New Zealand v-cs bite the bullet and stick within tuition fee limits

October 31, 2003

New Zealand universities are setting student fees for 2004 within limits they criticised when they were announced earlier this year.

Although the government's hope that rises would be less than the rate of inflation has not been fulfilled, the four universities that have so far increased fees have done so by less than the allowable maximum.

After uncontrolled rises in the 1990s, followed by a three-year freeze, institutions are now able to set their own fees up to prescribed maxima.

The government was initially prepared to allow increases of up to 15 per cent. But in August it backtracked and confirmed a 5 per cent limit.

Vice-chancellors described this as giving in to political considerations.

The new limit highlighted the government's decision to link future increases in the maxima to the consumer price index. Vice-chancellors said that over the past five years the CP... rose by just 9.9 per cent while earnings rose by 19.4 per cent. And university staff have asked for a 30 per cent pay rise over the next three years.

Announcing a fee rise of 4.1 per cent last month, University of Auckland vice-chancellor John Hood said university costs were driven largely by international costs, and that the CP... was a "wholly inappropriate index".

Auckland University of Technology hoped to make its decision this week.

Vice-chancellor John Hinchcliffe said the increase would "really have to be pretty close" to 5 per cent, as the university had a large mortgage and its fees were low compared with other universities.

National students' association president Fleur Fitzsimons said last week that any fee rise was unjustified, because the government had already increased its funding above the rate of inflation.

After Massey University agreed on a 3.5 per cent increase, protesting students broke down doors to force their way into the registry building.

There were 12 arrests.

Fees increases at polytechnics will vary from 0 to 5 per cent.

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