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September 16, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Uni: “Show Me the Money”

The University will again seek to raise course fees for 2014 by the four per cent maximum allowed by law.

This rise goes along with the two-per-cent rise in the Student Services Levy, as previously reported in Salient. International fees will also rise by five per cent, while Music students will face additional rises, following recommendations from the Board of the New Zealand School of Music.

Management will recommend these rises to Council, who will vote at the next University Council meeting, to be held on 16 September. It is likely the motion to raise fees will pass; recommendations to Council regarding fee levels generally receive majority support from Council, as is the norm every year.

The message coming from University management is that quality costs, and that funding has to come from students, given that Government funding has stayed the same since 2012 while other costs have risen. Despite a maximum rise in fees last year, Victoria slipped in the recently released QS University World Rankings from 237th in 2012 to 265th in 2013.

Students will be allowed to attend the meeting, although it’s unclear whether water bottles and bags will be allowed in the meeting this year. Last year, such items were banned from the Chamber, with security guards enforcing the rules. This year at Auckland University, students were excluded from fee-setting meetings after protests last year disrupted meetings and left two University staff injured.

At a Student Fees Forum held last Tuesday, Chancellor McKinnon, Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh and Chair of the University Council Finance Committee Roger Taylor all spoke individually on fee-setting, before the room split into two small discussion groups. The forum was attended by few students, with the vast majority VUWSA or Salient staff.

McKinnon, speaking first, described the fee-setting meeting as “the most challenging Council meeting”, and “not a comfortable exercise”. He spoke at length about the importance of quality, and cited devolution of responsibility from central government to university councils as a main source of pressure driving the need for fee hikes. In order for the University to continue to provide students with the “quality you deserve”, the fee increases were “vital”, McKinnon said.

“We want to guarantee Vic students quality, but quality costs.”

Walsh stressed the need to provide quality, mentioning positive feedback from the Student Experience Improvement Survey as evidence students believed they were getting quality.

“Victoria is ranked among the world’s top two per cent of universities, which is a significant achievement,” added Walsh.

When the shift was made to discussion groups, students attending were able to put questions to top University staff. One table, led by Chancellor McKinnon, Vice-Chancellor Walsh and VUWSA President Rory McCourt, became tense when McCourt described the consultation over fees as an “insincere process”, as the promised improvements in quality, such as increased numbers of tutorials, had not materialised. McKinnon denied the process was insincere.

VUWSA Treasurer Jordan McCluskey asked whether the four-per-cent increase in fees was needed, or whether the University was just looking to get the most it could. The reply was that the University was currently breaking even due to its low course costs, and that if Victoria’s fees were the same as the University of Auckland’s, then the University would be operating with a ten- to 15-per-cent surplus.

When asked whether the University would seek to increase the fees beyond the four-per-cent maximum, which government regulations allow in the future, management did not rule out the possibility. The Tertiary Education Committee (TEC) is able to grant permission for universities to increase their fees by more than four per cent in exceptional circumstances. In 2012, the University attempted to raise fees in Education, humanities and social sciences papers by eight per cent, but the request was denied by the TEC.

The University Council meeting to decide fee rises will be held on Monday 16 September at 2 pm in the Hunter Building’s Council Chambers.

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