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Maharey Speech: Listening to Students

Maharey Speech: Listening to Students and Recognising Learning: Student Support, Student Radio and Credit Recognition

Comments at the Massey at Wellington Student's Association orientation festival. Old Museum Building, Wellington.

Introduction

I’m pleased to able to join you during Orientation. Orientation’s a good time. I remember it well, as a student and then as a staff member at the Palmerston North campus of Massey University. It’s about the start of new things…new goals, new courses and new learning leading to a new qualification and probably a few new student experiences along the way as well. I’d want to talk today about some other new things: a new radio station here at Massey Wellington, and a new policy to ensure that students are able to progress more ‘seamlessly’ from one part of the tertiary system to another. First, though, I’d just like to recap what our government has been able to achieve for students in the last three years, and what we are intending to do in the next three. Our Record of Helping Students

Orientation is NOT what it used to be a decade ago in some important respects and I’m very pleased about that. The 1990s saw spiralling tuition fees. Fees increased by 14% a year with no ability for students, like you, and their families to predict what they were going to cost from one year to the next. In our first term, the Labour-led government put an end to all that fee spiral of the 1990s. We could not put an end to fees completely….no government is likely to be able to afford that in the foreseeable future. We committed enough money over three Budgets to increase funding levels for public tertiary institutions by a total of 9.8% so that they could afford to (and were in turn obliged to) freeze fees at 2000 levels. If we had not been elected and fees had kept going up at the same rate as they did in the 1990s then students would be paying on average $1,000 more this year, with the prospect of a further increase for 2004. We also ended the inequity that saw student loan borrowers facing compounding interest of 7 or 8 per cent while they continued to study and were unable to make any repayment. We’ve made sure all interest on the loans of those in full-time study is written off at the end of the financial year. Those in part-time study on low incomes have also had their interest written off. Those are some of the main things that the Labour-led government did for students in its first term. I’m not going to go into detail about the tertiary education reforms of the last two or three years. Those reforms are now shifting the sector from a free-market competitive model to a cooperative and collaborative strategic approach, a search for even more high quality teaching and research, and greater responsiveness to the needs of students and communities; and our New Zealand needs as a nation. The Next Phase So what will the second term of this government mean for students? Our agenda for the next three years is: Predictable fees; Fair loans; and Wider allowance eligibility Fee Maxima In the area of fees, it is time to move on from the ‘freezes’ that were introduced as an interim measure last term. We can’t lock institutions forever into a schedule of fees that were decided upon in 1999. Circumstances have changed and the differences between the same course at different institutions often has very little logic to it. We also want to give longer-term security to students. Every year the fee freeze was a negotiation with institutions, in which there was always the possibility that one or more might decide to decline the supplementary funding offer and raise their fees. And students certainly didn’t have any certainty about their fees the year after next. The May 2003 Budget will set out the maximum fees that will be in place for courses of study for the 2004 academic year, and indicative fees for both 2005 and 2006. This will give students, intending students and parents greater predictability as to the costs that they will face. The Review of Student Support We also have a comprehensive Review of Student Support underway, dealing with the loans and allowances side of the equation. We’re looking to develop a sustainable set of policies for student support, rather than individual band-aid solutions. We’ll be publishing the outcome of the Review in a document in May or June this year. I can give you some idea of some of the initiatives we’ll be covering, since they are ones that we committed ourselves to in last year’s election policy. We intend to extend Student Loan Scheme eligibility to part-time, part-year students in approved courses. This won’t mean a lot to most students but it will be a major boon for many distance students as the Extramural Students’ Society can attest. We will be making sure that loans are not being taken up for non-educational purposes so anyone planning to use their student loan to become a sports car owner or international jet-setter should forget it. A major focus of the Review will be extending eligibility for student allowances. This will be achieved in a combination of ways. We will widen student allowance eligibility for single full-time students aged 18-24, beginning by progressively raising the parental income thresholds and you’ll hear more about this in coming months. Eligibility for the Unemployment Benefit Student Hardship (formerly the EUB) will be widened. We will restore allowance eligibility to those tertiary students aged 16 and 17 who have finished year 13 at school. We’ll also develop fairer provisions for non-custodial parents and parents with more than one dependent child in tertiary education. Munt FM In putting together this programme of reform, we will be listening carefully to the views of students. Now, however, I want to turn to another initiative, which will help students to listen to one another. I am pleased to have been asked to formally launch Massey University in Wellington’s first ‘official’ student radio station: Massey University Network Transmissions, or Munt FM, for short. As you may know, apart from my Tertiary Education responsibilities, I am also the Minister of Broadcasting. I believe that a broadcasting sector has enormous potential to influence people’s lives positively.

Broadcast media inform, entertain, educate, challenge. And they have a crucial role to play in maintaining and promoting a nation’s identity in a global environment.

This government has put public broadcasting firmly back on the agenda. We want to ensure that the many groups within our diverse society have services that are relevant and appropriate to them.

And we want to see more local content in our broadcast media, so that New Zealanders can keep in touch with their own culture, language, stories and issues.

Student radio occupies an important position in New Zealand’s diverse broadcasting landscape.

With characteristic passion and the courage to be different, student radio stations avoid following the largely imported formats of commercial stations.

They provide a forum for challenging and lively engagement on current issues. And they continue to demonstrate a deep commitment to New Zealand music content.

Rather than just catering for existing tastes, student radio stations seek to expand the experience of their listeners, exploring a range of genres and giving exposure to new and alternative New Zealand music.

This is, needless to say, an enormously important vehicle for New Zealand songwriters and musicians to enter the airwaves.

Certainly everybody here will be delighted by the establishment of the new student radio station, Munt FM - which incidentally promises 60% New Zealand music content.

This has been long awaited, with several previous attempts falling by the wayside. Munt FM is now able to go ahead thanks to the generosity of Massey University which has provided a studio in the old Dominion Museum building; and thanks to the Student Services Trust, the Wellington Polytechnic Students’ Association Trust and its successor the Massey at Wellington Students’ Association.

Munt FM will no doubt occupy a central place in the life of the Massey University Wellington campus and increase options for central Wellington listeners.

I would like to take the opportunity to welcome Munt FM and wish it all the best for great popularity and success.

Credit Transfer

I would also like to take this opportunity to announce a further breakthrough, which will lead to a great reduction in frustration and distress for students who move around during their learning careers, as many of you will do. Agreement has been reached across the tertiary education system on a policy that will underpin consistent credit transfer systems across universities and other New Zealand education providers. That all means that if you move from one place of learning to another, or one course to another, what you’ve achieved will not be lost. What is credit? Credit is the agreed measure of the amount of learning typically required in gaining a qualification. This estimate of learning time includes direct time spent with teachers, time spent preparing for and doing assignments and time spent in assessment. Credit is awarded when achievement is assessed and meets meet specified standards. Credit transfer is a process whereby credit already achieved is recognised towards a new qualification. This policy is designed to provide for credit transfer decisions to support the mobile learner of the twenty-first century. I’m delighted to launch Supporting Learning Pathways: the Credit Recognition and Transfer Policy. I would also like congratulate the Credit Transfer Working Party, which developed this credit recognition and transfer policy and implementation plan in consultation with the tertiary education sector, and thank them for all their work. You will be grateful for their efforts as well. Conclusion That is just one further way in which we have been working make students’ lives easier. The last three years were busy and exciting ones for students and the tertiary education sector. The next three years promise to be equally, even more, so.

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