The challenges facing student radicals

May 30, 2012

Joel Cosgrove, former VUWSA president and Workers Party member, will be presenting on The University as Factory for Socialism 2012.

While Auckland University Students’ Association has been voluntary since 1999, this is the first year for most other universities under this new context. The experience of money-grabbing which occurred at Auckland is being repeated around the country, as institutions use the law change to rack up peripheral fees, with relative impunity.

In an effort to bypass the 5% fee maxima cap on tuition fees, student levies on peripheral services i.e. student health, gym, student services etc have been raised (often doubled) over the past few years. At Victoria University the Student Services Levies for a full-time student (including the VUWSA levy) has risen from $407.50 in 2009 to $650 in 2012 (excluding the VUWSA levy, the SSL was $275.60 in 2009). Speaking bluntly at a student forum in 2009 then Chancellor Tim Beaglehole said “There is no other income that we have control of.” When the University was questioned under the official information act on the amount of effort spent lobbying the government about the ever increasing level of fees (something that raises much hang-wringing each year at council, while they simultaneously raise said fees) between 2005-2007, their efforts had consisted of three letters to the Minister of Tertiary Education. It is unlikely that the situation has changed.

Yet while the money side of the discussion of VSM is important, it is the politics of VSM which are primary in the discussion. Politically the situation has changed very little in the transition, because to a large extent that political sovereignty has been ceded willingly. The only change is a technical one in that now that voluntary relinquishment of autonomy has now been legally recognized. The students’ association can now not back out, where hypothetically it could when it was willingly ceding its independence.

The mentality therefore is unchanged. At VUW, the Student Union (a confusing name which covers the university’s recreational and non-academic service provision) is angling to take over clubs funding, and has just released an “independent” review which confirms it. This is a side issue within a minor department of the university and one of resource control and small castle building. Whether the Students’ Association controls club funding or not the university calls the shots. Read the rest of this entry »


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