VUWSA International Students’ Association (V-ISA) are opposing the university’s potential privatisation of the VUW pre-degree foundation studies program.
In a forum held last week, V-ISA presented the reasons why they’re against the university’s proposed plan, saying if it goes ahead Victoria will be taking “two steps backwards.”
The proposal works towards “Enabling Strategy Two” of the university’s strategic plan, which outlines a plan to grow international student numbers from 12.5 per cent to 18 per cent.
VUWSA president Jonathan Gee described the proposed outsourcing as the “first casualty” of the new Strategic Plan, which has a heavy emphasis on rapid growth.
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V-ISA president Deon Teo said the school hadn’t even consulted students on their plan, with Luo being the one to break the news of the proposal to current students. Luo said current students are “concerned about whether future students will receive the same quality of education and whether the cost will rise.”
A central concern held by V-ISA is the damage outsourcing the program will have on international students’ welfare, their ability to meet and interact with other students on campus, and their opportunity to fully immerse themselves in New Zealand culture.
With international students primarily choosing to live in homestay accommodation, Luo believes the outsourcing will only add to the isolation problem.
For the past 12 years the foundation studies program was taught at Karori campus allowing for a strong culture to be created. V-ISA believes the culture has strengthened following the relocation to Kelburn campus, as well as giving the students increased access to services.
Luo said most of the programme’s lecturers had been teaching it for years and were highly experienced educators, four of whom have PhDs.
Concern around the quality of teaching is held by both V-ISA and VUWSA, with V-ISA seeing the program as a key stepping stone to 100-level university study that couldn’t be replicated externally.
A recent survey carried out by V-ISA emphasized the importance of studying on campus for international students. It found that close to 80% of the students surveyed indicated that they use the Language Learning Centre and Student Learning Services almost every day, and that all students had made use of at least one service.
More than half of international students are also members of clubs on campus, something V-ISA wants to continue to see grow.
V-ISA ended their forum saying that outsourcing would do nothing more than “push the problem around,” and would fail to “tackle the root cause of why the program isn’t attracting as many students as thought.” They also added that the program had not been reviewed in years and perhaps this would be a better step for the university to take.
VUWSA will also make a separate submission, and VUWSA president Jonathan Gee supports both associations presenting their submissions from different angles, and hopes they will “influence the Senior Leadership Team to change.”
Interim director of the foundation studies program Ian Masters has made two submissions to the university, one which addresses the “significant risks” of outsourcing, specifically those linked to “student learning, welfare, orientation, experiences and engagement.”
Masters argues that the plan would not support Primary Strategy Three of the strategic plan—to provide a “holistic learning, teaching and student experience that is second to none.”
He also stresses the strength of the current team, who take an “integrative approach” to not only teaching, but also in providing pastoral care to students—both things he says have taken years to establish.
The program teachers have also made a submission opposing the proposal, as have university accommodation services.
If the Senior Leadership Team choose their “preferred option” of outsourcing, V-ISA said they will continue to fight the decision and “make their presence heard.”
“While the proposal is beneficial to the school in terms of increasing enrolment and cutting costs (read maximising profit), it is at the expense of compromising the quality of education future students will receive and preventing them from integrating into Victoria’s community” a spokesperson for V-ISA said.
Submissions on the matter were due last Friday and will now be considered by the Student Leadership Team.
V-ISA hope that in future the university “would know to consult V-ISA on issues like this.”