Students Challenge Parliament to Protect Student Voice

Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association
22 July 2014

Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA) Academic Vice President Rāwinia Thompson warned the Education Amendment Bill (No 2), returned to Parliament from the Education and Science Select Committee today, would ‘silence the student voice’.

The Bill seeks to drastically cut the size of university and wānanga councils and removes the right for students and staff to be represented on the governing bodies of their institutions.

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Students disappointed at report from Education and Science Select Committee

This week the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) moved out of the Education and Science Select Committee without amendments to its dangerous reforms to reduce the size of universities and wānanga councils. If the Bill passes guaranteed student and staff positions on the governance bodies will be removed and a dangerous level of direct government control will be introduced.

“Of the 1,568 individual submissions and 298 oral submissions only one supported these widely condemned reforms. NZUSA believes that these changes are wrong headed and unnecessary. The changes are universally opposed by the sector not least because the proposed changes have no evidence to support them. This seems to be another political gimmick in the lead up to the General Election but will have wide-ranging and adverse consequences”, says Daniel Haines, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

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NZUSA Campaign to Give Cost of Living Adjustments to Students Gains Traction

Last month NZUSA released information showing that students throughout the country face increasing housing costs but those receiving student allowances – by definition those who come from the most deprived backgrounds – have been missing out due to an arbitrarily imposed cap.

This month six political parties represented in parliament pledged to support our call for a review of the unjust system.

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Students Want What MPs Give (only) to Themselves.

1 July 2014

In the light of massive increases in the housing perk that was announced for Members of Parliament last week, students are calling attention to the fact that the support that many students get for housing costs has not increased in ten years.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations is calling for the lifting of the restriction which has prevented the support students can get from keeping pace with rising housing costs.

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Government needs to come clean on plans for further cuts to student support.

Students are calling for the Minister for Tertiary Education to come clean on his plans for further cuts to student support if the National-led government is re-elected.

Papers were recently released to the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) under the Official Information Act (OIA), after nearly eighteen months of enquiries and only following an intervention from the Ombudsman. They reveal that Steven Joyce had been considering far greater student support cuts in 2012 than those to postgraduate students and those aged over forty which were subsequently announced. He sought advice on reducing student allowances from the current five years to three years for everyone and reducing the loan available to meet course costs from the present $1000 to $500.

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Over 40’s Cop an Unfair Deal

Changes to the student loan scheme in 2013 reduced the number of weeks students over 40 can receive a student allowance from 200 weeks to 120. The Waiariki Institute of Technology Students’ Association (WITSA) President Richard Williams says “these changes are discriminatory and are locking New Zealanders out of an education”.

“This Government has made indiscriminate cuts to support for mature students who are desperately in need of retraining and up-skilling. The most abhorrent part about these changes is their retrospective nature, students who made decisions to study before 2013 could not have known they were using up their 120 weeks. Policy changes need to be forward looking, we should not create laws which penalise people for decisions made in the past”, says Williams.

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Support for sole parents needs to go further

10 June 2014

Steven Joyce and Paula Bennett announced changes today which will extend support available to sole parents in study. New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) president Daniel Haines “welcomes these changes but believes they need to go further”.

“Anyone with limited income is able to receive an Accommodation Supplement up to a maximum of $225, unless you are a student. Students have their own accommodation support called the Accommodation Benefit, paid in conjunction with the student allowance. This is capped at $60 per week for students with dependent children, or $40 a week for all other students. Only forty percent of full time students qualify for allowances and therefore the Accommodation Benefit”, says Haines.

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Want More Scientists? Cut Fees, Say Students.

23 May 2014

“While tinkering with the tuition subsidy on some courses is a welcome admission, Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has created a funding system which is producing the wrong outcomes - he needs to face the fact that high fees are a significant deterrent,” said New Zealand Union of Students' Association (NZUSA) President Daniel Haines.

“Joyce announced an increased subsidy for science, agriculture and health science courses with the intention to make them more attractive for students. This follows an increase in the subsidy for engineering last year. Yet the real barrier to accessing these courses are high fees and restricted entry. If the subsidy does not address fees then it will make little difference to student choices," said Haines.

