Following is the submission EXMSS has presented to the Select Committee that will be making recommendations to Parliament on the Freedom of Association Amendment to the Education Act.
EXMSS has received more than 1300 opinions (EXMSS surveys November 2009 and March 2010) which form the basis of this submission. The draft submission holds a majority view (70% of students support the existing system) but includes recognition of extramural students that cannot access services or simply do not wish to be a member.
Submission from Massey University Extramural Students’ Society to the Select Committee on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Act
1 The members of Massey University Extramural Students’ Society (EXMSS) have the majority view that the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill (the Bill) should be rejected as it is seen as being impractical, inefficient and wholly unsuited to the New Zealand tertiary environment. It is felt that the impact of the Bill would be negative in terms of students ability to advocate for themselves, provide a relevant student experience and enhance learning outcomes.
2 EXMSS sees the Bill as being motivated by political principles which are founded on false interpretations of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The majority of students have not asked for change in the system and legal opinion clearly states that there is no breach of Human Rights.
3 Additional concerns have arisen from stakeholders regarding the potential for inequity of support if the Bill is enacted. Under a voluntary system students who are able to pay association fees will have access to more support that those who cannot afford the fee.
4 EXMSS requests the opportunity to appear in person before the Committee to speak in support of this submission.
Contact: EXMSS President,
Postal: Private Bag 11-222 Palmerston North.
Telephone: 027 245 8223.
5 EXMSS is a representative body that provides services and support as well as on-campus representation for 17,000 extramural students who study at Massey University. EXMSS was formed to address issues of isolation experienced by distance students which in turn was impacting on student success and completion. EXMSS employs five staff members, is governed by a committee made up of members and operates under the rules of the Incorporated Societies Act. The E XMSS membership fee is $40 for all full members.
6 Services include
- Representation on campus
- Independent advocacy
- Shuttle services between campuses and airports
- Help desks
- Free phone to lecturers
- Administration of Hardship Support Fund
- Regional support network
- Online community
- Graduation events
- Peer-to-peer paper reviews. (The Rate It survey.)
Scope and Mandate
7 This submission represents the views of extramural students and stakeholders who will be affected by changes in the Society’s membership rules if this Bill is enacted. Extramural students at Massey are distributed throughout New Zealand and the world, with significant proportions in Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North.
- 80% are over 24 years of age
- 86% are part-time
- 66% are female
- 15% are maori/pacifica
8 Stakeholders include Massey internal students and student associations, Massey University, EXMSS staff members and iwi from around the country. In order for this submission to accurately reflect the opinion of stakeholders, the views of more than 17,000 students were sought, resulting in more than 1200 responses. Discussions were also held with the university, other student associations and regional iwi.
9 Massey University’s student associations are a fundamental element of the successful operation and delivery of a high quality tertiary education at Massey University. Tertiary education institutions rely on student associations for support, quality assurance and provision of a range of essential services on which both student success and the student experience rely. The value of the support provided by associations New Zealand wide, is estimated as $25 million. The estimated reduction in the value of support if voluntary membership proceeds is between $10 and $15 million. Changes to student association membership rules therefore require system-wide consideration to ensure the sector and students continue to achieve as envisioned by National’s Tertiary Education Strategy.
10 The Government understands that in these times of economic difficulty it is important to be effective and efficient with all available resources within the Tertiary Education Sector. Student associations represent a significant resource that, if utilized in a well-considered manner, are able to economically provide benefits to both students and institutions as well as improve New Zealand’s international reputation, around the delivery of tertiary education and the student experience.
Discussion and Recommendations
11 The explanatory note introducing the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill states that the ‘Bill does not seek to damage or limit student associations’. However, it can be seen through evidence from the Australian experience that this is a misinformed statement. Students’ associations are unlikely to achieve meaningful levels of membership under a voluntary membership system resulting in ineffective representation and reduced services to students.
12 In the opinion of EXMSS the stated purpose of the bill, “to uphold student’s rights to freedom of association” is fundamentally flawed. Freedom of association provides (as described in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act (NZBORA)) the right to both associate or disassociate from associations. Legal interpretation insists that the current membership provisions are within the NZBORA. This interpretation is further supported by Section 5 of NZBORA which provides that the rights in NZBORA are subject to ‘such reasonable limits as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society’. Due to the manner in which student associations provide many collective benefits (such as on-campus representation in the case of EXMSS) it is felt that sections 229A to 229D of the Education Act are able to be demonstrably justified in the context of New Zealand’s Tertiary Education Environment. This is not precedent setting, examples exist of industries that are levied to provide a pool of money that will benefit all stakeholders of that particular industry. A good example of this is in agriculture, where legislation recognizes this need and provides for it through the Commodity Levies Act 1990.
