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May 23, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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Last week Bill English painted a pretty sombre picture for students. Bill is trying to kickstart a tanking economy, but it makes absolute no sense to cut education now, especially when so many people are out of work and wanting to upskill. Already we have seen many thousands of New Zealanders shut out of education because the Government refused to meet a temporary increase in demand – now we see thousands more with the door slammed in their face.

The Budget shifts money around the same pot with no meaningful funding boosts. The effect of this is the appearance of new initiatives, when in reality nothing new is created. This Budget could have been the perfect opportunity for the Government to invest in our education, protect access, upskill the record number of unemployed young people, and tackle student debt. But instead they opted for the ‘tinker approach’, leaving us with shortsighted, self-defeating cuts.

Part-time and mature students are bearing the brunt of the cuts. On top of two years of successive cuts there is another big decrease in funding and student support over the next few years ($4.6 billion in 2010 to $4.1 billion in 2015). Services and access is being eroded away.

The National Government has taken away access to living and course related costs for students aged over 55, despite many going on to work for a number of years after upskilling or retraining. Why saddle them with a loan to pay for the course fees, but not for the assistance that exists to help students complete their studies?

Part-time, full-year students’ access to the course-related costs has also been cut, a change that will effect nearly 100,000 students, and disproportionately effect extramural, Pasifika, and Maori students. Barriers to entry like this will also have an effect on those thinking about starting tertiary study, unfairly forcing some fantastic future students out of education.

We already have the harshest repayment regime in the OECD, and the Budget has meant it’s now further entrenched with the repayment threshold being frozen at $19,084 until 1 April 2015 (Australian graduates enjoy a repayment threshold of $44,912). Maybe it’s another perverse ‘competitive advantage’ we’ve got going for ourselves.

In other, less bleak news, the University has finally agreed to VUWSA’s requests to record the reasons why a eligible student would be left off the newly announced Dean’s List. This will ensure accountability and transparency in the decision making process and will protect both students and Victoria from potential lengthy grievance disputes. We have also provided comment on the University’s draft review of the Academic Grievance Policy, suggesting that it needs to more strongly reflect natural justice principles, so that a fair and robust process for students is followed.

We’ve also had a great response to our online survey on the Review of Undergraduate Education. Thank you to all the students, clubs and rep groups that have providing input to this extremely important survey. Once we pull the feedback together you can read the overall VUWSA submission when it’s posted on our website. We will be keeping you informed throughout the review as to what’s happening and how you can have input.

So good luck with the rush of end of trimester assessments. But remember, if you think you think your assessment wasn’t quite what you were expecting (shout out to ECON 130) or you’re having issues with pretty much anything, get in touch with me or our Student Advocate. Often things can be sorted easily and quickly, so don’t let it fester.

xoxo

Seamus Brady

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