NZ government abandons competition for collaboration

December 17, 1999

WELLINGTON

New Zealand's new coalition government has made reducing the loan-interest burden on students a priority.

The centre-left Labour/Alliance coalition, which last month ousted the centre-right national government after nearly a decade, also aims to establish a new tertiary education advisory commission.

While it has not promised much in the way of extra money, Labour has made clear it wants a shift in direction from a competitive to a more cooperative model, with greater consultation.

The new government has generally been welcomed by the tertiary sector. The education portfolio has gone to Trevor Mallard, Labour's opposition education spokesperson, while associate education minister Steve Maharey, a former sociology lecturer at Massey University, will be responsible for tertiary education.

Dr Maharey said the top priority would be to abolish interest payments on loans for students and low earners during their studies.

He would not rush into any changes, but wanted a "measured, consensus building" approach. A tertiary education advisory commission of about seven independent and "visionary" people would be set up early next year to act as a think-tank on how best to implement Labour's policies, develop a strategic plan and build consensus, Dr Maharey said.

An important part of Labour's policy, he added, was to shift direction from a competitive and market-driven tertiary education policy to a more cooperative and collaborative sector, including reversing the policy of putting private providers on an equal funding footing with state institutions in 2001.

He also wants to foster centres of excellence in research.

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