Recent public attention about tertiary fees should prompt us to reintroduce free tertiary education.
Labour has announced a fees-free policy. But from a contrary viewpoint, The NZ Initiative has recently argued for means-testing student loans plus restoring interest on tuition aid.
QPEC believes that tertiary education should be free, continuing on from public primary and secondary education. This would be a return to earlier practice in NZ, and current practice elsewhere in the world, such as in Germany, Slovenia and Cuba.
- Free tertiary education is inclusive – it widens access to tertiary institutions to a broader cross-section of the population.
- If education is a social good, improving access to better jobs, secure homes and healthier lives, free education is an investment in the future of the country. It builds an informed and critical populace, consistent with the “broader social and economic outcomes” of the Government’s Investment Approach.
- It means that many more NZ graduates would stay in the country and/or return from working overseas, because they wouldn’t be crippled with a huge debt as they re-enter their home country.
QPEC believes that free higher education contributes to the public good through enhancing the country’s wellbeing, equity and social justice.
“We believe The NZ Initiative paper is fundamentally misguided,” says Dr David Cooke, tertiary spokesperson for QPEC. “It’s just squirming around within a market model that shouldn’t apply to tertiary education. Education is not a business. Treating it as such over 25 years has harmed the system and its graduates”.
Many other countries have maintained free higher education. “We should do likewise,” says Dr Cooke.
“A well-funded free system of tertiary education is a basic plank of democracy in modern societies”.