Here's what's been causing all the fuss. Kind of an anticlimax, really:
THE STORY THEY DIDN'T WANT YOU TO READ
5-10% FEE RISE!
by Salient staff reporters
Leaked documents reveal that Vic students are in for a massive increase in fees in 2006, with the University considering 5-10% across-the-board fee rises.
At the time of writing, the University has threatened legal action to stop Salient from publishing this information. (So if you're reading this - yay!)
According to the leaked documents, Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh presented four options for fee increases in 2006 (for undergraduate and Honours courses):
1. 5% increase across-the-board
2. 10% increase for Humanities and Education; 5% increase for everyone else
3. 10% increase for Law, Humanities and Education; 5% increase for everyone else
4. 10% increase across-the-board
Under all four options, all postgraduate fees will increase by $500 per Equivalent Full-Time Student (EFTS).
In the documents, Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh justified the increase by saying that the "real levels of government funding continue to decline", and that the University's other major revenue source, student fees, is also expected to be reduced.
In particular, international EFTS has dropped by 10% in 2005, costing Vic an estimated $2m per year. Although the general decline in the number of international students has not hit Vic as hard as some of the other universities, the effect of the decline is expected to compound over the next few years as the lower number of students progress through to second- and third-year, etc.
International student fees generated $37m in revenue for Vic in 2005.
Vic is currently projected to run a $7.8m surplus in 2005, or 3.5% of its total revenue - above the Tertiary Advisory Monitoring Unit's guideline that it is prudent to run a surplus of 3%.
Despite the current surplus, the document says that unavoidable IT and library costs may add up to as much as $2.4m, with staff pay rise and promotion increases adding up to an extra $6.7m. Meanwhile, revenue is only projected to increase by $4.4m. The document concludes that continuing to achieve the necessary 3% surplus without "substantial redundancies" would be a "testing challenge".
There are also concerns that the level of fees is connected to the prestige of the university. One of the Deans says that the "level of fees implies that VUW offers a lower quality product in comparison with other universities. The fee level is not commensurate with the quality of the [Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences] teaching and research programmes."
Though any fee increases above the 5% limit imposed by the Fee Maxima scheme requires special exemption from the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), a 10% increase would still leave Vic's fees on the low-end for Humanities, mid-range in Law, Science and Architecture & Design, but on the high-end for Commerce when compared with other universities in New Zealand.
A 10% increase will cost full-time undergraduate and Honours students $300-400 per year, and full-time postgraduate students $500 per year.
VUWSA President Jeremy Greenbrook has condemned the proposals, calling it "unjustified and plain greedy". He says the University has been increasing its surpluses over the past few years and "always" underestimates the student and revenue figures.
Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh has refused to comment on the proposals contained in the documents, saying that the documents were "provided in the public excluded business of the Finance Committee, and which the full Council has not yet seen ... casual acceptance that confidentiality can be routinely breached would make effective governance and management of the University impossible. It is utterly inconsistent with the statutory responsibilities of any member of Council, let alone my responsibilities as Vice-Chancellor."
"Salient has no right to publish information that it is not entitled to have in its possession," says Walsh, "and the University will take appropriate action to protect the integrity of its governance processes."
Vic's move follows Massey University's recent decision to ask TEC for an exemption to raise fees by 10%. Such an exemption is only given under "exceptional" circumstances. The education provider has to prove that the cost of the course is not covered by the income generated, the course could not be cross-subsidised from an overall surplus and that raising fees would impact on the ability of the university to meet the government's tertiary education strategy.
TEC Policy Manager James Turner says the university would have to be in "financial shit, basically" to have an exemption granted. That Vic already had low fees was irrelevant, and the TEC board would closely analyse the increasing costs. There was also a requirement for students to be consulted about any fee increases and students' associations could make submissions to the TEC, he says.