Tertiary law undermined by voluntary union bill - students

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce claims compulsory student services fees has increased significantly in the past few years, but that students had not seen a corresponding increase in services. File photo / Sarah Ivey
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce claims compulsory student services fees has increased significantly in the past few years, but that students had not seen a corresponding increase in services. File photo / Sarah Ivey

A new law to improve the transparency and accountability of tertiary student services fees would be undermined by voluntary student union membership, a national student group says.

Parliament yesterday passed the Education Amendment Bill (No 4), which would give Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce the power to issue directions that ensure students are adequately consulted on what fees are charged and how they are spent.

Mr Joyce yesterday said compulsory student services fees had increased significantly in the last few years, and he was sceptical that students had seen a corresponding increase in services.

"These changes will ensure students have a greater say in what these fees are used for," he said.

The legislation also establishes Education New Zealand, a new agency to promote the country as a destination for international students, and updates the framework around the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to give it stronger powers to manage private training establishments.

The Union of Students' Associations today said it welcomed the law's aims of improving transparency and accountability, and ensuring greater student involvement in decision making.

But co-president David Do said while the law gave students greater say, the Government's support for a bill to make student union membership voluntary would severely undermine independent student representation.

Parliament is likely to pass the Act Party's Education Amendment Bill this month, despite weeks of opposition and stalling tactics from the Labour Party.

Mr Do said coherent tertiary policy should seek to enhance and strengthen students' representation overall, rather than "pull the sector in two different directions".

"If the minister wants his services levies legislation to work effectively, the Government needs to reconsider its support for ACT's bill," he said.

- NZPA

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