Radio NZ reports:
The future of the organisation claiming to represent 400,000 tertiary students, the Union of Students Associations, is looking shaky.
Of course no one organisation can represent 400,000 students with vastly different views.
The union has existed since 1929, but students’ associations at four of the eight universities have left it, removing tens of thousands of dollars in membership fees and puncturing its mandate to speak for students.
Now, it has just 10 members among the various polytechnic and university student associations.
Those who have gone include the Canterbury and Waikato university associations, which quit several years ago, while those at Victoria and Otago are in the process of leaving having given notice late last year.
President of the Victoria University of Wellington Students Association Rick Zwaan said it left because the union was not the strong, credible national body it should be.
“For a number of years NZUSA we deemed hadn’t really been filling that capacity. So we wanted to get on and put our resources towards campaigns and things like that that we were already working on that would make a real difference for students. So we figured out that $45,000 was an awful lot of money to be spending on an organisation that we didn’t have a whole lot of faith in.”
Rick Zwaan said the door was not shut. If the union improves, the Victoria association will work with it on specific issues.
The challenge for NZUSA is to concentrate on core issues in the tertiary sector such as fees, allowances, course quality etc. They are issues that almost all students agree on (lower, higher, better).
But a couple of years ago they were actively involved in Labour/Green petitions against electricity sector partial asset sales. God knows why.
I’d like NZUSA to survive and be a credible active voice for student associations. But they have to justify their cost to their members,