Otago University supports struggling students

University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne. Photo: Files
University of Otago vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne. Photo: Files
University of Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne is giving 20% of her salary for the next six months to a student hardship fund and is asking other staff and alumni to donate.

The University of Otago itself is also committing $1.5 million as an initial investment to support Otago students facing financial hardship as a result of the Covid-19 global outbreak. 

Named Putea Tautoko, which translates as financial support, the fund is a way for the university community to support its students facing the greatest need in extraordinary times.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne launched the fund today.

“This fund is an important way for us to show and provide meaningful support for those students facing greatest need,” says Professor Hayne.

“In addition to the university contribution, we will also ask our wider university community, including university staff, alumni, and friends, to contribute to this fund. 

"Our hope is that we can substantially increase the size of the fund so that we are in the best possible position to meet what will be a very high level of student need."

Prof Hayne she would be donating 20% of her salary for the next six months to the fund.

According to the latest information from the State Services Commission Prof Hayne was paid $644,000 per year as of 2018.

The chancellor, Dr Royden Somerville QC, said at a University Council meeting on Tuesday this week there was unanimous support for the establishment of the initiative.

"Council members are conscious of the urgent need to ensure that students facing extreme hardship due to the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic are supported to allow them to continue with their university studies. 

"Council members will donate 20% of their council fees for the next six months to the fund," Dr Somerville said

All students will be eligible to apply to the fund, whether they were New Zealand or international students, full-time or part-time, undergraduate or postgraduate.

The fund is launched with the support of the Otago University Students Association.

OUSA President Jack Manning said the pandemic had generated significant hardship for many students. 

Many were facing additional costs and the loss of income from part-time work.

For others, the ability to access financial support from family has massively reduced, or completely evaporated.

"No student should face financial insecurity as a result of Covid-19.

"The increased hardship funding OUSA and the university provide will help students during this unprecedented time.

"I would strongly encourage anyone who can afford to contribute to do so. Their support will help those most vulnerable in our University community.”

Applications would be considered by several panels, all including student representation. The panels would robustly assess hardship, using tools we already have to assess applications for existing hardship funds, and for our needs-based scholarships.

Professor Hayne noted that Putea Tautoko would be the largest hardship initiative in the university’s history.

“The size of our response is commensurate with the extraordinary times we are in.  It is also consistent with the founding ethos of our University which was based on the principle of egalitarianism.

“We are running out of words to describe the impact this virus has had on our community, our country and the world. But we have also seen extraordinary kindness and generosity as a result, and I believe this fund will be a way for our community to express our support for students in a concrete way.”

Applications for the fund open in early May. Information would be made available to students then

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