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Tax Cut Promise to be paid for by Effective Tax Increase for 720,000 New Zealanders

22 May 2014

John Key and Bill English appear to want to go into the next election promising a tax cut – which will inevitably go to the highest earning New Zealanders. However, the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) points out that it will be paid for through an effective tax increase – a compulsorily collected reduction in take-home pay – on the 720,000 former students who have a student loan.

“The 2014 budget froze the student loan repayment threshold at $19,084, below the minimum wage and well below the Australian student loan repayment threshold of $53,345. In real terms, this means as wages increase for graduates, low income earners will not be able to put food on the table or pay spiralling housing costs”, said NZUSA President Daniel Haines.

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Students pleased UCOL and TEU have ended pay dispute.

15 May 2014
Press Release: Association of Students at UCOL

“Students at UCOL are pleased that month long employment negotiations ended yesterday”, says Miranda Orpin, President of Association of Students at UCOL (AS@U).

Paul McElroy, the UCOL Chief Executive announced yesterday the conclusion of ongoing employment negotiations between UCOL and the Tertiary Education Union (TEU).

“Negotiations have been resoundingly unsuccessful up to this point, a several industrial actions had taken place including teaching strikes. Mr McElroy joined the negotiations as an observer when talks resumed on Monday 19th May. An offer of was made at this point, which the TEU have accepted,” says Orpin. 

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The 2014 Budget: Government locks in cuts and continues to lock out students

15 May 2014

Despite posting their first surplus, the National Government has continued to deprive students from much needed support.

After five consecutive deficit budgets, the National Government announced today a return to surplus. Finance Minister Bill English has forecasted an operating surplus of $372 million which should have translated into increased investment into education. The underfunded sector should be at the front of the line to receive the spoils of a boom economy. However, students have again missed out on much needed support.

Student support remains frozen, with the student loan repayment threshold flat lining. “Since 2012, any domestic student after earning above $19,084 must make compulsory 12 cents in the dollar repayments on their student loan”, says Daniel Haines, New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) President. 

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Students Suffer As Support Fails to Keep Pace With Rent Increases.

12 May 2014

Press Release: New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations

Students are suffering as the support they are entitled to for help with housing costs fails to keep pace with skyrocketing rents, according to research released today by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA).

NZUSA is calling for the lifting of the restriction that limits the support students can get to keep pace with rising housing costs.

A student allowance includes an element for help with rent, but on a different basis than all other low income New Zealanders. However, housing support for students is capped at a maximum of $40 per week, and has been since 2001. In contrast, the Accommodation Supplement – that everyone who is not a student is entitled to – provides support of up to $145 per week if you live in certain parts of Auckland, and $100 per week if you live in other expensive places such as Wellington or Hamilton.

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NZUSA Submission on the Education Amendment Bill (No 2)

Submission on the 

Education Amendment Bill (No 2)

The Education Amendment Bill (No 2) outlines a number of changes which have been bundled together. These affect very different parts of the Education Act and should be dealt with separately. The primary focus of this submission is the negative impact of the Bill for University Governance but the other areas of the Bill are addressed at the end.

NZUSA believes that the proposed changes are wrong-headed and unnecessary, and inconsistent with international norms and international best practice. They risk undermining the integrity and the robust decision-making processes that are currently in place.

NZ tertiary institutions are doing well, despite a chronic shortage of funds. Further, the claim that ITPs have performed better financially since the governance changes imposed on them is not borne out by the evidence.

From our analysis of current Council membership we believe that making Council membership “more flexible” will lead to Councils that are dangerously unrepresentative of the communities that they are meant to serve.

We believe that Councils have the capability to govern universities precisely because of the diversity of perspectives that are currently represented on them. Further, we believe that students are the stakeholder with the greatest interest in the long term performance of the University.

We note that there is no contradiction between the duties and accountability of a Council member to the institution and that of their responsibility to be an advocate and a representative, as is the case for those on the Councils of territorial authorities or Members of Cabinet.

Student and staff representation on Council needs to be legislated as an important function of engaging with stakeholders to create good decisions.

