It’s not a Merry Christmas for prospective Auckland University students
On Monday The University of Auckland Council adopted a proposal to limit access to all its undergraduate courses. The university already severely limits entry to courses like medicine and law, using secondary school exam results as its criteria.
About 40 students, university staff members and supporters staged a short-notice protest before the University Council meeting. The protest was called by Auckland University Students Association (AUSA) and supported by Nga Tauira Maori and Auckland University Pacific Islands Students Association (AUPISA). These groups have voiced concern over a lack of consultation regarding the new plan, which was only announced after the end of the academic year, when the university is emptied of students and staff.
Student representatives Anna Crowe and David Do were the only members of the University Council to vote against the new restrictions. Do, who is currently education vice president of AUSA and will be their president next year, noted that secondary school exam results were not a good indicator of success at university. Do said that the new restrictions on access would make it harder for working class, Maori, and Pacifika students to get into Auckland University, because those groups tend to do worse at secondary school. ‘If we go down this path we will be shutting out many potential achievers and leaders of the future’, Do warned.
Associate professor of sociology Dr Dave Bedggood agreed with Do. In a speech to the protest, Bedggood predicted that the new restrictions ‘will stack the deck with those with money and those from good schools. We will get a pecking order that will replace egalitarianism with elitism’.
Other protesters worried that the new policy will put increased pressure on children, by forcing them to sit more examinations from a younger age. ‘Do we want to go down the route of the English system where students start exams at 11 and the results determine their future?’ one protester asked.
A Senate task force is being set up to examine the equity implications of the university's admission policies. The university wants to ensure that 'students from all backgrounds have equal opportunity to achieve their potential’. McCutcheon claims that the taskforce will ‘consult widely’ and listen carefully to students and staff, yet it is due to report its findings in March, at the very beginning of the next academic year.
Below is a media release from AUSA demanding a fair say on the equity taskforce:
Media Release - 13 December 2007 - For Immediate Use
Auckland students are outraged that the University’s taskforce to look at the equity implications of eliminating open entry may have only one student representative.
University Council student representatives yesterday proposed that a student representative each from AUSA, Nga Tauira Maori(NTM, the Maori students association), and AUPISA(Auckland University Pacific Islands Students Association) be on the Taskforce.
The idea of having student representatives was raised at the University Senate, and it was agreed then that this was a good idea. However, the University Council rejected the notion of having more than one student representative on the taskforce.
“Students who have gone through the system know how it works. They provide a useful perspective on how limitations might affect different students, and how this might be accommodated for. To shut out the input of Maori and Pasifika students, who would be most disadvantaged by these schemes, is outrageous,” says David Do, AUSA Education Vice President.
“Many of our Maori students are encouraged by the University to go out to North Island high schools every year to encourage Maori students to aspire to university and study at Auckland. To deny us a say in how these entry schemes might affect Maori students is appalling. It is certainly not in the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi,” says Reina Harris, AUSA co-Maori Students Officer and NTM executive member.
“We call on the University to give students a fair say on this issue by allowing more than one student representative on this taskforce.”