Sunday, February 06, 2005

Jackaroos and our Universities.

The Sunday Star Times has a big, but unfortunately somewhat lop-sided article relating to Aussie's coming to NZ to go to our Universities.

It suggests that students are coming over here, accessing the student loan scheme and denying places to NZ students because it is cheaper here and entry requirements to some of their courses are high.

I would be wary of any knee jerk reaction that toughened up on access to our cousins for the simple fact that our students still get a pretty good deal when they head over across the ditch. Especially when they go over to undertake post-graduate research based study.

You see in many cases the Australian government will pay for your fees in addition to living allowances if your post grad study is research based.
This is under a scheme called the 'Australian Postgraduate Awards' and they are great.
I had this spelt out to me when I visited the ANU's attempt to lure our students to their institution, basically they where willing to pay for my fees and give me A$18,000 a year to spend if I went over and undertook my research masters in International development studies in ANU's Politics department. This is of course dependent on me nutting out a 1st class honours degree which is yet to be seen.
The scheme is very well used and I would be interested to see just how much NZ students are benefiting from it.

Where there is disparity it rests in the cost of the courses and the fact that we have to pay their University fees up front. Also prior to this year we were able to get HECS discounts but Howard's government changed that - thanks (this is what the changes mean)

However we are still entitled to access the 'student learning entitlement' - please do not rush off and apply just yet, there is a massive bureaucracy to wade through to receive it - if you are lucky.

The article was also a little misleading in that it said that Aussie students can get a student allowance - yes they can but only after 2 years.
And anyway we are entitled to their equivalent called Austudy

Further you may remember a couple of weeks ago the SST ran an article stating that "Tertiary fees in NZ among highest "- interesting yet seemingly inconsistent with the gist of this story, why would Aussies want to come here again I hear you ask???

Its funny though. Obviously we don't want what small imbalance there seems to be - to go overboard, yet I would not want to get into a pissing contest with the Australians with regard to fees, assistance or especially awards and scholarship entitlements. However I would be really concerned if the increases meant that our students are missing out.

The SST article would have been better if it looked more closely at the sort of help our students get when we head over there, then a better comparison would be able to be made rather than a simple 'Aussies are screwing us again' story.

Personally I am happy carrying a few of them through our Uni's. It means when someone starts blubbering on about how we neglect our duties when it comes to defense (questionable in itself) one can retort that we would prefer to spend our money carrying people in education rather than annihilation.

I am pissed though that our universities see fit to head over there on recruitment drives (read massive marketing budgets) It is well known for example, that at Auckland University we have reached both the physical and desirable limit for numbers of students attending yet we spend millions and millions trying to simply cram more people in.
To need to go over and endevour to bring students back seems like an absolutely silly idea and can only result in higher fees for us Kiwi student types.


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