Labour is leaving students and the tertiary education sector in turmoil because of its inability to outline the true impacts of its “free” tertiary education policy, Tertiary Education Spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The policy is just weeks away from taking effect and so far, all Labour has been able to confirm is that labourers and checkout counter operators will now be paying more for lawyers and accountants to go to university – including, it turns out, those from Australia,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“Have we got so much money in this country that the top priority for education spending is to make it free for Australians to study in New Zealand?

“Students, providers, and the wider sector need to know how this policy will actually work. The lack of detail is creating a mess for students, Studylink, and tertiary institutions as the next academic year rapidly approaches.

“Mr Hipkins has also said the policy could increase student numbers by 15 per cent – meaning around 46,000 extra students a year - yet the tertiary institutions have no time to prepare to cater to them.

“This policy will lead to overcrowded labs, classrooms and lecture theatres and a big squeeze on student accommodation – especially now Australians have learned they can also study for free.

“Other questions that need to be answered include what controls will be in place on high-cost courses?  Because, as we know, the study won’t be “free” – it will be paid for by the taxpayer. Will the courses be free even if a student fails to finish the course?

“Over the last nine years, the tertiary education sector in New Zealand has gone from strength to strength, creating thousands of jobs and providing world-class education to New Zealanders and international students.

“It is starting to look like rushed, rash policy changes are Hipkins’ modus operandi. He needs to start working with the sector and postpone the introduction of this policy by a year so that they can make sense of it and prepare before it is brought in.

“Labour’s tertiary policy is expensive and unfair, and its implementation is already looking like a real mess.”

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