Concerns Kiwis will be shut out of uni

BY JOHN HARTEVELT AND NATHAN BEAUMONT
Last updated 05:00 31/05/2010

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The Government wants thousands more international students filling schools and tertiary institutions, as the doors shut for many Kiwis wanting to attend university.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce says the move will be an economic lifeline for universities. But the Government has been branded a "cheapskate" for relying on overseas money to prop up the tertiary sector.

It comes as financially stressed universities cut more students with flagging grades and clamp down on new enrolments, with thousands of spaces for Kiwi students being lost this year alone.

Next year, pupils will need to have higher NCEA pass rates to enter previously open-entry courses.

There are about 100,000 foreign fee-paying students in New Zealand, but Mr Joyce wants thousands more.

He has said there was a limit to how much taxpayers could support the tertiary sector, and the Government was "pretty close" to that ceiling. "I am looking at ways of finding more money across the sector [but] that is going to pale into insignificance besides the potential of doing more in the international space."

In Australia, international students account for 20 per cent of university revenue, but here the figure is only about 12 per cent.

Labour tertiary education spokeswoman Maryan Street said the Government was being a "cheapskate" by relying on international students to boost universities.

"I have no problem with universities having international students, but there will be a problem if the arrival of international students squeezes out New Zealand students. We have got New Zealanders knocking on universities' doors and having them closed in their faces."

New Zealand Students Associations Union co-president David Do said it was important universities did not treat foreign students as "cash cows". "They come here because of the reputation of the education system. If the standard drops they will go to other countries. The Government needs to give more funding."

Moves to restrict entry criteria were already preventing thousands of Kiwis from going to university.

Massey University vice-chancellor Steve Maharey has blamed the tightening of university entrance criteria on the Government's freeze on funding for extra enrolments.

"The implications of the environment in which we are operating are that there are unlikely to be places for all those who wish to enrol."

Victoria University has already announced it is clamping down on new enrolments for the remaining two semesters this year. It expected 1500 new students would be turned away as a result, because the Government would not fund universities for more domestic students.

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It also requires higher NCEA marks from new students next year. Auckland University has been requiring higher grades since the start of this year.

Mr Joyce said last night that, while universities had a cap on the number of New Zealand students funded by the Government, they could enrol an unlimited number of foreign fee-paying students. This had no effect on the number of Kiwis who could attend university.

Foreign student numbers peaked at about 121,000 in 2003 and fell in each of the following years until an improvement last year. Latest statistics put the figure at 93,500, including about 15,400 in schools and 29,400 in tertiary institutions.

There was a 10 per cent growth in revenue from international fee-paying students last year, totalling $664 million.

- The Dominion Post

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