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September 19, 2011 | by  | in News |
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‘Chew the fat with Pat’ is a Great Success!

Students were given an opportunity to chat with the university bigwigs two Fridays ago, but despite the free BBQ only about ten students came along.

VUWSA’s ‘Chew the Fat with Pat’ invited students to ask questions of Victoria University Chancellor Ian McKinnon and Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh.
Both McKinnon and Walsh emphasised that their key goal was to ensure a quality overall student experience.

“We want our students to leave universtity with a qualification but also with a whole experience, which gives them confidence to move into whatever field they choose,” McKinnon said.

“That quality, of course, has a price tag.”

Walsh then provided students with an overview of how Victoria works to achieve this within the financial constraints placed on universities.

“We have had, over the last ten years, probably longer, anually a decline in the real value of government funding per student,” Walsh said.

“We are now funded at about 60 per cent of the level of Australian students.”

Ensuring quality is difficult due to the capped funding system introduced in 2007. Prior to this, university funding was funded on a ‘bums on seats’ basis. Now universities have to maintain student numbers at particular levels and are not allowed to raise fees by any more than four per cent each year.

“This creates problems as our fixed costs rise faster than our revenue,” says Walsh.

The forum then moved to a question session. Only a handful of students asked questions but these took considerable time, meaning VUWSA President Seamus Brady was unable to ask a number of questions sent to him by absent students.

One student asked about the recent tripling of Trimester Three courses. Walsh replied that in 2010 the university had to limit courses due to high student numbers which they could not fund. Then, in 2011, because “students are an unpredictable bunch” student numbers dropped and the university feared it wouldn’t have enough students for funding quota. As a result, the university added a number of courses to the summer trimester.

Another student asked what the university is doing to address the issue of large tutorial sizes. Walsh acknowledged this is a big problem and said this is a excellent example of how reduced government funding affects quality of education.

One student asked why there was a security guard at the door of the forum, believing this contributed to the ‘culture of imtimidation’ at the university and discouraged the voicing of student opinion.

Walsh passed this question to a staff member who said fees issues invoke strong student opinion, which “students express in a number of different ways.”
Several students also used this opportunity to voice their concerns on changes to the Gender and Women’s Studies and International Relations programmes.

Walsh also acknowledged the challenges that the relationship between Victoria and VUWSA will inevitably face in an environment of voluntary student association membership.
“We work in partnership with VUWSA. Under VSM, our relationship is no longer entirely in our own hands and we can’t make as free choices,” said Walsh.
A video of the forum will soon be available at www.vuwsa.org.nz

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  1. Maribeth says:

    That addresses several of my concerns acutally.

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