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May 17, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Vic closes undergrad admissions

Get Amongst the Best… but not quite yet

Victoria University will not accept any new domestic undergrad admissions in 2010 following a decision made by the University Council last week.

The decision was made after student numbers were predicted to reach 110 per cent of the cap funded by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC).

The resolution means that no new students, with a few exceptions, will be granted admission to Vic for the rest of 2010.

The decision does not affect international enrolments or current students.

Vic students with one or two papers left to finish their degree will be able to apply for admission, following the addition of an extra clause suggested by Council Member Rosemary Barrington.

The resolution was passed with only VUWSA President Max Hardy, student representative Conrad Reyners and former VUWSA President Fleur Fitzsimons voting against it.

Chancellor Ian McKinnon says the change was prompted by a considerable surge in demand and limited resources.

“The university has no further capacity for new domestic undergraduate applicants this year.

“In simple terms, if they [student numbers] go above 100 per cent, the university forgoes funding and incurs costs, and this has an immediate impact on the quality of the university.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Penny Boumelha says university enrolments are 20 per cent higher than at the same time in 2009.

Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh told Salient the decision was made “with great reluctance”.

“There is no enthusiam for this decision, it was made to meet our legal obligations and to protect the interests of current students and staff.”

Walsh says “all universities are working in an environment where they must manage their enrolments as outlined in their investment plans, which are agreed to with the Tertiary Education Commission.

“Our enrolment targets have been based on what we can achieve as an institution, and to exceed those means we would not be able to cope with the additional call on teaching resources including staff workloads, space and equipment,” he says.

VUWSA President Max Hardy says the decision is “an extremely unfortunate consequence of the government’s policy to limit enrolments”.

“We are asking the government and the university to get around the table together and come to an agreement to fund these additional students for trimester two.”

Student representative Conrad Reyners raised concerns about potential legal ramifications if the resolution breaches current applicants’ reasonable expectations.

“We should have had all the info to create a balanced picture of the risk [that a] decision of this magnitude presents.”

Walsh told the meeting Victoria had not sought legal advice on the decision, but believed it would be in keeping with a legal obligation to implement the Investment Plan agreed upon with the TEC.

Fleur Fitzsimons says the resolution “felt very panicked and lacking detail”.

Fitzsimons’ concern that international students were being offered places at the expense of domestic students was rejected by Walsh. However, Fitzsimons believes this problem was not sufficiently addressed.

Fitzsimons urged Council members to vote the motion down and reconsider it when extra information on the resolution was forthcoming.

Hardy and Reyners agreed the decision should not have been made based on the information provided.

“We had hoped the Council would see that such an unattractive decision should not have been made without first having all the appropriate information,”says Hardy.

“It is a very difficult position for the university to be in, it was not an easy decision, therefore we were under a substantial obligation to consider this issue very carefully.”

Many Council members agreed with Hardy, but were not convinced his argument outweighed the financial implications that voting against the resolution would present.

Hardy says “the unexpected decision” will be unfair to potential students who would have been acting under an “entirely reasonable expectation that admissions would remain open”.

New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations co-President David Do agrees the decision is unfair.

“At a practical level, these relatively sudden and unexpected decisions are highly unfair to potential students.

“Students have not been given proper notice that the entry requirements are changing, and that’s going to affect their planning for moving into education.”

Tertiary Education Union President Tom Ryan blames the government for the change.

“The move by universities across New Zealand to dramatically restrict entry to many of their courses is the result of government failure to anticipate the combined pressure of demographic growth in student numbers and an increase in people looking to study during the recession.”

After a minor hiccup where potential students were told to reapply in 2010 (as pictured), Victoria’s Admission and Enrolment pages were updated to reflect the Council’s decision.

The university is currently implementing its plan to manage enrolment numbers in 2011, which involves new admission criteria.

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