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March 3, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Students Cut Up Over Cuts

Cuts to postgraduate allowances have led to hardship for 75 per cent of postgraduate Psychology students, and have precluded some from postgraduate study altogether.

The changes to student-allowance eligibility were announced in the 2012 Budget and implemented early last year. Postgraduate students are no longer able to access Student Allowance, and must now borrow for living costs.

VUWSA President Sonya Clark said that postgraduate students were less able to take on part-time work to top up their living costs, as postgraduate courses are often more demanding. She also noted that “forcing postgraduate students to borrow to live instantly means they have less access to around $40 a week,” than if they were getting Student Allowance.

“Postgraduates also often have extra costs for their study, such as travel for research or large amounts of required professional work experience, which places more demands on their money and time,” Clark said.

Concerns have also been raised by the New Zealand Psychological Society and the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists as to the effect of these cuts on postgraduate Psychology students.

Psychology has a minimum study requirement of a master’s with a postgraduate diploma. There is a severe shortage of psychologists in New Zealand, and the role is featured on Immigration New Zealand’s Long Term Skill Shortage List. Final-year Psychology students work 32 hours a week in unpaid internships as well as having a full course load.

A survey conducted by the New Zealand Psychology Society found that 75 per cent of the 556 students surveyed said that the cutting of postgraduate allowances would negatively affect them. Māori students were particularly adversely affected, with 82 per cent of Māori students who were planning to enter postgraduate study saying the changes would affect their decision adversely.

VUWSA has been in contact with students who have been unable to continue with postgraduate study after the changes. Clark said VUWSA was particularly concerned with the effect of the changes on students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“It is crucial that postgraduate study isn’t just available to those who can afford it; otherwise, we’ll see increasing inequality in the graduate outcomes of students,” Clark said.

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