He believes that if the Government does not lift its cap on student numbers, universities could be forced to turn away school leavers with University Entrance for the first time in living memory.
Again the question must be asked, what happened to the knowledge economy and life long learning?
However, universities have been stripped of doctoral scholarship funding and $37 million in small funding, including cuts to adult community education that have caused widespread outcry.
This will only make the brain drain larger not smaller.
Professor McCormack, who is also deputy chairman of the New Zealand Vice Chancellors Committee, said what was most worrying was the fact universities had not been given any money to cope with students queuing at their gates.
This year, AUT got 14,000 applications from new students – up from 11,000 to 12,000 in each of the previous five years – and rolls had risen to 5.5 per cent above funding levels.
AUT has a roll of about 20,000 this year.
But despite soaring demand, Education Minister Anne Tolley has told the university it will be penalised if its student numbers top 3 per cent of its cap.
Professor McCormack said the university sector was not asking for a lot of money – just tens of millions from a billion-dollar Budget – to help address the high number of students wanting to get in.
Ms Tolley said yesterday that she was watching the situation carefully and working with the Vice Chancellors’ Committee.
Watching the situation will not make things better, action is required to improve it.
The University of Auckland’s vice chancellor, Professor Stuart McCutcheon, shared Professor McCormack’s concerns, particularly on the loss of doctoral scholarships.
He said his university decided this year not to increase its roll numbers and was now selecting students with “high ability” for all its courses, with the aim of encouraging them through a graduate programme.
The prospect of qualifying school-leavers been turned away from universities has worried student leaders.
Jordan King, a co-president of the New Zealand Union of Students Associations, said he would be “highly concerned at any situation where school-leavers who have the appropriate qualifications at the end of high school are unable to access tertiary education”.