Atmosphere of change at NZUSA workshops
Student representatives from throughout the country gathered at the Massey Wellington campus for training and policy development and to plan collective student activities for the year ahead.
The workshops were a resounding success and included an address by each of the Minister of Tertiary Education, the Hon Steven Joyce, and Deputy Labour Leader and Spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Grant Robertson.
The Minister spoke positively of the valuable role students’ associations have to play in advocating for high quality tertiary education in New Zealand, and Mr Robertson indicated he wanted to work closely with NZUSA on developing Labour’s vital plan for education, skills and training.
"We were honoured to host both the Minister and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Clearly there will certainly be opportunities for collaborative work over the coming three years,” said NZUSA President Pete Hodkinson.
As well as an outline of the Government’s programme for Tertiary Education from Steven Joyce, student representatives received reassurance that interest would not be imposed on student loans and were offered advice on where associations could best direct their energy Specifically this was into preserving the quality of education and boosting the consultation with students around institutions setting Student Services Levies..
“Although the Minister attempted to dissuade us, we believe that there continues to be a need for more money in the sector, and he can expect a push in that direction from students. However we also see value and potential in the areas that the Minister wishes to work with us, and see this as vital work for student representatives over the upcoming period,” said Pete Hodkinson.
“We won’t always have the same views on ‘the right direction for education’, but we are excited to find common ground. For example, the Minister’s Directive requires that Student Service Levies be only set after student consultation, so students’ associations will be working hard to ensure high levels of accountability in this spending of student money. It was encouraging to have the Minister recognising that as an important commitment.”
The conference also endorsed a new vision and direction for NZUSA and a paper setting this out in more detail is presently being developed and will be released shortly.
“We are determined to find ways in which we can be more innovative in engaging with all of the learners engaged in the tertiary sector in Aotearoa, both regionally and nationally. We think we’re on to something this year!” said Hodkinson.
NZUSA is the national representative body for tertiary students and has been advocating on student issues since 1929.