The Otago University Students' Association hopes to join
forces with Tertiary Education Union staff this week in a
protest over proposed cuts in University Council representation
and a mooted student tuition fee rise.
Association president Francisco Hernandez said he would be
talking to TEU representatives today over a proposed protest
likely to be held tomorrow, when the governing University
Council will consider a proposal to increase domestic student
tuition fees by 4%.
A senior Labour Party spokesman and former Otago University
Students' Association president, Grant Robertson, has agreed
to speak at a likely protest rally over proposed cuts in
university council representation, but details were yet to be
finalised after talks with the TEU, Mr Hernandez said.
The university has already this year faced a small drop in
domestic student numbers and a decline in associated Ministry
of Education funding and some research funds, and a report
prepared for the council meeting notes the university already
faces ''significant financial pressure''.
Vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne said that, given the fees
required council approval, she would not be making any media
comments before the meeting.
Mr Hernandez said much of the protest focus would be on
opposing Government proposals, announced last week, that
would reduce the size of all New Zealand university councils
and cut the current University of Otago Council from 17
members to a maximum of 12.
''We're doing this because we love the university and we care
about it. If anything, it's a pro-university rally,'' Mr
He said it was vital that student representation (currently
two representatives) and representation by staff was
maintained. If representation was lost or diminished, it
would be harder for students and staff to speak out and to
ensure the university remained an open, democratic
The Government already had four ministerial appointees on the
council and if the council size was greatly reduced, this
would increase the influence of those appointees, undermining
academic freedom and ultimately making the university a less
attractive place for teaching and studying, he said.
The University Council report, by university financial
services director Grant McKenzie, said the university was
continuing to face ''significant cost increases'', of which
staff salaries were ''the most significant'', resulting from
negotiated salary settlements and the annual promotion
Bridging the shortfall between additional income and
additional costs would require ''very careful scrutiny of
costs in every division'', he said.
• University of Otago Council to consider a
domestic student tuition fee rise of 4%.
• Report says university faces $14.7m in extra
costs next year, among them academic salary rises, including
• Undergraduate, excluding honours, annual fees
for arts, languages, theology, maths and education would rise
$200 (4%) to $5198, commerce to $4963, medicine to $13,808,
and the MBA programme fee by $1440 to $37,440.
• Otago commerce undergraduate degree fees below
those of six other universities; Otago arts fees below five
other New Zealand universities'.