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September 12, 2011 | by  | in News |
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No Joke Headline for this one. This is Really Important

Students may be left without essential student services under a proposal from Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce.

The objective of the proposal is to establish a framework for how compulsory fees and student services are administered by universities. This framework aims to create transparency and accountability in decision-making on these issues.

Part of the proposal states the categories of student services that can be funded by compulsory service fees. These categories exclude a number of services that universities currently offer and are in strong demand.

The proposal states that service fees could cover advocacy and legal advice; careers information and guidance; counselling services; employment information; financial support and advice; health services; student media; childcare services; and sports and recreation services.

The Student Services Levy at Victoria currently covers most of these categories. However, it also covers accommodation services, Maori mentoring service Te Putahi Atawhai, Student Learning Support Services, new student orientation, and information technology services. These areas are not included in Joyce’s proposal.

Because these services are not included in the proposal it is conceivable that the university would have to find alternative sources of funding for these or would have to cut them altogether.

VUWSA President Seamus Brady is concerned that these changes will ultimately lead to a lack of quality student services.

“We’re concerned that the categories prescribed by the Minister are too narrow and leave little room for services that students have said they want to be funded,” he says.
A good example of this is information technology services which provides students with internet, email and printing services. In 2011, $1,660,195 of the funding for this service came from the Student Services Levy. If information technology is excluded from student services fees then this money would have to come from another source.

The new restrictions on levy spending will limit how VUWSA could transition into a voluntary membership environment. The option of the University funding some services through the Student Services Levy was being floated. However the prescribed categories do not allow for funding of many of VUWSA’s core services—such as representation and welfare—meaning VUWSA will have to find revenue elsewhere.

The implementation date of the proposed changes has drawn criticism from NZUSA co-president, Max Hardy.

“[Joyce] is expecting associations and institutions to adjust to a massively altered funding environment in just a few short months. They couldn’t have done much more to make this as difficult as possible for the sector to manage,” Hardy says.

“We hope that the Government has made an oversight and will be fully engaged in the consultation process.”
The Minister is currently seeking submissions from anyone who is concerned about the proposed changes.

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