Reborn sector lobby fails to enlist NZ heads

June 28, 2002

Academics and students in New Zealand have resurrected a pressure group to lobby for more public funding for higher education in the run-up to the snap election called by the Labour government, writes Janet Rivers in Wellington.

But the coalition, last formed in 1996 to campaign on the same theme, has this time failed to win the support of vice-chancellors and chief executives.

The Public Tertiary Education Coalition comprises five university and polytechnic staff and student unions, collectively representing more than 200,000 members.

Spokesman Andrew Campbell said that despite government assurances that it was committed to lowering the cost of tertiary education, access to student allowances was at its lowest level ever, student debt continued to rise, investment in regional polytechnics was inadequate and staff salaries were falling further behind those of their professional peers.

A spokesman for the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee said it would not be part of the coalition because other groups wanted to push for a reduction in fees, continue to freeze fees or return to government-imposed fees. "We wish to retain our fee-setting powers," he said.

Association of Polytechnics executive director Jim Doyle said the coalition was formed as a one-off in 1996 and he did not believe it was now the best way to achieve more funding for the sector.

Voters go to the polls on July .

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