Since this is the last issue of Critic for the year, I thought I’d take the opportunity to use the my executive privilege to hijack a page here and say thank you to everyone at the University of Otago and across the country who has taken time this year to bring attention to the tertiary funding crisis facing Aotearoa.
This is not something I was expecting to focus on coming into this role, and it’s certainly made for an interesting year in student politics. But with the support of the staff and student bodies, we’ve gone a huge way towards making a difference to the tertiary education sector.
It is only with the collective effort of everyone that we secured the largest increase to tertiary education funding in decades. The Government announced 5% at the budget, and an additional 4%, $128 Million Dollars, after the fact to support the tertiary sector. This could not have happened without everyone coming to the table, so thank you.
Regardless of the outcome of the election next week, there will be work to do to protect tertiary education. The National Party have yet to commit to even retaining the higher education funding review, and we’ll need to fight to make sure the findings are implemented.
Student voice is still disempowered, we have one voice on Council, and students’ associations are still forced to rely on universities for their funding. We’ve shown that we can come together and be a powerful voice for change despite these challenges; this momentum cannot be lost.
If we want full fees free, a Study Wage/Universal Student Allowance, the winter energy payment, to repeal Voluntary Student Membership and empower students’ associations, we can get it if we keep going in our push for change in the tertiary sector.
This year has just been the start of an ongoing process to overhaul how we in Aotearoa view tertiary education. We have seen that user-pays does not work, and have shown the country that change is needed, and students want it. The tertiary sector can change; students can make that happen.
Also, vote. Voting closes this week. There are parties that want to scrap fees free. Some have been conveniently silent on the tertiary education crisis, and thinks the only way out is to keep exploiting international students. There are ~21,000 students at the University of Otago, nearly 400,000 in the country. This election, together, we can ensure our universities are protected.
It’s been an absolute privilege to be OUSA President this year. Good luck for your exams, and remember, OUSA is your student association. You’re our boss, make sure the 2024 executive knows what you want, and works for you. Email them, go up to the office and chat with them. They are paid to help. And if you want to get involved, nominations for the OUSA Academic Representative open next week.