Voting is under way in the New Zealand general election. Explore the main parties’ pledges at Policy.nz, but here’s a whistlestop tour of what’s on offer in the world of tertiary education.
Read more two-minute policy wraps here
Tertiary fees and student support
Labour’s biggest education pitch in the previous election was the fees-free tertiary education plan. Now National, The New Conservatives and Act hope to scrap it, seeing it as wasteful spending in a time of economic difficulty.
Labour will continue to offer the first year free and expand the eligibility for the Training Incentive Allowance, a payment to help cover the cost of studying while on benefit. Both the Greens and the Māori Party are looking to make the student allowance universal regardless of age, parental income, relationship status or partner’s income. Act wants to scrap student allowances completely.
The Greens will adjust student allowance payments annually to match increases in the average wage until it’s replaced by a guaranteed minimum income of $325 per week. This support system will apply to all adults not in full-time work, including students.
The Māori Party would double the student allowance payment and extend its eligibility to post-graduate students, part-time and long course students. Living costs would be scrapped, and they’d introduce free public transport for tertiary students.
The Greens want to raise the income threshold for student loan repayments. Both the Māori Party and the Greens are considering writing off student debt for graduates who stay to work in New Zealand. The Māori Party has suggested a graduates would have to stay for a minimum five years. Act wants to fund education through individual bank accounts for each student.
Meanwhile, National is hoping to double the technology sector by 2030, by offering tertiary scholarships to students from low decile schools to study STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) degrees.
Tertiary education and research
With the closure of borders, the loss of international students as a source of funding for tertiary institutions is a source of concern. Labour hopes to develop a strategic recovery plan and review funding systems.
National wants to allow tertiary education providers to bring international students into New Zealand, provided health checks are passed. Quarantine process and costs would be managed by tertiary providers, with auditing from the Ministry of Health. National also wants to restore funding to ICT graduate schools and fund 50 overseas STEM PhD students to spend six months in NZ.
The Māori Party hopes to see specific funding and support for STEM academies for Māori and wants more pathways for Māori and Pacific students who have not achieved entrance requirements for tertiary education.
The Greens would require tertiary institutions to report on their responsiveness to Māori student needs. They hope to develop a national Pasifika education strategy, such as funding to assist Pasifika people to enter healthcare. The Greens will also fund institutions to improve accessibility for students with disabilities.
National has identified a need for more research on child development, and hopes to develop a National Centre for Child Development focusing on pre- and postnatal products and services.
TOP wants to encourage intensive short courses at tertiary level and reform university funding models, such as universities setting up their own capital funds. ACT wants universities to protect freedom of expression by introducing a mandatory code of practice.
Trades and vocational education
Currently Labour’s fees free programme includes free training up to two years in targeted areas. The party would continue to support young people to meet entry requirements for trades training, and fund employment programmes for people at high risk of long term unemployment. Labour also plans to reintroduce funding for night classes, and wants to see a complete reform of the vocational education sector.
Meanwhile, National wants to reverse recent vocational reforms and hopes to see the return of independent polytechs. It hopes to continue developing the trade academies programmes in secondary schools. New Conservative want to start streaming secondary students more suited to trade training starting from year 9.
The Greens will require job creation and apprentice programmes to feature policies promoting gender inclusion, and hope to review the gender split of Covid-19 training programmes. According to the Greens, these courses are currently skewed for male-dominated industries. They also hope to provide training for new clean energy jobs, and establish workforce reentry programmes for sole parents.
The Māori Party will develop a $200 million fund for whānau, hāpu and iwi education and training initiatives, and double Māori and Pacific trade training and cadetship placements. They will also permanently remove fees for all apprenticeship programmes.
The Opportunities Party wants to fund polytechs to support and advise companies, encourage secondary schools to place more emphasis on careers in construction, and increase funding for coding training.
Explore the parties’ pledges in more depth at Policy. The essential campaign dates are here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here.