Student leaders around New Zealand will meet in two weeks to discuss the future of student representation after the decision made last week by the Victoria University Students’ Association (VUWSA) to give one year’s notice terminating their membership of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations’ (NZUSA).
“VUWSA was a founding member of NZUSA in 1929 and the decision to withdraw has caught everyone by surprise. The news is bitterly disappointing and reflects the extreme financial situation students’ associations are in,” said Daniel Haines, NZUSA president.
Three years ago the government passed a voluntary student membership law that put student representation in the hands of tertiary institutions rather than students themselves.
Voluntary student membership meant that students continued to pay service fees for student services but no longer controlled those services themselves.
Although many students’ associations have been successful at negotiating service contracts with their institutions the law change has resulted in widespread funding cuts, said Haines.
“The cut in funding for students’ associations has had a flow-on effect for NZUSA. To create a sustainable organisation NZUSA downsized and a reassessed our core business.”
But local students associations like VUWSA now have less, or no funding from their institution to pay for NZUSA. At the same time as NZUSA faces funding cuts that mean it is less able to offer the national support those institutions are looking for.
Haines is hopeful NZUSA and its affiliates can negotiate a solution.
“As students we are stronger together, the current structure has mana earned over 80 years of collective effort,” he said.
“Over the coming months NZUSA will work alongside students, stakeholders and alumni to review and protect a strong student voice moving into the future.”