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February 27, 2012 | by  | in News |
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Voluntary Membership Ruins Unionist Jaunt

Waikato and Palmy not allowed out.

Delegates from students’ associations across the country gathered in Wellington earlier this month for the first New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) conference of the year.

Held at Massey Wellington campus, the conference provided workshops and a chance to discuss policy development with guest speakers from the tertiary education sector.

However the cost of NZUSA membership saw the conference miss some of its usual attendees.

Implications of Voluntary Student Membership, the controversial legislation that came into effect on 1 January 2012, meant Waikato University and Massey Palmerston North’s students’ associations could not afford NZUSA membership this year.

Students’ associations could previously charge students a compulsory membership fee, but voluntary membership means they no longer have that guaranteed revenue stream.

Rather than faring in the free market, the majority of associations have had to rely on their respective institutions to fund operations through the compulsory Student Services Levy.

Those associations in a position to afford NZUSA membership are likely to soon be able to pay a reduced levy as the organisation moves to make its operations more financially sustainable. Though nothing has been confirmed it is expected VUWSA’s levy to the union will half, dropping from $90,000 to $45,000 annually.

Speakers at the conference included Minister of Tertiary Education, the Hon. Steven Joyce, and former NZUSA President and Labour Tertiary Education Spokesperson Grant Robertson.

Joyce spoke on the importance of students being involved in the decision- making process around Student Services Levy spending. “Any institution that doesn’t have a dialogue with students isn’t doing its job right,” he commented.

NZUSA Vice-President Arena Williams, who is also President of the Auckland University Students’ Association, said she was “pleased the government recognises that students pay for their student services and should have some control over how those services are delivered.”

“If the Minister thinks we should ‘keep our heads down’ because there is no extra funding available for the tertiary sector, then it is important that students have a say in how our student services levies are spent,” added Williams.

“This will ensure that they can be spent efficiently in a way that improves the quality of tertiary education.”

Joyce outlined the Government’s programme for Tertiary Education, and reassured representatives that interest would not be imposed on student loans.

2012 NZUSA President Pete Hodkinson said “although the Minister attempted to dissuade us, we believe that there continues to be a need for more money in the sector, and he can expect a push in that direction from students.”

Such a push is expected to be a quiet one though as NZUSA has cut its campaign budget for the year.



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