Call to change uni procedures

Dunedin  postgraduate student Lisa Jankowska is calling on the university to change an enrolment procedure so she can  receive a  student allowance. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Dunedin postgraduate student Lisa Jankowska is calling on the university to change an enrolment procedure so she can receive a student allowance. Photo by Peter McIntosh.

A Dunedin postgraduate student is calling on the University of Otago to change a bureaucratic process which she says has stopped her from getting a student allowance this year.

Changes to student allowance eligibility announced by the Government in last year's Budget came into force this year, and most postgraduate students are among those no longer eligible. However, until last week, Lisa Jankowska (28) had been under the impression she would still be eligible for the allowance because she had started her one-year commerce master's degree last year. This changed when she learnt, University of Otago procedures meant she was forced to re-enrol for her degree this year, making her ineligible for the allowance.

Ms Jankowska said the university should either change the way it dealt with enrolments or send StudyLink a letter saying her course started in August last year and finished in July this year.

Despite having no luck getting the university to change its mind, she still hoped the situation could be worked out as she was ''literally banking'' on receiving the $244 a week she got through the allowance.

Since her allowance stopped in December, she had been forced to take out a $2000 overdraft, she said.

''We went through Christmas this year thinking we were going to have an income, which we now don't have.''

Asked if she was angry with the university, she said: ''I was at first, but it is the Government that has made this problem. The university just has a procedure which doesn't fit in with the new policy.''

When asked about Ms Jankowska's problem, a university spokeswoman said it would be unwilling to change its policy, which was based on the calender year.

''While we sympathise with those students affected by the change to postgraduate student allowances, due to their date of enrolment, the StudyLink regulation change was announced in the Government's 2012 Budget and is not a change to university policy.''

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

In response

Angel wings: Dundeeboy is correct about the dates. I was selected, thank you, my fees are paid. Whether someone is eligible for a scholarship is irrelevant to whether they receive something they are entitled to.

I did understand the changes, and in fact researched them before deciding to pursue the Masters opportunity. There is one sentence in the legislation which is misleading and confusing regarding the eligibility of PG students who are completing the same qualification over two calendar years without break (i.e. me). The problem is you have to re-enrol with the uni every year - even though it is the same qualification and you are partway through the minimum period of completion. By re-enroling with the university, you then have to reapply for the allowance and you become ineligible.

It took months for anyone from Studylink and the University to be able to explain exactly what that sentence meant. If I was wrong, I would have been happy with that. However, I had Studylink telling me I was definitely eligible, and the University telling me I was not. They refused to talk to each other and give me an answer. It ended up that one of Studylink's national managers rang me personally to try and sort it out, but even he did not understand the reasons fully.

I now get the Student Loan living costs and I will replay it one day, but there was a period of 7 weeks where I received nothing from Studylink.

Knowledge bar

Not sure about a knowledge bar. Ignorance does not preclude postings from other media. [abridged]

Fed up

I am fed up to the back teeth about people seeing fit to post comments without obviously reading the topic or the statements previously made.

The article clearly states 'course started in August last year and finished in July this year' (a time we have in fact not reached yet). Still a one year course so there is no hold up. How is someone supposed to be finished before the course actually finishes unless of course they have access to a time machine, now where did I put Marty McFly's address.

I think in circumstances where it is blatantly obvious a submitter has clearly not read or understood the subject in front of them the moderator should not allow that comment to proceed to publication.

Finish up maybe?

Hmmm, If it's a year long degree, and you started last year, you should be done by now. What's the delay? Also, if you were "selected" to do this project, why wouldn't you be eligible for a scholarship? Perhaps you meant "accepted". 

All the other Postgraduates got the memo about no more student allowance, I'm not sure why you think you're any different than the rest of them. And if you're banking on Studylink knowing what they're doing- you should know by now they're guessing every day. The article should really be about the ineptitude of Studylink and their never-ending merry go round of nonsense.

The University will never, ever, change its position, ODT filler article or not. 

Good luck to you, it might be easier for you to do your Masters part-time and work part time.

