"We think [fee freezes are] the wrong way to approach things -- the real issue is University's [sic] being able to control their costs. We certainly want access to tertiary education at a minimal cost and what we have said is that we're going to shift funding away from non-vocational courses to ones more vocationally oriented." [emphasis added]
Does this mean that it's now National Party policy to withdraw all funding from universities? Universities are (ideally) centres of higher learning, not vocational training. The latter is instead provided by trade schools and polytechnics. They have their value, of course, but so do the more intellectual pursuits of the University. I can't really believe that our major opposition party would want to turn New Zealand into a stagnant intellectual backwater.
Of course, there are vocational degrees like Commerce, Engineering, and so forth. But I'm not convinced that they really belong in universities anyway. Again, if it's explicitly vocational, it belongs in a Polytech or the like. Universities are to provide an education, not training. Training is merely a means to an end: preparation for some specific vocation. Education has both intrinsic and instrumental value. It is about developing the intellect, and broadening one's understanding of the world. This does serve to prepare one for later life, as the general skills one picks up from a liberal arts education are almost universally applicable. But, even more importantly, it develops one's excellence as a human specimen and rational agent.
Brownlee's comments express the values of a philistine. Yet another reason not to vote National. They want to turn our universities into glorified trade schools. *shudder*