13 It can be argued that the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill acts against the intent of NZBORA by effectively eliminating the opportunity for universal membership if the student body desires that structure. Applying the alternative application of the NZBORA (freedom of the right to associate) the Bill would have the effect of limiting student’s ability to associate how they wish.
14 The majority of students feel that the existing legislation is both flexible and inclusive. The stated reason students prefer the existing system is to ensure what students perceive as vital services remain available (such as independent advocacy, representation, hardship assistance). Seventy percent (70%) of EXMSS members state they would prefer to keep the existing membership system. Like most collectives, students are a diverse group. However the majority of students understand that with opt-in membership as proposed by the Bill, neither student associations nor the host institutions would be able to provide what are considered vital student services without additional cost to the students.
15 The Bill, as written, is at odds with the TES intent of efficiency within the sector. With opt-in membership of student associations (as outlined in the Bill), changes in fee collection and database systems would require resourcing by the student association. Currently fees are collected by the University and passed on to EXMSS in lump sums. EXMSS also uses the University’s student database to communicate with its members throughout the country. EXMSS is not currently equipped to receive and record membership fees or independently manage a student database. A change to opt-in membership that is managed by the student association will result in an inefficient duplication of systems and fundamentally compromise the ability of student associations to provide their current services. Furthermore the membership income from non-participating students would be lost to the institution/student association partnership, resulting in less money being available to provide student services, support and a positive cultural/social environment.
16 Maori stand to lose significant support for emerging leaders as well as support for the students themselves. Maori Roopu provide Manaakitanga, Whanaungatanga, and Tuakana/Teina environments, accepting Maori students for who they are as well as advocating for and supporting Maori academic achievement. This is an important cultural issue for Maori. Maori student associations will be among the first casualties following the introduction of this Bill as most are funded through agreements with their parent student association.
17 Women members of EXMSS will be affected by the bill through diminished financial support for the Tertiary Women’s Focus Group (TWFG) which gains its funding through the New Zealand Union of Student Associations (NZUSA). This group is active through its campaigns such as the ‘Safe Campuses’ initiative and ‘Thursdays in Black – demanding a world without rape and violence’. These campaigns support student association communication and events around issues of violence, personal health and safety. EXMSS representatives are involved in the Health and Safety assurance systems at Massey University and rely on TWGF for support and advice.
18 International students (approximately 10% of EXMSS membership) are more likely to seek ‘social and emotional support from their peers than any other group of students’. EXMSS provides local community representatives and an extramural community website, much like Facebook, for this type of engagement. Without avenues of social engagement international students risk feeling disconnected with their learning environment and as a result would not achieve to their potential. Campus based associations work to foster an environment where differing races and religions are supported through clubs and societies, assisting with acceptance of minority groups. The Australian VSU legislation has severely impacted on the cultural environment of Australian institutions resulting in a loss of reputation in supplying a quality educational experience for international students9.
19 Postgraduate students will be disadvantaged following an introduction of voluntary membership. This has been seen in the Australian example and has had a direct effect on completions through, among other things, the lack of provision of a collegial research environment.
20 Rural students and regional campuses will be disadvantaged by a voluntary membership system. Student association support such as independent advocacy and representation are important to ensure that students who are confronted with barriers (which may or may not be derived from the institution) have access to timely support that is independent and able to deal with issues outside the academic environment. Reliance on community support services, which are less accessible away from population centers, will result in more rural students abandoning study when barriers arise.
21 Over 80% of Massey’s distance students have indicated they see on-campus representation as an essential service. For students in this mode of study there is a reliance on campus based people and systems to keep them informed and to advocate on their behalf. The University also recognize this contribution to their operation and actively encourage student representative participation in their management and governance systems with a view to enhancing their understanding of student needs and satisfying quality assurance issues. Compulsory association membership is a means to ensure a united student voice on campus. EXMSS holds an apolitical position but will at times express views on tertiary education legislation that impacts on its members.
22 Students who claim misrepresentation have the freedom to engage with the association, run for election or become involved in its operation. A lack of willingness to participate and then to criticize the association is behaviour observed in only a very small group of students.
23 Making student association fees non-compulsory is not supported. The additional workload that this represents in parallel fee collection and databases management is seen as highly inefficient. The alternative, having providers manage the student association’s non-compulsory fees, would result in increases in compulsory enrolment fees administered by the institutions due to the increased transactions they would be required to handle.
24 Under a voluntary system (where fees would be non-compulsory) some students will receive more support than others based on the ability of the student to pay association fees. (Wealthy students will be more able to join a student association.) Student support should be accessible to all students as explained in the Human Rights Commission’s Action Plan for Human Rights in New Zealand. Here the Right to Education Framework insists that education provision promotes equitable achievement outcomes for all learners.
