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Urgent action needed for Canterbury students

Urgent action needed for Canterbury students: National approach needed

Student representatives are calling for an urgent collaborative nationwide approach to supporting students displaced by the tragic consequences of last week’s Christchurch earthquake.

“The toll on the people of Canterbury has been huge, and we are hearing stories from students who are desperate to get out of the region and resume their study plans as soon as possible elsewhere, yet they’re facing barriers when seeking to transfer,” said Max Hardy, Co-President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

While some students can and will remain in Christchurch, and support for those staying will also be of paramount importance, many students have been left without homes, without jobs, and with significant delays to the start of the academic year. On top of the trauma of the quake itself, these stresses are taking their toll, and for some it will not be practical or desirable to remain.

“Some of these students need and want to move away and try to start to get on with their lives and studies. Unfortunately, it seems some institutions are wary of being seen to poach students or to breach government-imposed enrolment caps. The Government needs to step in and ensure tertiary institutions are supported to take a coordinated national approach and that they will make room on their campuses for those students who need to transfer,” said Hardy.

Minister for Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce, has stated that the two Canterbury-based universities will re-open, but that alone will not be enough, and he is yet to address what will happen to those students who need to leave. While the Government has said that institutions will not be punished for going over enrolment caps, they have not confirmed that they will fund these enrolments, presenting a significant disincentive for others to take on Canterbury students.

“Information regarding options for affected students has been scarce and doesn’t appear to be readily publicly available. Institutions need to do a better job communicating what provisions are being made. While some universities have taken a generous attitude and opened their doors others, such as Auckland, have simply said they will not take any new students – not good news for engineering students needing to transfer,” added Hardy.

“We would like to see Canterbury, Lincoln and CPIT consider contracting other institutions in New Zealand to deliver certain courses and potentially making distance courses available soon or temporary transfers for at least the first trimester, and are recommending that institutions set up a helpline to assist displaced students,” said Hardy.

“NZUSA is calling for a sector wide approach to addressing the issues facing both students and universities and polytechnics. In the aftermath of a national tragedy the people are most important. NZUSA would gladly host a meeting of peak sector bodies to get the collective conversation started as to how we go about supporting them,” concluded Hardy.

NZUSA is also commending the work being done to ensure that the institutions in Christchurch can be open as soon as possible.

NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.


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