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Victoria University accepts fee deal

Victoria University accepts fee deal

Fees for students enrolling at Victoria University in 2001 will remain at this year’s levels.

Victoria University Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Sharp said the university had decided to accept the Government’s offer of a 2.3 percent funding increase in return for freezing its tuition fees at 2000 levels.

Professor Sharp said students would now be able to plan ahead in the knowledge that their fees would not go up next year.

“We have made this decision in light of the unsustainable burden high fees and debt places on students,” Professor Sharp said.

“We’ve been concerned for some years about the impact of high tuition fees on student participation and poverty. We have tried each year to minimise our fee increases, but declining government funding and rising costs have not always made this easy. However, our fees are lower than those of most other universities.”

Government funding per student has declined by 36 percent since 1980 and an average of 4.2 percent per year since 1995, according to a recent Association of University Staff (AUS) and New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (NZVCC) study.

Citing that study, Professor Sharp said the 2.3 percent offer actually represented a further decline in funding per student for 2001.

“This will only add to the serious financial problems the tertiary education sector is facing,” he said. “Across New Zealand, the quality of university education is threatened by this decline in government support.”

Professor Sharp said the move would put pressure on Victoria University’s financial situation. “We have built the fee stabilisation into our projections for next year, but it will make things more difficult,” he said.

Chris Hipkins, Victoria University Students’ Association (VUWSA) President, said he was pleased the University had recognised the financial pressures students were under.

“Fee rises over the past decade have been a major contributing factor to student poverty and the massive amount of student debt that has accumulated.”

“We also recognise the financial pressure that the university is under. However, an increase in fees could have resulted in a further decline in student numbers, making Victoria’s financial position worse.”

“If fees had continued to rise, even more students would be forced to drop out,” Mr Hipkins said.

“We are in daily contact with students in extreme financial difficulty,” Mr Hipkins said. “Between 10 and 20 students come to the university’s finance service for help every week, and they’re just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve seen many recently who cannot afford to pay their power bill, and others are having trouble paying for food and rent.”

“The Labour/Alliance Government, which was elected with considerable support from students, must urgently address the funding crisis in the tertiary education sector.”

“Students are concerned not just about fees and student loans, but also about the quality of education they receive,” Mr Hipkins said. “VUWSA feels the Government’s offer could have been more realistic.”

The decision to freeze fees was made by the University Council at its meeting yesterday, and was endorsed by senior management this morning.

ENDS

This joint statement was issued by the Communications Unit of Victoria University of Wellington and the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association.

For further information please contact Catherine Etheredge, mob 025 468 817, ph 04 463 5108 or Chris Hipkins, ph 04 473 8566 or mob 021 707 927.

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