The Tertiary City Charter is the official position of NZUSA for the 2016 Local Government Elections. This charter encapsulates the issues of students at a tertiary level and what local government bodies can do to make their cities a more student friendly place to be. While this charter is not a quick-fix or a cure-all, it should be viewed alongside a city’s annual and long-term plans. We believe that a vibrant, supportive and inclusive city helps students succeed in their study and sets them up to be active members of society for many years to come. Candidates who choose to endorse the NZUSA Tertiary City Charter, acknowledge the part that Tertiary educated students play in their city and region.
We want to make it easier and minimise the barriers that stop people getting to campus every day. Transport is a crucial element to a successful tertiary education because without transport people are unable to attend classes and in-turn succeed. After first year, few students live near their campus and often commute to their campus. These students cycle, drive or bus to their study.
FREE PUBLIC TRANSPORT 24/7
Students are faced with the decision of paying for a bus and attending class or eating (or consuming other essentials such as sanitary products). Students are financially vulnerable, with some institutions having rural campuses and some areas facing intercity gentrification, public transport is even more necessary. NZUSA does not believe transport should be a barrier to accessing education. Parking is an issue at nearly every campus and congestion is often a side effect. All students should be able to access free buses. Free buses will drastically minimise parking and reduce congestion and this has been proven to work in a New Zealand context.
FLEXIBLE PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Good public transport is when an individual’s options integrate with other transport options available. Buses should have bike racks that allow for people to travel to their bus, but also cycle elsewhere as part of their journey. Ferries, trains, and cable cars should link seamlessly with buses. Students should not be forced to pay extra if they are forced to transfer buses due to restrictive routes.
Buses should run through student populated suburbs and direct to their institution. A student should only have to transfer buses on extensive journeys and should not be charged for these transfers. Buses should be well marked and their routes should be clear and easy to navigate.
MORE BIKE LANES
Students often cycle as it is a very low-cost option. Cyclists should have safe dedicated infrastructure that gets them from A to B.
PROVISION FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
For the disabled community, tertiary education is even more transformative. Buses that ‘kneel’, mobility ramps, assistance for hearing and vision impaired people is crucial. However, this infrastructure is nothing without regular training and staff. Disability equipment on public transport should be regularly checked and maintained. There should be no barriers to accessing sufficient and appropriate transport.
Cold, damp housing causes illness and affects a student’s ability to study. Students have little access to disposable income and are often unprepared for illness. In some instances, this can lead to life-long illness.
WARM, DRY HOUSING
All accommodation should be insulated, ventilated and heated. Students should have quality housing that doesn’t make them sick.
HOUSING IS AFFORDABLE & WELL LOCATED
Students shouldn’t be gentrified to outer suburbs or forced to live at home. Housing prices should be able to support students to live in locations that assist them to study.
SUPPORT FOR COMMUNITY & ADVOCACY GROUPS
Local community groups perform a valuable service protecting some of the most vulnerable. Community groups that support those looking for housing or looking to remedy tenancy issues need to be supported by their local body.
Government underfunding of tertiary students has forced many of them to work part time. Our last Income and Expenditure Survey (2014) showed students are working an average of 14 hours a week to supplement their student loan or allowance. We believe that students should have an income that allows them to participate in society.
We believe that students’ work conditions should be of a high quality and they should have choice of employment. Students should have an opportunity to work in a job that complements their study and assists them as a graduate.
Flexible jobs are good jobs. However, we believe employee-centred flexibility is a must. Flexibility means flexible work locations and hours that work with employees’ study schedules. Businesses that do not support students to upskill should not be supported by the local community.
NZUSA supports the Living Wage and believes that all people should be paid a living wage regardless of their background or employment that allows them to dedicate appropriate time to their study and participate in society.
The local business community should offer quality graduate roles. They should also use this opportunity to invest into recent graduates and help set them up with skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Local government bodies have a role to play in coordinating different interest groups to collectively investigate ways in which the community can offer graduate opportunities.
