University Vice-Chancellors today congratulated Chris Hipkins on his appointment as Minister of Education as well as Associate Ministers of Education Kelvin Davis, Jenny Salesa, and Tracey Martin, and Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, Dr Megan Woods.
Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Chair of Universities New Zealand, says, “We look forward to working with Ministers and the coalition government to progress key priorities to benefit New Zealand and New Zealanders.
“Universities are key drivers of New Zealand’s economic growth and social well-being. All eight universities are well placed to be part of the solution to help resolve key challenges facing the country including sustainable economic development, increased exports, a healthy environment, and a fair and equitable society, to improve the well-being of all New Zealanders.”
“We know that a university degree is a good investment for graduates and their families and whānau. Graduates earn more, 98% are employed, and they are happier and healthier than school leavers. They also provide New Zealand’s future thinkers, leaders, citizens, parents, employers and employees that underpin a well-functioning society.
“University researchers and experts are already addressing the pressing issues New Zealand faces and can inform policy setting and decision-making to progress government and coalition priorities including education, social development, health, economy, and the environment.”
In addition, New Zealand’s universities can support the priorities of the coalition Government by
- Working in schools to improve social mobility – particularly improving access for those who are first in family to attend university and increasing the number of young Māori and Pasifika students achieving university entrance and starting university. Universities therefore welcome the appointment of an Associate Minister of Māori Education to focus on these issues.
- Growing the regions by lifting educational attainment of groups traditionally under-represented at university and by generating and transferring knowledge that benefits regional communities and their economies. Universities are among the largest employers and creators of jobs in the regions where they are located.
- Advising on migration changes to ensure New Zealand attracts genuine, high-quality international students.
- Advising on student study and accommodation support so it is set at an appropriate level and reaches those most in need.
New Zealand has a world-class university system delivering high-quality teaching, learning and research. But Professor McCutcheon warns that it faces challenges after years of being underfunded – sitting below the OECD average.
“Instead our universities are funded amongst a range of countries we do not traditionally compare ourselves against, including Indonesia, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil and Turkey.”
This funding drop has seen a sustained drop in international rankings which affect universities’ ability to attract and retain world-class academics, carry out leading research, and attract international students which universities are overly reliant on financially.
Universities have come under further financial pressure over the past decade through a proliferation of relatively costly initiatives and unfunded mandates, while still being required to deliver a 3% surplus annually.
Professor McCutcheon says, “We look forward to working with government to discuss and resolve these issues and enable universities to contribute to New Zealand and New Zealand’s success.”