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Last week I hosted the annual “Rant with Grant” student fees forum. Historically this event has been a discussion between Victoria’s Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, and its students on the issue of fee-setting. Since the introduction of tuition fees in New Zealand our predecessors have had a long history of colourful debate around fees and the burden they have on student lives. Fast forward to 2016 and fees are still a hot topic and this forum has become one avenue in which our senior leaders open up the books and show us how our money is spent.
Universities are legislated by parliament to be the critic and conscience of society. In turn students often act as the critic and conscience of the university. It was great to see that in practice last week with some robust discussion on a range of topics including domestic and international fee rises, an international student-fee cap, a need for the Living Wage, student loans, and more.
The sense I got at the conclusion of the forum is that students are looking for a university that cares, and is compassionate towards its students and staff. We sense some sort of injustice that many of our support staff aren’t paid a Living Wage. We feel that it’s unfair that an international student pays five to six times the fees of a domestic student. We feel forgotten and left out when we have to leave a class on Fairlie Terrace when the AV system is falling apart.
The sense I got leaving the forum is that, while we love studying at Victoria, we want to be at a university which lives out its values of fairness and integrity. We want to hear from our leaders more.
We want a Victoria that values all of us.