Call to stop providers from profiting

There were three burglaries and one theft in the University of Otago area at the weekend. Photo:...
The University of Otago returned an estimated $3.7million to up to 2300 Otago students. Photo: Getty Images
New Zealand’s student accommodation providers should be prevented from profiting from residents and should follow a not-for-profit model as Otago does, the Otago University Students’ Association says.

Parliament’s education and workforce select committee yesterday heard from a range of submitters in its inquiry into student accommodation, including the OUSA.

The select committee is seeking to establish regulations and rights for student residents; whether there is enough resourcing to meet both institutions’ and students’ expectations; to develop a permanent pastoral care code; and provide a recommendation for the operational model for colleges and halls.

The inquiry was formed after the death of Canterbury University student Mason Drake Pendrous, a 19-year-old commerce student, whose body lay undiscovered in his campus accommodation for weeks in 2019; and after universities’ responses to Covid-19 exposed a lack of support in the sector the Government says is under-regulated and not fir for purpose.

Over the Level 3 restrictions and Level 4 lockdown, thousands of students across New Zealand left their tertiary student accommodations.

Mason Pendrous. Photo: Supplied
Mason Pendrous. Photo: Supplied
During this time, of the eight universities across the country, four (Massey University, Waikato University, Lincoln University and Victoria University of Wellington) decided against charging students for unused rooms.

The University of Otago returned an estimated $3.7million to up to 2300 Otago students.

But the relationship between students as tenants and their colleges or halls of residence as landlords remains under the spotlight.

In a written submission, the OUSA largely promoted the Otago model, which it said appeared to provide a much higher level of pastoral care than others across New Zealand.

There are 15 residential colleges, 11 of which are owned and run by the university.

The four others are privately owned but affiliated to the university.

Collectively, these colleges housed 3300 students, of which the vast majority were first-year students, the submission said.

Life for residents was better at Otago because of live-in senior staff, in addition to residence advisers, and the fact that all colleges were owned by, or agreed to the standards and values of, the University of Otago, it said.

Speaking via videolink, a former OUSA representative, Joshuaa Alefosio-Pei, said that residence advisers were not equipped with the skills to deal with racism felt by Pacific and Maori students and he wanted better processes in place. - Additional reporting RNZ

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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