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Over the past week, V-ISA has been actively campaigning against the move to outsource the foundation studies programme to an external education provider. The time bomb was dropped on Monday—when we first received information about the school’s proposal. The current foundation programme is run by a team of experienced teachers and administrators who have worked with foundation students since the introduction of the programme in 2004. As many of us have gone through and benefitted from the programme, we were shocked by this sudden announcement.
V-ISA stands firmly against privatisation, and advocates a retention of the status quo. Our extensive consultations with current and former foundation students also reflected unanimous support for our position. 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 the quality of education future students will receive, and prevents them from integrating into Victoria’s community.
When the programme was finally brought to Kelburn after over a decade of operation in a dying Karori campus, foundation students had more accessibility to student learning facilities and services. Close to 80% of the students we surveyed indicated that they use the Language Learning Centre and Student Learning Services almost every day. This has benefited them tremendously in their studies. Moreover, being at the heart of Victoria University, foundation students have many opportunities to interact with people outside their classrooms and integrate into wider community. In fact, many of them took up the foundation programme with the intent to further their university studies at Victoria. They value the support and the sense of belonging provided for them, and they want these benefits to be brought forward to future students.
By privatising the programme, the school is taking two steps backwards after it had taken a step forward. Future students are likely to be situated off of the Kelburn campus since the school cited a risk of capacity issues. This will seriously threaten the quality of education they will receive, especially when they pay for a Victoria-branded education. It also calls into question of the effectiveness of “Victoria Experience Enhancements”—an ambiguous initiative interpreted as a bridge to mend a broken link between school and student. Token gestures for future students cannot possibly replicate the unique experiences undergone by former students.
The foundation programme serves as a transition from high school to university. Without the people who have both the expertise of the school’s university curriculum and an understanding of the needs of students, the foundation programme will cease to be attractive. V-ISA hopes to project the voices of foundation students to the school. We hope that the school will consider our voices seriously in their decision-making process.