Opportunities from the Land of the Long White Cloud?

Posted on July 13, 2011


Shortly I will be off to New Zealand on a trip I have wanted to conduct for a long time. Most of my mother’s side of the family emigrated to New Zealand over 20 years ago and two of my grandparents ended their lives out there in what they saw as a better lifestyle. For me going out there is about enjoying a holiday and spending time with my aunt and uncle in Christchurch.

However it dawned on me several months ago that this also presented an opportunity for me to use my time out there for something that may prove very useful to future students at Kingston… As such this trip has become much less of a holiday and much more of a working trip.

But why is New Zealand of interest to the future of students in the UK?

Funding for higher education in New Zealand (known as tertiary education) is through a combination of government subsidies and student fees. The government funds approved courses by a tuition grant based on the number of enrolled students in each course and the amount of study time each course requires. Courses are rated on an equivalent full-time Student (EFTS) basis. Students enrolled in courses can access Student Loans and Student Allowances to assist with fees and living costs.

Most tertiary education students rely on some form of state funding to pay for their tuition and living expenses. Mostly, students rely on state provided student loans and allowances. Secondary school students sitting the state run examinations are awarded bursaries and scholarships, depending on their results, that assist in paying some tuition fees. Universities and other funders also provide scholarships or funding grants to promising students, though mostly at a postgraduate level.

The Student Loan Scheme is available to all New Zealand permanent residents and can cover course fees; course related expenses and can also provide a weekly living allowance for full time students. The loan must be repaid at a rate dependent on income and repayments are normally recovered via the income tax system by wage deductions. Low income earners and students in full time study can have the interest on their loans written off.

Some of you reading through this may have realised that this is very similar to the system that we have post 2012 in the UK. Fees in New Zealand are variable and the average student debt in NZ is now about $28,000 and this is around £14,500. This is not as high as it will be in the UK but the system of fees has been in place for significantly longer and students only pay back 10% of their earnings over $19,084 a year.

Some of the similarities are striking.

So during my time in NZ, I will be spending a significant period of time with three Universities in the country all of which are ranked within the top 300 in the world: Auckland, Canterbury and Otago. The hope is that by learning lessons from Universities in NZ we can learn lessons that will allow us to be one step ahead when 2012 strikes.

I will also be holding receptions on behalf of the University for some of our Alumni who live in NZ to keep in contact with our former students and to get their opinions on the changes over here and what we can learn.

I am also looking forward to watching England v Argentina in the pool stages of the Rugby World Cup in Dunedin.

This is an exciting venture and a report will be going to the University Board of Governors and the Academic Board as well as to the government’s Department for Business Innovation and Skills. I will also be trying to keep my blog up to date with interesting ideas and examples of good practice that we may be able to bring back to the UK. If anyone wants more information or has ideas I should be exploring out there then please let me know…