus for people paying more than the required amount off student loans.
• Freezing the parental income threshold for student allowances until 2016.
• Capping student allowances at 200 weeks of study.
• Investing $158.9m over four years in engineering, science and research.