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August 16, 2010 | by  | in Opinion |
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President’s column

The next few weeks are going to be an interesting time for the University and for students. The first half of the semester has started to wind down, essays are begging to be completed and mid-term tests are looming. In addition to this, the University is gearing up to make some significant decisions that will affect you and your studies.

One of the most important of these decisions is the setting of our fees and the decision about whether or not
fees will be raised for 2011. It’s important that students are listened to on this issue and I think it is important that the University fronts up to students. After all, we all want a quality education backed by sufficient resources, but we do not want to be treated like cash cows that don’t have a choice about whether to pay or not.

I have asked the Vice-Chancellor and the Chancellor to attend a student forum on Monday the 6th September so that students have a chance to communicate to senior management and governance what they think are the most important issues that the University should consider when setting your fees for the coming year (and they will can share their thinking). This will also be a chance for you to comment and question the University about the strategic direction it is currently taking. You will have the opportunity to ask the leaders of the University any questions that you might have. But please, no egg throwing.

When it comes to setting our fees it is important that the University fronts up to students about any fee increases. It’s also incredibly important that the university presents a solid, reasonable case for why fees need to be increased, if that is what they are recommending. VUWSA will be trying to ensure that the university is accountable to students and can justify any proposals that affect us.

We have held a “Fees Forums” in the past. This is because fees are important, student debt is increasingly
continually, and we generally do not want to leave University with a massive financial ball and chain. This year however I asked for the Forum to be about more than just fees because I felt that students should have the opportunity to engage with the University’s management and governance on the direction of the
University generally.

Whenever the University makes strategic decisions that affect students, usually students either aren’t aware
of what these strategic directions are, or don’t have a direct opportunity to respond to them (except through
their representatives from VUWSA). These decisions can include anything from deciding to increase the number of post-graduate research students (at the expense of undergraduate places), deciding to invest in a multimillion dollar Campus Hub project, or a decision to set up (or close down) a new School or degree programme.

VUWSA is committed to ensuring that students are informed about these key decisions and have a chance
to have a say where appropriate. However, sometimes it is best to here it from the leader of the University
themselves, and that is why VUWSA has organised this forum.

Thinking in the long run is important. The university’s strategic direction is going to determine what kind of university Victoria is going to be. These are fundamental questions that students should be actively engaged in. Do we want this University to be focussing heavily on science, technology and the physical arts? Or
should we take advantage of the unique position of this place within our capital city, and instead focus more on humanities, politics, governance and law?

At the end of the day, these are questions that students should be engaged with.

The Forum will be held on the 6th September (first day after the mid-trimester break), from 2pm – 3pm in the
Memorial Theatre, Student Union Building.

Three things happening this week:

  1. We will be finalising the terms of reference for a comprehensive review of VUWSA’s representative structures and how to improve them dramatically.
  2. We will be developing a survey of students, which will be used to ensure that VUWSA is responsive to students and what they want.
  3. We will be developing our response to the University’s proposal to reduce the size of the third trimester (see the News section of Salient). We want to ensure that students are able to retain the flexibility that the third trimester offers in finishing their degrees and choosing interesting courses. Please get in contact if you are concerned about this.

Cheers,
Max
president@vuwsa.org.nz

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