Sensible to fund disciplines with skill shortages

The University of Auckland graduation ceremony we attended  was for optometry and science degrees for people with surnames in the last half of the alphabet.

If appearance and names could be relied on as a guide, a sprinkling of the graduands were Maori or Pacific; more than a third were Pakeha and nearly half were Asian.

That was three years ago and it sounds like there still aren’t many Pacific students opting for science.

A Pacific community leader has warned of a “Pasifika uprising” if the Government goes through with a threat to force Auckland University to take more engineering students, which may cause redundancies in other faculties.

Rev Uesifili UNasa, the university’s chaplain and head of Auckland Council’s Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel, said the move threatened Pacific participation in the university, which was concentrated in faculties such as arts and education. . .

The strategy he is attacking is designed to encourage more students in disciplines with skills shortages.

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce told a Herald series on job/skill mismatches, which began yesterday, that he would direct the university to take more engineering and science students if it did not do so voluntarily in response to funding changes.

This year’s Budget lifted funding for engineering by $42 million, or 8.8 per cent, and for science by $17 million (2 per cent), while funding for all other subjects was frozen.

Funding disciplines in need of graduates is sensible policy which makes best use of scarce public funds.

The chaplain would be serving his students better if he dropped the rhetoric and put his energy into dealing with whatever stops all but a few considering science or engineering which are far more likely to lead to job opportunities.

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