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Educators could "game the system" if funds linked to jobs

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Steven Joyce
Steven Joyce

By Matthew Backhouse of NZPA

Wellington, July 14 NZPA - Tertiary educators could try to "game the system" if their funding was linked to students getting jobs, Labour says.

The comments come after Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce detailed previously announced plans to introduce performance based funding of about 5 percent targeted at course completion and student retention.

In a speech to tertiary education providers at Victoria University today, Mr Joyce said he wanted to see funding linked to employment outcomes, not just internal benchmarks.

"This will send a strong signal to students about which qualifications and which institutions offer the best career prospects - and that's what tertiary education has got to be about," he said.

"I'm confident this approach will encourage institutions to provide more support for their students and achieve better results for individual students and the country."

But Labour tertiary education spokesman Grant Robertson said today that some tertiary providers could try to take advantage of performance based funding by moving figures around to qualify.

"Unfortunately some institutions may choose to game the system in order to meet the criteria -- that's the danger of having prescriptive criteria," he told NZPA.

"People will take the opportunity to move around the data to meet that criteria, and rather than getting an overall improvement in performance, you just get people ticking the right boxes."

Mr Robertson said while it was important for institutions to produce quality courses and graduates, he was not convinced about linking performance to employment outcomes.

"Not everybody who takes a particular course at university is going to end up in a job directly related to that.

"That doesn't mean that education has been wasted or is a failure."

Mr Robertson said he was opposed to any rigid criteria that would lead universities to focus more on vocational training than education.

"If you were to put in very prescriptive measures around linking it to employment outcomes, that could be counterproductive."

He did not think Mr Joyce's speech adequately addressed "the issue that is most immediately on the minds of parents and students at the moment" -- that of enrolment numbers at universities being capped.

"He (Mr Joyce) made a comment in the speech that he doesn't think it's desirable, but that's all."

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