Students  are celebrating the Governments announcement of a student voice consultation  document at the ‘Voices of the Sector’ hui at Waikato University today.

The consultation document asks questions around three key themes, which in  essence focus on the quality, strength and independence of student voice,  meanwhile highlighting potential structure changes to further student voice  as a point of value for stakeholders and decision-making in tertiary  education.

“Ever  since Voluntary Student Membership came into effect in 2011, student voice  throughout the country has suffered tremendously. The New Zealand Union of  Students’ Associations have been pushing for changes to student voice ever  since this point, and although this has gotten harder as our voice has  weakened, we are extremely excited for this opportunity to cordinate a  response amongst student organisations of Aotearoa New Zealand” – James  Ranstead, President of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association.

“The  Minister has refrained from suggesting a return to Universal Student  Membership is on the cards, but students will be pushing for a system that  reflects the meaningful student representation that was capable before VSM”  said Sam Smith, Project Lead of the NZUSA Student Voice Project Team.

The  National Māori Students Association Te Mana Ākonga agrees with the rationale  and high level aims of the consultation document.

“Māori  student voice can definitely be strengthened in Tertiary Education. A review  of Student Voice will undoubtedly show that the Māori student voice is  under-resourced and undervalued, both at the regional and national level.  This is problematic for our multiple Māori Student Associations who too often  are left digging into their own pockets to manaaki and tautoko their Tauira.  This review has the potential to increase resourcing which ultimately would  allow Te Mana Ākonga to better advocate for the needs of our Tauira, creating  safer and supportive environments for Tauira Māori in Tertiary Education”.

The  proposed changes, too, are mostly reflective of the way the Aotearoa student  population is evolving.

“With  a much greater pool of Māori and Pacific students in the tertiary education  sector than previously, it is great that the Government is taking a focus on  this, likewise with disabled students. It is however, disappointing to see  that international students are not included in the consultation document  whilst comprising 50,000 of our national student pool, so we will be pushing  hard for a change on this in our submission” said Ranstead.

NZUSA  partner the Tertiary Education Union has also come out in support of todays  announcements.

Sharn  Riggs, TEU National Secretary, noted that student voice has been silenced and  compromised since the law changed in 2014 making membership of students’  associations voluntary. Riggs also welcomed Minister Hipkins recognition that  action must be taken and committed to wide-ranging consultation to address  these issues and ensure a strong student voice for the future. The TEU will  continue to support the NZUSA and its members as they advocate for their preferred approach to strengthen student voice.

The  consultation document will be soon uploaded on the Ministry of Education  kōrero mātauranga website. NZUSA and Te Mana Ākonga will be mobilising student groups over the next couple of months to ensure it is students that  are driving the discussion on this topic.

ENDS

 

 

Media  contact

 

James  Ranstead

 

President@students.org.nz

 

027 868  4989

 

Mamaeroa  Merito

 

Tumuaki@students.org.nz

 

027 668  0826