Losing faculties

Uh oh, quite right. I stand corrected. The thing about age, though, is that learning is not chronological. Pupils who 'failed' at school may succeed in later life at Poly or Uni. But I unfashionably believe in education for its own sake, not utilitarian reasons. I have no formal connection whatsoever with academia, but have seen the film Goodbye, Mr Chips.

Quit while you're behind

Quit while you're behind, fishes. You are quite clearly anti-academic. 

It's a school

I'm not anti academic at all, merely raising a different point of view. NZ needs talented people who take their learning and do something with it.

Spending half a lifetime thinking and studying is merely that. Academics are very useful, for example the Dictionary (produced by senior academics) states

School.

1: Institution for teaching children; 2: university-level education; 3: department specializing in academic subject.

So therefore at 28 a person is still at school. Changing a word does not change the fact (or is it 'a' fact).

There is a very old saying "those that can.... do. Those that can't ...teach". Maybe that's a bit harsh, but I think it was an academic that first quoted it.

 

Other worldly

Here we go again with the 'Real World', which is the one you live in, of course. A tertiary institution is not a school and the Economy needs Knowledge. Being anti academic is short sighted.

Postgraduate policy

Dear fishes, you wrote in regard to Lisa Jankowska's difficulty obtaining a student allowance;

If taxpayers are to continue to support
postgraduate schooling then more rules, not less need to be
in place.

I think that should read, 'If taxpayers are to continue to support postgraduate schooling then  a greater number of rules, not fewer need to be in place.'

Perhaps you should have stayed at school longer.

 

Lindsay

NSW 

Assuming

Why are you automatically assuming that, because she is 28, she is "still at school", i.e. has not left? Is there not a possibility that she has been in the workforce and returned to University in order to upskill? If that were the case, wouldn't greater skill be mutually beneficial for both Lisa and the economy?

Contrary to what you think, what needs to change is people's attitude towards postgraduate study, which undoubtedly contributes to a diverse and innovative economy and culture. How can you make a valid comparison between fines and study? Can you explain this further?

As for your comment about students moving offshore following study: that may be the case sometimes, but that is irrelevant in this context. As Lisa said, "it is the Government that has made this [student allowance] problem."

Isn't the removal of student allowance going to result in an increase in the number of students moving offshore to carry out postgraduate study? Keeping students in the country after their study would be ideal; disincentivizing postgraduate study will mean there will be fewer here in the first place. 

In response

Hi,

Thanks for your opinion. I actually worked for two years before I started university because I didn't want to waste time at uni doing a degree for no reason. After two years of study, I was forced to take a year off for financial reasons. I then returned for two years and achieved a first class Honours degree. My father died suddenly of cancer whilst I was doing my Hons year making it particularly difficult to finish. Believe me, studying at my Dad's bedside at the Hospice was in the "real world".

After graduating, I went back into the "real world" and worked in a few different areas, including in HR. The Masters project I am currently working on is a special project I was selected to undertake. 

The point here is not about people's individual circumstances. It is the fact that as PG students, we have no choice except to borrow money to live, or to work whilst we are studying when we are supposed to be focusing on our research. I have worked since I was 16 and was attending highschool. I worked all through my undergraduate degree, and I have worked full-time since graduating. Now I want to be able to focus on my thesis to achieve the best outcome. It's actually even more of a waste of "taxpayer money" if we don't achieve our best.

The bulk of this article however is about the fact that Studylink have expressly told me I am eligible for the allowance but because the processes don't align with the University's I cannot access it.

 

A bit harsh

Your comment is a bit harsh, don't you think? Sometimes people make career changes and need to go back to university to get the necessary training. Your bizarre rant on leaving the country with unpaid debts is hardly relevant.

What needs to change is . . .

People's attitude to staying at school. Come on, 28 and still at school? If taxpayers are to continue to support postgraduate schooling then more rules, not less need to be in place. For example if you owe money to the govt through fines you can be stopped from leaving NZ until an arrangement has been made to pay back owed money.

This should be applied to people who stay at school until they decide its safe to leave, taking their postgrad certificates and leave NZ for higher wages, never to return or pay back money owed to the tax payer. Maybe at 28 a good subject to study would be "how to enter the real world".