Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Michael Cullen warned representatives of the New Zealand University Students’ Association that his control of both Finance and Education portfolios would be “something of a poisoned chalice” for the tertiary education sector.
His speech at the NZUSA conference in late January reiterated that he would not attempt to wield his influence in Budget affairs to favour universities or their students.
“It is important that I burst this bubble of expectations fairly early. One might in fact argue that having the Finance Minister as your minister is something of a poisoned chalice.”
“I need to ensure that the taxpaying public get good value for their money, and that all new expenditure passes rigorous tests in terms of delivering social and economic outcomes that benefit the whole community.”
Dr. Cullen went on to say that the latest initiatives, such as the Student Allowance’s increased personal income threshold and interest-free student loan policy came with “a hefty price-tag”, and future Government expenditure would be more likely to focus on improving the “quality and relevance” of courses provided.
“While questions of financing inevitably loom large in student politics, I would suggest that they pale into insignificance in comparison with issues such as the standard of pedagogy”.
“Ideally what we want to achieve is a situation where graduates are comfortable with their level of debt given the value of the qualification they wish to attain and their future career prospects,” says Dr. Cullen.