Labour today signalled a commitment to investing in education with the release of its tertiary education policy.
Associate education spokesperson (tertiary) Steve Maharey said the funding Labour was prepared to put into the sector would help lift standards and bring the cost of tertiary education down.
"We are committed to an injection of funding to help stabilise fees and to supporting research to ensure that staff in tertiary institutions maintain and develop expertise in their areas and can contribute to our vision for a knowledge society," Steve Maharey said.
"Our policy combines our desire for a tertiary education system which meets the needs of the country and the students who participate in it.
"A Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) will be set up, bringing together nominees from across the tertiary education sector to develop and advise government on appropriate long-term strategic directions for the sector and the immediate priority areas for additional funding. It will be expected to consider both the economic and social needs of the country.
"Labour rejects the Government's white paper research proposals. Instead, the current system will be beefed up to include additional funding for specific priority research programmes and more support for research with commercial relevance.
"And Labour believes our tertiary education system should be accessible to all New Zealanders. No student should find cost a restriction from undertaking tertiary education which best suits their talents, ambitions, and career prospects.
"For a start, we will be working with the tertiary institutions to ensure that where extra funding is made available for particular areas, this translates into lower fees for students.
"Our commitment to 'no interest' on the student loan scheme - announced in May - has been set out in more detail and includes a system to ensure that low-income earners are not caught by spiralling debt. (see attachment).
"Students will also be able to borrow up o $1000 for course costs (currently $500) and Labour will undertake a review to investigate the economic and social impact of high student debt levels - something the Government should have done years ago.
"We will repeal the Voluntary Students Association Membership Act and allow students to pay student association fees from their student loan at the time of enrolment," Steve Maharey said.
Other features of the policy include:
· Funding to assist students to find jobs over summer
· Maori and Pacific Island programmes to lift participation
· Scholarships for low income students to encourage participation
· Lifting the standards of teaching in tertiary institutions
· A Tertiary Ombudsman within the Ombudsman's office
· A co-ordinated nationwide strategy to ensure New Zealand gains more from the "export" of tertiary education.
"It is a sustainable package of measures designed to be implemented to complement the plans that Labour has throughout the education system and in areas like economic and industry development," Steve Maharey said.
The Policy is available on Labour's website at www.labour.org.nz