Monday, October 31, 2005

Critic and Conscience of Society

Today the Victoria University Council voted to put students' fees up 5% for some courses and 10% for others. This was accompanied by the usual round of protests from students (I've been to a few of these, it's starting to feel a little formulaic). It was all very dispiriting, but I got three things to blog about:

1. The Fee Maxima scheme does exactly what it says, it maximises fees. By setting a Fee Maxima the Labour Government is actually setting the amount that fees will go up in almost every institution. It does nothing to make tertiary education more affordable.

2. The only three councillors to vote against the fee increase were the two student representatives and the representative from the CTU. The two staff representatives present voted for the 10% fee increase, and one expressed pleasure in doing so. Every year the staff reps buy arguments that fees need to go up because of underfunding. Then every time their collective agreement needs to be negotiated staff support pay increases. It is incredibly frustrating that the workers at Victoria University can't grasp the most basic concept of solidarity: "United We Stand, Divided We Fall".

3. When I was an undergraduate the protests at fee rise time were much bigger. I don't believe there was anything special about people who started university in 1996 that made them liable to make trouble, but I think there has been an important change since then. When I first started university fees had only been in place for 6 years and the National government had won the 1990 election on the back of a promise that it would eliminate students fees (it didn't). Fees and debt both felt like something we could change then, now it feels more like going through the motions. Students who enter University in 2006 would have been two years old when fees came in and they don't remember that it could be different. What's missing now is hope, and you can't build a protest movement without it.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous12:18 pm

    i like your blog! you rock! (but you're still a bureaucrat... :-) )