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Students outraged as their voice is silenced

Students outraged as their voice is silenced

The Auckland University Students’ Association Executive moved a motion condemning moves by the University of Auckland last week to exclude students from the annual Fee setting process.

In an internal memorandum sent from the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor to other members of Council it was recommended that the meeting be held “in a venue that can be adequately locked down and does not require us to relocate Council members and staff following a breach of security”. This is part of the annual fee setting process where The Council decide domestic and international fees for 2014.

“Rising fees is something students are significantly concerned about. Students are concerned that over the last four years the cumulative rise in their tuition fees equates to 21.6% increase. They are also concerned about the impact that increased debt can have on their life chances after studying. They are so motivated that their last resort may be to break into the room and disrupt the meeting.

“Families, mortgages, travel, saving for superannuation are all real costs students are faced with while staring down the barrel of a reduced capacity to save. Students are concerned about the impact of debt, not just the particular fee hike itself,” says Haines.

Mr Haines says that there was a robust discussion at the NZUSA Congress last year on the issue of whether there is such a thing as a reasonable fee increase. “As a bottom line, students reached a consensus that fees can only be considered to be fair and reasonable if they don’t impact on access or equal opportunity”.

Students understand that costs are increasing and money to cover costs needs to come from somewhere. But the government has shown an overwhelming hands-off approach when it comes to investing into tertiary education. Their focus should be investing into the country’s future and not putting an extra burden on the already thin pockets of students.

“The Council governing the University of Auckland should be able to look at the students whose lives they are affecting square in the face. If they are disconnected from the futures of those they are impacting, they are likely to make bad decisions. Student presence at the fee setting process is an integral part of being accountable. There should be nothing about students, without students”, says Haines.

“I understand the Council is concerned about safety, given what happened last year. But the Council needs to consider what is lost by ignoring how students feel. Other universities don’t do this, and their engagement with students leads to students feeling listened to. The University of Auckland needs to do that too.”

Fee maxima legislation prohibits domestic fee increases exceeding 4%; invariably this is the amount that fees have been increased by each year. It has become the norm. “We know that the institution is facing cost increases but they can’t keep putting the burden on students to cover that. We call on them to join with us to call on the government to put more money into the sector”.


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