Representatives from Student Associations around the country met at the end of January to discuss issues that will affect all students. The conference is an opportunity to connect students from both polytechnics and universities in order to develop networks and build strategies to promote student support across the country. Four representatives from EXMSS attended the conference.
Much of this year’s discussion related to the government led restrictions being placed on the tertiary sector. High on the agenda were political issues such as the removal of the student positions on Polytechnic Councils, the bill to make Student Association membership opt-in and the reduction of access to tertiary education in the university sector.
Of major concern for the EXMSS team was the omission of life-long learning and the focus on youth and full-time students clearly evident in National’s Tertiary Education Strategy.
Students associations are effective at keeping these issues on the government’s agenda. Because students are described by the TEC as the most significant stakeholder in the tertiary sector it makes sense that students are in the position (funded and organized) to engage with both their institutions and with government. National student conferences are essential to ensure effective engagement at institution and national level.
Actions stemming from the conference include national strategy‘s relating to: the Freedom of Association Bill, lobbying Polytechnics to form Student Advisory Committees for their Councils, monitoring of the success of the Youth Guarantee scheme and maintaining pressure on the Government to provide continued access to education for Maori and minority groups.