Stand up for our universities.

By Jessica Ye, President, Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association - Te Aka Tauira

The impact of systematic underfunding of universities not only hurts current students but future students and Aotearoa.

Students are told that going to university will prepare them not only for their careers but also for an increasingly complex world. How can we expect students to support this idea when the very people within universities who carry out this important mission are being cut? The government needs to fulfill its own responsibility to this generation and properly fund universities so that we can provide high-quality education rather than placing the burden on staff by asking them to do more for students with less funding.

Students have been resisting the privatization of tertiary education in Aotearoa since it started in the 1990s. We have campaigned for lower tuition fees and a universal student allowance, and now we are having to protest sector-wide staff cuts. The inaction of successive governments has led us to this point. It’s shameful that we even have to convince the government of the value of universities, our educators and researchers before we can even discuss why it's desirable to reduce financial barriers for students to enter and stay in their studies.

It's not just the core public role of universities and jobs that are on the line. The future of Aotearoa is at stake. Universities will only become more elitist if they aren't funded properly, and we can’t address the issue of student poverty.

We can have a future for Aotearoa where there is strong government investment in universities and students. Like countries that do this, we can reap the rewards of happier, healthier, and more productive citizens, as well as a more socially cohesive and less unequal country.

To help, you can sign the TEU's petition, get an organization you belong to sign the open letters, email your local Member of Parliament, make this issue a topic of discussion at the dinner table, and show up at rallies. We need everyone - the general public, students, academics, professional staff, TEU members, and university leadership - to use our collective strength to show the New Zealand Government, particularly our former student presidents, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, and Finance Minister Grant Robertson, how much properly funded university education matters.