Survey results released today raise serious concerns about the future for postgraduate study in New Zealand, and highlight how poorly the Government has managed its own policy changes, the Green Party said today.
The Keep our Talent student-led survey into the impacts of the Government's decision to remove access to student allowances for all postgraduate students shows how damaging this change will be to research and innovation in New Zealand, and illustrates the severe financial stress that many individual students now face.
"Removing eligibility for student allowances from postgraduate students was a short-sighted and ill-considered decision that has the potential to drive our talented graduates overseas and worsen skill shortages in key areas," Green Party students spokesperson Holly Walker said today.
"To make matters worse, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has seriously mismanaged the release of the changes, so that many students are still unaware that they will be affected.
"Minister Joyce, through misleading statements at the time of the Budget, clearly implied that students who were part-way through their postgraduate study would not be affected."
In response to a question in Parliament from Ms Walker in May 2012, Minister Joyce said "students who apply for student allowances in 2013 for an enrolment period that started in 2012 will not be affected".
"I am contacted almost daily by students who carefully read the Budget announcement, understood that they would not be affected, and have budgeted and planned accordingly, but who are now finding as they make plans for next year that the rug has been pulled out from under them.
"These students are now facing the choice between severe financial insecurity as they are forced to borrow to live, or abandoning their study part way through. As the results of the Keep Our Talent survey show, many are seriously considering pulling out of their qualifications prior to completion.
"These students have had the rules change on them mid-stream, as they've signed up to study under certain conditions only to have the criteria changed on them.
"The survey results are also worrying for New Zealand's 'brain drain'. They show a large number of students are seriously considering moving overseas, either to continue their studies where they are able to receive more financial support, or once they've graduated to take up better job opportunities in order pay back their loans faster.
"We already have record numbers of New Zealanders going overseas. We need to keep our talented young people if we want to foster the innovative economy we're striving for.
"While it's great that these students have undertaken this valuable research, they've been forced to do so because of a lack of information. The Government still hasn't made any of their advice on this policy decision public, despite giving an assurance four months ago that the advice would be released 'soon'. No doubt the official advice on the impact of these changes identified many of the issues raised in the Keep Our Talent survey results released today."