The good news is that the government followed through on its promise to abolish interest on student loans. The bad news is that recent figures for university funding in New Zealand show we are spending about $A5000 a student less each year than Australia. The report New Zealand University Funding Over the Last Two Decades, by Wellington researchers Guy and Helen Scott, says government support a student has fallen from a peak of more than $11,000 in the mid-1980s to the current figure of less than $7000 (both in 1999 dollars). So funding per student is now only about two-thirds of the level in Australia.
The report says universities have tried to balance the books by increasing student to staff ratios. Where there was one academic for each 15.5 students in 1980, by 1998 the figure had blown out to 18.4 students per academic. It also notes a trend away from the sciences.