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October 8, 2007 | by  | in News |
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VUWSA fightin’ the fee rise

Students are today gathering to fight the University’s plan to raise fees by five percent.

VUWSA has organised a free barbeque and music for students in the Hunter Courtyard at 3pm, before entering the Council Chamber for the University Council’s fee-setting meeting at 4pm.

50 students, two of which will speak, are allowed in the Hunter Council Chamber during the meeting, despite the Chamber’s capacity being 150.

All students who want to help fight the fee rise are invited to join VUWSA in their protest.

University Council documents for Monday contain a resolution that the Council will approve a five per cent increase to undergraduate fees; an increase to Honours and postgrad fees of $500 per student with the exception of nursing, where a $150 increase is proposed; a 1.6 per cent increase to the compulsory Amenity Levy from $0.64 to $0.65 per point – the first increase since 1998; and an increase to the Student Services Levy by an adjustment of five percent.

The documents say that to continue “delivering higher quality teaching, learning and research” the University “will need to maximise its revenues and minimise its costs to finance the necessary strategic programmes and their infrastructural support, while operating within prudent financial guidelines.”

Vic’s fees are lower than at other New Zealand universities in some faculties. Engineering, Architecture, Design and Commerce are amongst the most expensive undergraduate fees in the country, whereas Humanities and Social Sciences have the lowest fees.

In lieu of a fees-forum this year, Salient brings you the following interview with Vice Chancellor Pat Walsh:

What is the process of fee-setting, and who decides at what level fees will be set?

I commission input from a number of sources including Finance and a recommendation is tabled at the University’s Senior Management Team.

This recommendation is then considered by the University Finance Committee on which the Student President sits. The Finance Committee then submits its recommendation to the University Council who make the final decision.

I understand the TEC has changed its funding schemes, and the University is still waiting on confirmation from the TEC on how funding will be implemented next year. How does this affect fee-setting on Monday, and the University’s financial position overall?

The TEC has confirmed its funding scheme and this has been taken into consideration for Monday’s meeting.

In the latest round of the PBRFs, Vic is set to lose millions in research. How committed is Vic to finding research funding from other sources and can Vic guarantee the shortfall won’t be met by students?

Victoria is not set to lose millions in research. We have not lost money, but we have not gained as much as other universities. The University is committed to continuing to increase its research income from a range of sources.

The number of students leaving high school is set to decrease from next year onwards. How does Vic intend to find the money to encourage and retain quality academic staff and courses in the advent of less fees revenue?

Managing in a period of less income is always challenging for any organisation.

However, school leavers start to decline from 2009, but at a very slow rate and numbers would not fall below 2006 levels until 2018.

Vic has applied for AFML exemptions to raise fees by 10 percent numerous times now. Will the University be applying for an exemption again, and if so, on what grounds does it believe its application will be more successful?

Victoria has applied for AFML exemption twice. Each year is different and we assess our situation accordingly.

What is the likelihood of the University working together with VUWSA and stakeholders to lobby the government for more funding, rather than raising fees? What form, if any, would this lobbying take?

The University has lobbied government extensively over recent years to improve government funding for universities. I believe there have been significant advancements in the relationship between VUWSA and the University. I am always happy to work with VUWSA on appropriate collaborations.

How much involvement have VUWSA and other stakeholders had in the fee-setting process so far this year?

Student engagement occurs at various levels on many issues. At a governance level there are students on the University Council and its Committees and on the Academic Board, Faculty Boards and the University Research Committee.

I also meet regularly with the VUWSA president, Geoff Hayward. Geoff also sits on the Finance Committee as the student representative.

Last year we worked with VUWSA and the President to host a fees forum. This year we invited the student President to be work with us to do that again; however, due to the timing of the student elections he decided it would not be possible.

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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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