Student call for places on council

More than 400 submissions have been made pushing for the University of Otago Council to include two elected student representatives, the students' association says.

Consultation on the council's draft constitution ran for a month, from May 20 to last Saturday, and the council is expected to consider the submissions at its next meeting on 14 July.

The proposed changes come after a law change earlier this year, which reduced the maximum council size from 20 to 12 members and scrapped a requirement for three student and staff-elected representatives.

Otago University Students' Association president Paul Hunt said the large response demonstrated how much students cared about the university and wanted to have input.

The 400-plus submissions were made through a tool OUSA set up on its website.

Mr Hunt said it was important to have two council student-elected representatives - rather than the one proposed - because ''the university needs to represent a diverse range of students''.

''[Having two representatives] means that the university has a direct access route to student leaders, and allows the student body to understand the strategic objectives of the university.''

The draft constitution would give staff-elected representatives two seats on the council, which Mr Hunt supported.

Because the university's council is already at 12 seats - the maximum number under the 2015 Education Amendment Act - another stakeholder group would have to sacrifice a seat for students to have two.

Mr Hunt said one of four seats reserved for ''skill-based'' appointees should be given to a student representative.

The four ministerial appointees were already effectively ''skill-based'', he said.

''The benefit of a second student [voice] is more significant than the significance of an eighth skill-based appointment.''

Tertiary Education Union spokesman Stephen Day, who was on the university council as OUSA president in the 1990s, said the issue of university council representation had been getting a great deal of attention.

''At Lincoln University, we had over 500 people signing a petition, and a large number of submissions as well.''

He said ''university academics and students do feel a sense of ownership ... and don't like other people telling them what to do''.

The TEU was advocating that at least a third of a council's seats be reserved for democratically-elected students and staff.

The University of Otago would not say how many submissions had been received and declined to comment on the draft constitution or the response to it, saying only that the submissions would be ''analysed and considered'' at the next council meeting in July.

carla.green@odt.co.nz

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