Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It’s not a Merry Christmas for prospective Auckland University students

Posted by Skyler:
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.

Auckland University vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon defended the new policy by claiming it had been foreshadowed in the strategic plan he announced in 2005. McCutcheon is trying to make Auckland into an elite ‘research university’ by limiting increases in undergraduate students, encouraging more wealthy foreign students, and funnelling funds to postgraduates and ‘star’ staff members.

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.”



Blogger Richard said...

There always has been -or there used to be some restriction (not for adult students though - forget what was considered adult or "mature") - not based on class or school but it was if one had University Entrance* More recently I knew someone who went to Uni and took a course available to prepare for study - a good idea if one's marks are low or English language is not good or one has been away from study for some time.

Ideally the University should ultimately be open to everyone who wants to study, to learn - I suppose there are problems with staffing levels etc

What is the reason given for the limitations by the Council? It certainly isn't good idea to have students from
Asia entering because their parents have big bank balances. Many do have. There is a tendency for that. Whoever the student is (rich or poor, exam marks perhaps at a certain minimum?) needs to show a good competence with English, and demonstrate a good knowledge of NZ and our (our?) culture (if we Europeans have one and / or we can be considered as equivalent to Maori etc)) and our and Maori history etc - that should go across the board - perhaps everyone should sit basic level tests in English etc.

All are equal but unfortunately
some people are in reality more equal than others...hmm ... it is not as if everyone is going straight into Medical School or Law School.

Good to see Dave there etc he is a good sort.

What do people think about this issue I wonder?

* I went to Tamaki College and it wasn't hard to get to in [1966] (and fees were low - much lower than now days) but I don't think we had it as easy overall as students from say Auckland Grammar (esp rugby players etc - although that mellowed over time I think)...but one could still "make it" from Tamaki - my brother and some friends flew through (one from my school and class is a law lecturer there) - but I bombed out! But I returned as a "mature" student...to get a BA in 1994.

9:34 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

My feeling - if I suspend my "logic" (if I ever had any logic!) - is that this restriction business is callous and I feel for these young people - they should be given a chance to study.

The University has become very large - but that said - it seems to me it has also become a more forbidding place - where the emphasis is to fast track people into "useful" things and it has lost its true ideal as a place of learning, wisdom, humanity, and culture (there is nothing wrong with learning business or whatever is "useful" (how to define this of course)... I actually got into Law School but for personal reasons had to stop... (I regret that somewhat)

But I feel that all students need to be exposed to some of the so called "liberal arts" ... that is learning itself for itself.

And everyone needs to slow down and savour learning - it seems this US based "semester" system was big step backwards.

Festina lente. Ad omnes doctrina est!

10:17 pm  

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