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Auckland Students Begin Occupation Of University

Compiled by Selwyn Manning

Another student occupation began at Auckland University at around 12.30 this afternoon when about 100 students stormed the Old Arts Building.

They are calling for the Auckland University Council to announce no fee rises for next year.

Fee setting at Auckland is to get under way in the middle of exam time. The students are building on last week's protest action at Victoria and Canterbury universities.

Education is fast becoming a thorn in the side of the National minority Government. Last week it moved to appease anger from students over compounding terciary interest rates. But any moves this close to the general election are bound to be viewed cynically.

The focus of today's Auckland rally will be the smashing of a debt wall, a symbolic representation of the $3billion that students collectively owe to the loans scheme, although other actions have also been foreshadowed.

“The success of the Canterbury occupation has given a clear indication to students how they can fight back against the continuation of underfunding in the tertiary sector. Students were able to force the university to back down from a 45% fee increase, saving an average of $800 per student,” said Kane Forbes, student protest organiser.

“This is the single biggest concession ever won for students and now Auckland students must act to ensure that our own fees are not subjected to huge fee increases. Our University Council has deliberately decided to set fees after students have left campus for the year. A clear attempt to silence students. This protest is about making sure that we will not be silenced,” concluded Kane Forbes.

Meanwhile, Karen Skinner Co-President of the New Zealand University Students’ Association (NZUSA) said today: “University councils attempts to silence students by placing fee setting during exam time has not succeeded.”

Two more campus’s are today taking action against growing student fees and debt. At Auckland, students have smashed a ‘wall of debt’ and are now occupying part of their University. At Otago students will be ‘attending’ their University council meeting at 2pm.

“Our fight is not just with the University, but with the government who has continually failed to deal with the growing tertiary education crisis” said Ms Skinner. “Jenny Shipley and the National party have created a debt time bomb. Young people are beginning to suffer the consequences.”

“We challenge Jenny Shipley and Max Bradford to tell the public when they project that the level of student debt will stop growing. Student debt is currently at over $3 billion. How much do we have to owe before the government will admit that the scheme is out of control and increase funding to our Universities?” concluded Ms Skinner.

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