Monday, December 13, 2004


Deborah Coddington, in criticising the fact that only half of university students complete their qualification, says that we have a "snobby attitude" toward university study. But her idea of snobbery is a little strange:

"University is not for everyone. We're screaming out for tradespeople, yet people are being told to go to university."

While I agree with her underlying attitude that some at uni would indeed be better off taking a trade, it's certainly not snobbish to encourage people to pursue the opportunities open to them. Except in the original sense that people sine nobilitate are being allowed to share the same opportunities as their "betters".

I'm also surprised that Coddington, an ACT MP, shows so little faith in the market. According to market dogma, skill surpluses and shortages should simply result in changes in wages and salaries, thus signalling which educational direction people should pursue. Coddington's complaint is either an admission that this mechanism is not working satisfactorily (undermining the whole ACT program), or that she simply wants cheaper plumbers, and the market be damned.

As for the substance of her complaint, it seems that New Zealand attainment rates are in line with international norms. It's not at all unusual for people to fail to complete tertiary study, for a number of reasons, and its no reflection on entry standards that people change their minds about what they want to do with their lives.