Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: A tough elitist approach is in students' best interest

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Kerre Woodham believes universities should take an elitist approach. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Kerre Woodham believes universities should take an elitist approach. Photo / Mark Mitchell

So, Treasury has recommended that interest on student loans be reintroduced and tertiary funding be targeted at younger students and higher-level qualifications. Amen to that.

The number of young people being sold false promises is a blight on this country. All that hoo-ha about a knowledge economy back in the Helen Clark era led many young people, ill-equipped for university study, to saddle themselves with enormous debt with nothing to show for their money at the end of a few years but 20 papers towards a half-assed bachelor of arts.

It was Steven Joyce who pointed out last year that more than half those who undertake BA degrees never finish them. What a waste of money for both the taxpayers and the young people.

Make it tougher to get into universities. Set extremely high benchmarks for anyone wanting to enter any of the disciplines. Take only the brightest and the best from across all schools, deciles 1 to 10.

And give them the funding and support they need.

What's wrong with universities being elitist? We demand it of our sportspeople - why would we not want the same for our academics of the future?

If I was signing up for a course of study and a student loan, I'd want to know how many graduates from that course were working in the field in which they'd studied - or at the very least, were in well-paid, interesting jobs.

If the institute couldn't provide me with those stats, I'd be very wary of burdening myself with a debt the size of a downpayment on a house.

We need to change the way we fund our universities and we must stop promising our young people that there's a pot of gold at the end of the educational rainbow. The only golden arch many of these kids will ever see is the one at Macca's when they apply for a job flipping burgers. And they'll be lucky if they get that.

- Herald on Sunday

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