Finally, we set out some good practice guidelines that we believe would further enhance the ability of students to participate in University governance. These have been sourced from an independent research project into enhancing the student voice for quality enhancement.

Background

This submission is made on behalf of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA). NZUSA is a federation of students’ associations with members from Universities, Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics across the country. NZUSA has been representing the collective interests and concerns of tertiary students since 1929, as the peak body for learners and leaders of the student movement in New Zealand. We welcome the opportunity to submit on Education Amendment Bill (No. 2), and wish to appear before the Select Committee.

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Continuing changes to student loan now include prison time

"Logic and common sense needed" to address $520 million loan default shortfall"

From 1 April 2014, Inland Revenue will be able to request an arrest warrant for borrowers who knowingly defaulted on their overseas-based repayment obligation and are about to leave New Zealand. This follows on from four years of extensive restrictions being imposed on the student loans and allowances system, with the latest changes making it a criminal offence to fall behind on student loan repayments.

As per the student loan contract signed upon applying for a student loan, borrowers have an obligation to pay back their loan, whether or not they remain in New Zealand. Government has introduced several initiatives through the Overseas Based Borrowers (OBB) Compliance Initiative, such as an information sharing agreement between Inland Revenue and Internal Affairs. This means borrowers who are in serious default can be identified when they enter New Zealand through information matching with New Zealand Customs. The warrants are part of a series of moves by Government to increase repayments but have been met with much objection.

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Student leaders and Polytechnic staff gather for summit

28 April 2014

Today, student leaders and Polytechnic staff are attending a two-day summit in Wellington, which will investigate how listening to student voice directly enhances the quality of academic programs.

"This is the first conference organised by students with widespread participation from staff and students. This collaboration reflects the natural partnership that exists in advancing the collective goal of tertiary institutions. Better decisions are made when staff and students work together to reach the common goal of a better tertiary experience", said New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations President, Daniel Haines.

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Save Student and Staff Vocies

 

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Students Welcome Engagement with StudyLink - Shows in Better Performance

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations (NZUSA) has welcomed the improved performance from StudyLink in 2014. There is no doubt that getting their loans and allowances processed on time makes it easier for students to concentrate on being students.

“We are appreciative of how well StudyLink have listened to us. They have been responsive and adapted their practices in response to the feedback from students we have been able to provide,” said Daniel Haines, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations.

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Fact check: “Government claims on student support hopelessly misleading”

17 April 2014

Students are slamming the “hopelessly misleading and untrue” claims by Government Ministers that their “cracking down” on overseas based-borrowers is either successful or has led to “increased support for current students”.

In a media release posted on the National Party website yesterday, Ministers Steven Joyce and Todd McClay claimed that their initiatives with overseas-based borrowers had brought in $100 million in repayments. It is not clear if these are additional to what would have occurred anyway. No mention was made of the $550 million in default or the $3 billion owed by ex-students currently living overseas.

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Minister pleased with successful StudyLink peak season

Minister pleased with successful StudyLink peak season

Associate Social Development Minister Chester Borrows has today congratulated StudyLink staff on a highly successful Student Allowance and Loan peak season.

“StudyLink faces an incredibly challenging workload, with more than 300,000 applications for financial support to process in only a few months,” says Mr Borrows.

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Protecting the Student Voice

 Background

The introduction of voluntary student membership has proved a difficult transition for many students’ associations, and too difficult for some (particularly at institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs)). Yet the desire to ensure that a student voice is able to contribute to questions of quality, the responsiveness of the institution that students study at, and policy and implementation issues that are considered on a national basis remains paramount.

Within this context the current government introduced legislation to regulate the setting of compulsory student services fees (the CSSF regulatory environment) that requires institutions to consult with students or, preferably, with student representatives.

Further, current moves to remove students from the governing bodies of universities and wānanga are also likely to result in requirements to build systems to ensure that the student voice is still able to inform institution’s governing bodies’ decision-making. This should be extended to ITPs where students have already been removed from their institution’s Councils.

 

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The voice of New Zealand's 400,000 students.

The New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations exists to advance the political, social and economic interests of tertiary students whatever they study and wherever they live. NZUSA is a membership body of local students' associatons. We believe in opportunity for all.

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