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July 16, 2007 | by  | in News |
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Hostel construction starts, but who’s paying?

Construction on the controversial Fairlie Terrace accommodation complex has begun, despite the University withdrawing its application to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) for funding.

Victoria applied to the TEC’s Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit (TAMU) for up to $50 million funding late last year, according to documents released under the Official Information Act.

Victoria’s Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research) Neil Quigley says the TAMU application “has been withdrawn until the implications of the new funding environment for universities are clearer, but this is not important for the student accommodation project.”

“Our need to finance construction projects by borrowing is related to the three major construction projects contemplated over the next few years, not the student accommodation project alone. This means that we do not actually need to obtain permission to borrow until one of the other two projects gets underway.”

However, the application to the TEC appears to be related to the hostel, rather than other University developments. The TEC’s response to Victoria’s application for funding “acknowledge[s] our receipt of Victoria University of Wellington’s request to borrow up to $50 million. The debt is to be applied to construction of a new student accommodation facility”.

Other information released details issues TAMU had with Vic’s application. An email from the TEC to Victoria on January 16 expresses an interest in “understanding what research the University undertook” which the University claimed “has shown that there are significant number of Wellington school leavers who want to study in Wellington and live in a hostel.”

The same email asks for further clarification and information on other points, including how much student growth is coming from outside of Wellington, the implications for student housing and whether the housing will meet the needs of postgraduate students – for which 50 beds are intended.

Another letter from the TEC to the University on March 7 states that the loan must “serve important education objectives that are in the national interest”. It also asks whether the loan “develop[s] the university’s ability to offer a higher quality learning experience” or “maintain[s] or increase[s] the sustainability of the university”, amongst other criteria.

Salient reported in May that Victoria’s application to TAMU for a loan towards costs for the hostel had been delayed, and that the University may reapply after raising some initial capital.

Other sources of hostel funding are expected to come from sales of University-owned property and collateral from major building assets, along with cost-cutting around the University. The University may also charge around $50 to students applying for University-owned hostels to contribute to capital for the project, according to a source.

Hawkins Construction, the company building the 11-storey, three-building hostel, began work on the site on June 1. Tasks included preparing site construction, roading, tree protection and removal, and preparation of houses for salvage and removal, says Quigley.

The project will take about 18 months to complete, and the University anticipates the new buildings will be ready in time for the 2009 academic year.

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About the Author ()

With her take-no-prisoners, kick-ass attitude, former News Editor Laura McQuillan adequately makes up for her lack of stature. Roaming the corridors (and underground tunnels) of the University by day, and hunting vampires and Nazi war criminals by night, McQuillan will stop at nothing to bring you the freshest news.

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