The diversity of our student population is an invaluable part of the tertiary, and city culture. Diversity that international students brings enriches the experiences of all students at tertiary education, and of their wider city community as well. However, sometimes there is a lack of support and social networks for international students. The city needs to work with tertiary institutions on programmes that will foster belonging for international students, and ensure that their experience in the city is a positive experience for tertiary study in New Zealand.
International students have a right to be protected and a right to feel safe. Local government should provide infrastructure that lets international students make their way about their city without fear of harm. Any measures put in place to protect international students should be done in consultation with international students.
INCLUSION & NEW EXPERIENCES
Many international students come to New Zealand to experience the country, see the sights and feel included in the culture. However, there are a number of students who feel they are not treated as part of the local community and there are few attempts to make them feel included in the community. Without inclusive experiences, we miss out on enriching experiences for everyone. Local government bodies should celebrate international students and support them to learn about New Zealand while helping Kiwis learn about their culture. Such opportunities break down barriers and challenge racism.
No person deserves to be harassed or assaulted verbally, physically or sexually. All students should feel, and be safe in their city. Safety intiatives should include enhancing city infrastructure, and the culture that the city wishes to foster. Including, initiatives that ensure that students get to and from home safely regardless of the hour or the state of the student.
Students should be able to get places feeling confident and safe in their chosen route. This requires having footpaths that a person of any ability can use, lighting that is sufficient and is working, as well as things such as protected cycle ways and shared-use paths that keep students from being involved in traffic incidents. Students should be given the support to know how to enhance and remedy broken infrastructure in the city. Community groups should be supported and resources to build social capital from the bottom-up. The city can foster cultures that it wishes to see through all social groups (both tertiary and community), by supporting student campaigns such as Thursdays in Black and its’ initiatives that promote consent, healthier attitudes and behaviors and safer cultures.
When we talk about student safety we think that no project should go ahead without the consultation of students. Without genuine consultation any implementation would be a top-down approach, and we know that this approach often results in falling short of expectations. Students want to invest into the design and future of their city. Bottom- up approaches should be implemented and students should be supported and resources to find solutions that work for them and are appropriate for the wide range of tertiary students. Anti-sexual violence initiatives should be developed in partnership. Working with students and the sexual violence sector can assist with facilitating this process.
THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
An excellent tertiary experience that students deserve is more than simply what is provided in the teaching environment. It is about the activities that students take part in during their spare time and the opportunities they have to be active citizens.
FRUITFUL EVENTS CALENDAR
Cities should consider students when planning events for the city. Many cities run events in late summer that finish just before students return to study. Working the calendar to include students would provide a warm, inclusive opportunity for students to experience the city and see what makes it special.
EDUCATION FOR NEW RESIDENTS
All cities run differently and have different systems, especially when it comes to key infrastructure such as rubbish/recycling and public transport. Many students come from different locations with different systems or have never experienced curbside rubbish and recycling infrastructure or public transport. Students need to be supported to learn about the city-specific infrastructure, rather than being punished for not knowing.
A VOICE FOR STUDENTS
TERTIARY CITY PORTFOLIO
All tertiary cities should have a tertiary city portfolio. This portfolio would look at furthering the needs of tertiary students. This role would take leadership for the responsibilities of engaging with students, ensuring that students’ views and interests are always being promoted at the Council table, and convening the standing committee that brings together representatives of the city and representatives of the student population.
RECOGNITION OF STUDENT VOICE
Tertiary students are some of the brightest and most innovative minds in this country. Their enthusiasm and problem-solving skills are often just what the council needs. Unfortunately, feedback mechanisms between local councils and students feel older than time itself. Councilors need to rejuvenate their feedback mechanisms to interact with students in a forum that works for those students. Responsible councils change their ways to meet the needs of their constituents.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH STUDENT LEADERS
Students’ associations are a vital part of institutions and are essential in supporting developing cities. City councils, mayors and key council staff should be meeting with student association representatives regularly. This allows for students’ associations to directly feed the issues they know exist to the city. Regular meetings indicate that students are seen as a genuine stakeholder in cities and will work to reshape the perception that students are just a temporary nuisance who don’t pay rates and therefore don’t deserve a voice. A best practice model would involve a steering group to pursue matters of common concern.