Universities hike levies as Govt funding runs dryPosted: September 19, 2009
Student representatives say the government is abdicating its responsibility for tertiary education funding, with universities increasingly turning to levies to top up operational budgets.
The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations said Friday they were not surprised by a recent spate of levy increases, which university councils say will free up core government funding for staff and research.
While the vast majority of revenue still comes from government funding, many institutions also charge a levy in order to subsidise their facilities and pastoral care programmes, such as crèches, academic support or health centres.
The latest round of fee setting has seen significant rises in student services levies across the country: Waikato University’s $140 levy for intramural students in 2010 represents a 40 percent increase, while Massey’s has almost doubled at $200.
Victoria University has yet to announce its fees for next year, but Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh told students at a forum last fortnight that they could expect a “substantial” increase in levies.
NZUSA co-president Jordan King said the levies were unfair to students but acknowledged the universities’ situation was “not healthy”.
The unions had an obligation to stick up for students but understood the pressures being placed on institutions, he said.
“We’ve seen a very small CPI adjustment to core tertiary education funding, but of course that’s been mitigated by things like the tripartite funding being removed which helped pay for staffing costs.
“It’s not a very rosy picture for the tertiary sector and it looks like that burden’s going to fall increasingly on the backs of students”, he said.
Canterbury University was the first to announce increases in July, raising its levy from $85 to $600 from 2010.
Canterbury Vice-Chancellor Rod Carr defended the increase, saying the levy would reduce the university’s expenditure on student services and facilities and focus core component funding on research and teaching.
Students were getting a “crap deal” due to under-funding but the university had an obligation to protect the quality of its teaching, he said.
However education minister Anne Tolley insisted there was “no strong evidence” that universities were under-funded.
She said universities’ revenues had increased in recent years and while component funding had decreased for some universities, performance-based funding such as the Performance Based Research Fund made up for most of the loss.
Some universities might be facing funding pressure for over-provision, but this resulted from management behaviours rather than student demand, she said.
[Originally published in this week’s issue of New Zealand Education Review]
Just as an addendum, Waikato, Massey, Victoria and Canterbury constitute half the universities in the country, and the other half simply haven’t set their fees yet. There could well be even more hikes in the weeks to come – check back in a couple of weeks and we’ll see if we have any updates.
[Update: now republished in University World News!]