Victoria University of Wellington has announced that they will retain two democratically-elected student seats on their University Council.
Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association President Rick Zwaan said, “it took a lot of work” to retain two student seats and he is “glad it paid off”.
The council will have two elected academic staff, two elected students, the vice-chancellor, three appointed members, and four ministerial appointments.
Zwaan said, “it’s great that [Victoria University] has decided to have the most representative and democratic council in the country and I’m sure it will serve the university well.”
Earlier this year, university councils were forced to reduce their size after Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce introduced the Education Amendment Act 2015. The amendment cut the maximum number of seats allowed from 20 to 12. If councils were to have 12 seats, four must be reserved for ministerial appointments.
Due to the new regulations, student seats on the Otago University Council have reduced been from two to one, despite the Otago University Students’ Association lobbying for the student seats to remain.
After the council announced an initial proposal which “would’ve seen all members of the council appointed by the committee rather than elected,” VUWSA says they “engage[d] as any students as possible” in a protest on campus.
VUWSA also “set up a simple submission tool” for students to voice their opinion on the changes. “We also worked a lot with concerned staff and alumni to ensure that the council reflected the university community and it’s values.”
Earlier this year OUSA ran similar campaigns, hoping to retain two student seats.
OUSA President Paul Hunt said Victoria’s announcement is “great news” and “OUSA congratulates VUWSA for what was no doubt a lot of hard work to achieve two student positions.”
When asked whether OUSA will continue to fight for two student seats, Hunt said “[OUSA] are focusing on achieving greater access to other decision making forums within the University.”
He adds, “should the chance arise to advocate to have more students on council, we will pursue it.”
New Zealand Union of Students’ Association President Rory McCourt said they “welcome Victoria’s decision”. However, “it doesn’t change the reality that this power-grab by Minister Joyce needs to be reversed through legislation so that communities, not the Beehive, can decide the future of our unis.”