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The Government will rely on the failure of its own fees-free policy to fund the establishment of one mega polytechnic, National’s Spokesperson for Tertiary Education Dr Shane Reti says.

“Official documents show the massive cost of the vocational reform mega merger will be funded by reprioritising ongoing underspends in the failing fees-free programme.

“Cabinet documents forecasted 80,000 learners taking up fees-free last year, when in fact only 50,000 students enrolled, causing the $2.8 billion program to return $197 million back to the Government to reallocate.

“However even that reallocation will not meet the eye watering establishment costs of the polytechnic reforms, costed at up to $400 million. That means the rest will need to be pulled from other areas of tertiary education.

“Industry collaboration projects, scholarships, awards and university programmes such as the University Led Innovation programme, were cancelled in Budget 2019 to come up with the cash and now we know why. 

“These reforms show the Government is more interested in ideological changes than meaningful results, with the $400 million establishment of the mega polytechnic more than the cost of treating all New Zealand women with advanced breast cancer drugs for the next decade.

“If elected, National would return polytechnic assets taken by this Government and give them back to communities.

“The Minister must go back to the drawing board as his vocational policy is likely to cost jobs, slash participation and hit the taxpayer hard in the pocket.”

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