Sunday, April 14, 2024

$128m funding boost for tertiary sector

An additional $128 million will be invested into the tertiary sector to increase tuition subsidies at degree-level and above by a further 4% in 2024 and 2025, Education Minister, Jan Tinetti announced today.

The Minister said the funding is in addition to the 5% increase provided at Budget 2023.

“The Government has heard the concerns of the sector. When we began our Budget process Universities and other degree providers were forecasting enrolment increases. The opposite has occurred, and it is clear that there is a need for additional support,” said Ms Tinetti.

“This funding will help maintain the quality and breadth of higher education offerings and research capability in our tertiary institutions. This is vital for our students, our tertiary workforce, our broader research system, and for economic and social wellbeing in New Zealand. It will not resolve all the issues that universities are facing, but it should make a positive difference.”

The Minister said the funding boost will go to all degree granting institutions including Wānanga and Te Pūkenga.

“It should be noted that while recent focus has been on Victoria and Otago Universities, other institutions have previously managed declines in student numbers. We did not want to disadvantage those institutions which in some cases had already made difficult decisions,” she said.

“Presently, our tertiary institutions are experiencing an unexpectedly large decline in domestic enrolments and increased cost pressures. In addition, although international enrolments are increasing, they remain well below pre-COVID levels. Similar issues are being faced by tertiary providers worldwide.”

Finance Minister, Grant Robertson said the funding would come from a transfer of underspends in Vote Tertiary Education, including from the fees free scheme caused by lower than expected enrolments.

“Tertiary institutions are autonomous and make their own decisions on how best to respond to their financial situation. This funding increase will help universities and other institutions deliver their strategic plans as agreed by their Councils. The Government expects the subsidy increase will be considered by when universities make final decisions on their offerings for 2024 and 2025,” said Mr Robertson.

“As part of its decisions Cabinet has asked for a report back by the end of July on whether recently announced changes represent a threat to capability or provision of programmes nationwide,” he said.

The Government will also review higher education funding, including the Performance Based Research Fund, said Minister Tinetti.

“Today’s funding announcement is a temporary boost for two years. We need to take a thorough look at the funding system during this time,” she said.

“The current financial situation of some tertiary institutions points to the need to take a broader look into the way our higher education system is funded and financed.  Decisions on the scope and approach to the review will be taken before the end of 2023.

“The Government remains committed in supporting and working with the tertiary sector, so it meets the evolving needs of students and continues to make a critical contribution to research and innovation in Aotearoa.”

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