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Victoria Students Occupy University Registry

About 70 Victoria University students have occupied the University’s Hunter Building today as part of a nationwide week of action around education issues. It is the biggest occupation at Victoria in several years, and will continue through the night.

The occupiers were saddened by acting Vice Chancellor Roy Sharp’s misrepresentation of the circumstances surrounding the commencement of the occupation. No force was used to occupy the building, as doors were open and unbarred. The students also strongly deny that an occupier injured any university staff member. Conversely the students have received numerous messages of support from both students and staff.

“This action signals the beginning of a movement from students to reclaim their education,” says Education Action Group spokesperson Nick Henry. “For the last fifteen years we have had to react to the gradual disembowelling of the education system.”

“Universities and tertiary students are still right where National left them. We intend to pressure the government to make concrete changes. If Labour are really committed to improving access to and the quality of education then they must do a lot more than what they are talking about now,” say Nick Henry.

As the occupation began, university staff and management were meeting about imminent staffing cuts. The faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has been told to make savings of $2.5 million. The faculty is dealing with this by cutting twenty five full time academic staff. “Obviously tertiary education is still in crisis – and will continue to be unless the government does much more than tinker around the edges.”

The quality and diversity of education at Victoria is at risk even now, with the staff cuts in humanities and science. The Indonesian programme is being cut to save money – a direct impact of government funding policies and management out of control.

“Michael Irving’s disgusting $390,000 golden handshake, while staff are being slashed clearly illustrates the twisted priorities of Victoria’s management.” Says Henry, “Students are also demanding that the redundancies do not go ahead, and that Irving’s pay-out is redirected into the funding of education.”

The occupation demands the government and the university focus on:

- Free education for all

- Universal student allowances

- Reinstatement of the Emergency Unemployment Benefit

- Democratic control of universities including student representation at managerial level

- Dumping of student debt

- An end to privatisation, managerialism and competition in education

- Adequate government funding to tertiary providers

- Adequate research funding not controlled by corporate interests

- Removal of all non-financial barriers to education

- Cancel the $390,000 pay-out to Victoria’s Ex-Vice Chancellor Michael Irving

ENDS.

for further information contact Nick Henry at 025 249-8042 or occupation2k@hotmail.com

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