Thursday, July 28, 2005

Funding education

The removal of interest on student loans - as promised by Labour - would, I think, be a good thing. Former students won't be burdened by debt, new students won't be put off and the public purse will be more likely to collect on the principal of the loan, which we won't if people disappear overseas and never return.

How can education funding be improved for *new* students? I'd suggest the following:

- A two year, full time (48 week) standard degree. This would be able to cover the same ground academically as the current standard of three short years. It would cost roughly 80% of the fees for a three year degree. It would save students a lot of money in subsistence costs, due to only spending two years in college. It would also get people into the graduate workforce quicker, which would be good for the students *and* the overall economy.

- An entitlement for everyone to have the (cost) equivalent of five years post-18 training - this could be anything from a degree to subsidised workplace training.

- Every tertiary institution being required to move towards zero-fee courses. If Southland Tech can manage it, why can't others?

1 comment:

Joe Hendren said...

I agree that the example of Southland Tech demonstrates free education is possible, and popular. Of course the right would complain that if it was free everyone would want it - but surely this would be a good thing.

The cruial trouble with a 48 week university year is that it would no time for the poor academics to do research. The key difference between a poly/PTE and a university is that teaching is meant to be research based - ie part of the benefit of university is that your teachers are (hopefully) leaders in their respective fields.

IMHO the move to a greater market driven 'bums on seats' model in the Education Act 1990 has meant that research is not as valued as high as it was. The performance based research fund (PBRF) is a step in the right direction, even if it is full of the wrong incentives of a market model - ie the encouragement of research that has commercial applications. If we really want to attract world class academics to NZ we should also put greater value on 'blue skies' research, as this is where the true discoveres are made.