The Tertiary Education Union has called for a $1 billion boost in tertiary education spending to stop the rot it says is harming universities, polytechnics and wananga.
The union is holding its annual conference in Wellington and on Monday launched a blueprint for change, including limits on the number of students per staff member and restricting government funding to public tertiary institutions.
The union says the Government does not value tertiary education as a public good and, in real terms, funding has fallen by $1 billion since 2009.
But the Government says the union's figures ignore the revaluation of the student loan scheme, which inflated tertiary spending in 2009 by hundreds of millions of dollars.
It says it has increased spending on tertiary institutions by 13% since 2008.