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May 11, 2014 | by  | in News |
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Academic Board Welcomes Students Back

Student representatives can vote on the Academic Board again for the first time since 2012, after the University Council reinstated their full membership last Monday.

At the end of 2011, Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) saw Victoria University introduce the Student Forum and replace VUWSA representatives on the Academic Board with Student Forum representatives. The Student Forum was run by the University, and included students who had not been elected but rather chosen by the University.

VUWSA, Ngāi Tauira and the Pasifika Students’ Council withdrew from the Forum in early 2013 because of concerns about the nature of the Student Forum, as they felt it was not representative. The Forum therefore could not meet quorum, leading to its eventual disestablishment.

The statute was then changed back to reinstate student representatives from VUWSA and other groups, but these representatives did not have voting rights until last Monday. Student representatives attended Academic Board meetings in 2013 and twice so far in 2014, though they have not been allowed to vote or stay for confidential parts of the meeting.

The Academic Board advises the University Council on matters relating to courses of study, awards, and other academic matters.

It approves all academic changes made within the University, such as changes to the assessment handbook and this year’s grading changes, as well as approving all new degrees or papers and conducting faculty reviews. The most recent faculty review into the School of Political Science and International Relations saw 300-level tutorials introduced, something students have been asking for for years.

Prior to the VSM legislation, VUWSA had six seats on the Academic Board.

There will be six seats for student representatives again, but just three for VUWSA, including one non-executive member, class representative Louisa Hormann. There is also one Ngāi Tauira seat, one for the Pasifika Students’ Council and another for the Postgraduate Students’ Association.

Director of Student Academic Services, Pam Thorburn, said the two-year gap in student representation on the Board “results from the need to consult widely on the student-representation model.”

“This was a student-led consultation carried out in partnership with the University.”

“Following that consultation, formal approval processes were required, and these also took time to complete.”

When asked whether the decisions taken by the Board could be seen as legitimate given the absence of student input, Thorburn said the Statute permitted it.

“Clause 4.7(g) of [the Academic Board Statute] provides that ‘no act or proceeding of the Board, or of any committee of it…[will] be invalidated in consequence of there being a vacancy in the number of the Board’”.

Thorburn further said that even though student representatives were not formally recognised on the Board, opinions and comments were still able to be posed.

VUWSA President Sonya Clark said she was “stoked that the student voice has been properly restored to Academic Board.”

“It’s taken almost a year and a half, but we can finally say goodbye to the Student Forum and welcome an independent, authentic student voice at Academic Board. Student voices in decision-making have to be independent from the University to ensure students can speak freely about their experiences.”

Victoria University was the only university in the country to change its statute to remove student representatives from the Academic Board.


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