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An Open Letter to the Victoria University VC

Professor Michael Irving
Vice-Chancellor
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
WELLINGTON


Friday, 5 November 1999


AN OPEN LETTER TO THE VICE-CHANCELLOR


Dear Professor Irving,

I am concerned about the drastic increase in fees you announced yesterday. Looking through the media release issued you seem unable to provide any real justification for these increases. As I am not yet a member of the University Council, I do not have any supporting documentation, so I would ask that you answer the following questions, on public record, for the benefit of the staff and students you are employed to serve:

1. In your media statement, you justify the fee increase on the grounds that total government funding at Victoria University has decreased by $2 million since 1998. Given that the University Council increased fees by $7 million last year, and your fee increase is estimated to generate an additional $5 million this year, can you explain where the unaccounted $10 million has gone/will go?

2. Given that the University Management recently sold internet company Netlink for many millions of dollars, can you please explain where this money is going to be spent? If it is to be spent on infrastructure such as new computer labs, as I understand, why are you using this expenditure as a justification for fee increases?

3. In your media statement you claim "Victoria University of Wellington has recommended to Council the setting of student fees for three years". According to legislation "The University" is defined as the staff, students, council and alumni. Upon what basis do you claim that this fees structure has been recommended and supported by "The University"?

4. In your recent statements about the current staff industrial action you claimed that any pay increase for staff would result in increased fees for students. Given that student fees are set to rise considerably, does this mean you are intending to make a reasonable pay offer to staff in order to end the current industrial dispute?

5. Recognising that overall the University Management must accept responsibility for ensuring students are delivered the courses they have been promised, if you are not intending to make a new offer to staff, can you explain what measures will be taken to ensure further industrial action will not disrupt students further?

6. Given that under the fee structure you propose students will pay considerably more money, can you please explain how the recent voluntary redundancies being promoted in the Humanities and Science Faculties will affect the staff : student ratios? If the staff : student ratio is expected to increase, how will this impact on the quality of education being provided?

7. Given that the Commerce Faculty at Victoria University is often held out as a model of sound financial performance to which other faculties should aspire, can you justify commerce students suffering at the hands of the largest fee increase?

8. You claim that major improvements in operating efficiency have been made. Can you please outline what the budget for Senior Management was before you arrived in 1998 and what has been budgeted for Senior Management in 2000? In addition, can you also provide similar information about the level of expenditure on consultants?

9. You acknowledgement and support for the notion that students expect and are entitled to better services and facilities is applauded. Can you itemise the improvements that will be made to student services and amenities as a result of the increase in fees proposed?

As an elected representative of students I ask you provide this information before or at the University Council meeting on Monday. Students are being asked to shoulder the burden of yet another massive fee increase without any real justification. If Victoria University is, as it claims to be, a "World Class, Student Centred" institution, you will have no hesitation in providing students with this information.


I look forward to your prompt reply.


Yours sincerely,


Chris Hipkins
President-elect
VUWSA EXECUTIVE

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