Axed post-graduate allowances 'threat to research'

CATHERINE HARRIS
Last updated 05:00 01/12/2012

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One in  five post-graduate students in a new survey is thinking of going overseas because of lack of financial support at home.

The survey, by Victoria University student group Keep Our Talent, claims a Budget decision to axe student allowances for post-graduates next year threatens New Zealand research and innovation.

Group spokeswoman Amanda Thomas said that the changes would cause real hardship and undervalued educational excellence.

"The job market is expecting higher and higher levels of education.

"Forty-five per cent of unemployed people are under 25, so coming out with just a bachelor's degree doesn't give you that edge that you really do need in such a competitive job market."

The changes had also alarmed academic staff, who were worried about the country's research capacity.

"A lot of really inexpensive but really valuable research is done by post-graduate students - both our own research but also we do a lot of work that does get academic research projects off the ground."

About 202 people responded to the survey which was open to students and the wider public.

The survey showed that up to 40 per cent of student respondents were reconsidering post-graduate study.

About 20 per cent were also considering going overseas, either to seek out more support or seek out higher wages to service their debts.

Thomas said Australia was a prime destination, with more scholarships and fees waivers for PhDs in some states.

The Government's move affects all post-graduates except honours students.

Anyone doing more than 200 weeks of study - about four academic years - will no longer get an allowance, which is up to $204.96 a week, plus an accommodation supplement of $40 a week.

Their ability to borrow living costs from the student loan scheme is capped at $172 a week.

The effective loss of $70 a week would result in a lot more stress for post-graduate students, who already had heavy workloads, said Thomas.

"Postgraduate study is a full-time job, with most students often working much longer than 40-hour weeks on their research."

The group was inspired by the late Sir Paul Callaghan, who had strived to keep talent in the country, Thomas said.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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