Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Minister to students: 'keep your heads down'

Auckland University students protest and occupy level six of the Owen G Glenn Building with a banner mocking Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon. Photo / NZ Herald
Auckland University students protest and occupy level six of the Owen G Glenn Building with a banner mocking Vice Chancellor Stuart McCutcheon. Photo / NZ Herald

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has warned protesting university students to keep their heads down lest they draw attention to their relatively privileged position in hard economic times.

Asked about the student protests at Auckland University yesterday, Mr Joyce said university students had 75 per cent of the tuition subsidised on average and benefited from interest-free student loans.

"My general advice to NZUSA (NZ Union of Students' Associations) on the cost of living for students is to keep your heads down because actually most people probably think you're doing OK."

Mr Joyce said it appeared to be a "grab bag of protests" - from the expected passing of the Voluntary Student Membership Bill to increases in student fees.

"I think most New Zealanders think students are reasonably well looked after at this point in time."

He also questioned their commitment to the cause, after the protesters abandoned their occupation to go and get pizza.

"They were obviously hungry - they went out for dinner and never came back."

He said the protest would not stop the Voluntary Student Membership Bill - a Private Bill by Act's Heather Roy, which is expected to pass its final reading in Parliament tomorrow.

He said it was peculiar the protest was at Auckland University, where there was already membership of the students' association was already voluntary.

"It didn't quite add up to me."

He believed the Government had maintained a good relationship with students, despite the recent protests, and put the protests down to the election period.

- NZ Herald

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