25 It would be naive to think that there will be little change in the cultural and support environments for students. The Australian example demonstrates the severe impact on student life that voluntary student membership would have if introduced through the Bill. Degradation of services and amenities, the weakening of academic and welfare advocacy services and the undermining of representation have all been observed. Of particular concern to students is the conflict of interest present in advocacy and representational roles if delivered through the institution. In Australia the result was a complete loss of confidence in the advocacy services provided by many institutions12.
26 The suggestion that “there is nothing to stop voluntary associations providing vital services” (Hon Sir Roger Douglas: First Reading) is laughable. Representation, considered a key vital service, will lack a democratic mandate. Funds for advocacy and other services will be compromised by fee collection overheads, reducing the efficiency of the student association and making membership less attractive. Student associations will be hamstrung by monitoring and managing their members in an environment that is tasked to provide support and a unified student experience to all students.
27 The necessity of policing service use so that only paid members have access to services is another inefficiency that would further compromise a voluntary membership system. No other voluntary membership organisation has such demand from non-members that are unaware of their membership status. This stems from the close link of objectives that institutions and student associations share. Students are often unaware of who is providing the support or student experience service they are accessing.
28 Reducing the effectiveness of student associations as a partner for providers in achieving goals of student support is counter to the intent of the TES which expects “providers to create learning environments that support progression and completion by a diverse range of students.” In many instances providers and their associated student associations are essential partners in delivering peer to peer support, class-level advocacy (such as Class Reps), quality assurance and social support (in short – the best possible learning environment), all of which contribute to student success.
29 EXMSS directly assists hundreds of students each year through its advocacy, hardship support and regional representatives. Many of these students would not succeed in their programme of study if it were not for EXMSS support. Hardship support alone in 2009 assisted over 200 students where their hardship threatened continued study.
30 For students the assurance of having some influence over their learning and support environments is fundamental to the concept of higher education. The contribution of student engagement and the ability to influence the learning environment, to the development of critical and independent thinking has been recognized by researchers such as Leach and Zepke. Students gain clear benefits from being involved in their institutions operations and will take those enhanced-through-experience skills to the workplace.
31 The collective benefits for EXMSS members are most apparent when considering representation and advocacy. Without a professional staff member to deliver these benefits the services become compromised. It is not possible to deliver competent advocacy without proper resourcing. Representation also becomes compromised without a democratically elected representative elected by the entire membership. Both EXMSS and Massey agree that having student representation on campus assists with quality assurance, strategic planning and day to day improvement of operations – all of which play a part in improving student success. EXMSS believes the collective benefits of universal membership are demonstrated in the cycle of continuous improvement inherent in Massey University’s existing systems and therefore satisfy section 5 of NZBORA.
32 The majority of students accept the existing system as a workable model: providing student-led vital services that would not necessarily be provided by the institution. Continuation of independent advocacy, representation and services is supported by 80-85% of Massey Extramural students.
35 Globally there have been fundamental shifts in the way education is delivered and resourced over the last 20 years. However the principles of developing independence, skills in critical thinking and engaging with the learning environment have remained constant. This Bill would remove the ability of students to organize themselves in ways that they see as enhancing their learning environment. The freedom students have to affect their learning and support environment breeds kiwi innovation and helps define tertiary education in NZ. Student engagement should not be driven solely from the institution. Members of the Select Committee, consider the environment that you studied in. Tertiary students are adults and should be allowed a voice – the freedom – to be a partner in their learning experience.
That the Education and Science Select Committee do not refer this Bill back to the House for a second reading.
- EXMSS – Overview of operations
- EXMSS Membership Survey – Summary Report
EXMSS – Overview of Operations Appendix 1
Massey University Extramural Students’ Society’s 2009 membership was 17,000 full members, 18 associate members and 7 life members. 28 members chose to opt out of membership through conscientious objection. No students chose to opt out due to financial hardship.
EXMSS is intrinsically imbedded in the operation of Massey University. The President of EXMSS engages with operational boards and committees offering a well researched and balanced student perspective. EXMSS carries out regular surveys that gather member’s opinions of their learning experience, quality of resources and study support. This information is used to constructively bring issues of concern to the University in a manner that fits with the decision making process imbedded in the universities operational framework.
EXMSS is intrinsically imbedded in the governance of Massey University. Massey University Council’s Terms of Reference allow for one seat on Council to be filled by the Extramural Students Societies’ President. With that seat being filled with a mature student the Council has benefited from a stable student contribution over the years.
Extramural students should be considered strategically important to NZ. The ability to up-skill while working or raising a family adds to NZ’s productivity. Without support that focuses on the wellbeing of students and equity in the academic environment this group of students will not be able to achieve the completions demanded by the TES.
EXMSS provides a range of services to its members other than on-campus representation. These have been listed in the submission but I would like to describe some services that are specific to EXMSS more fully.
Regional Support Network: This is a group of approximately thirty volunteers, located throughout New Zealand, that EXMSS members can contact for support. The ability to discuss and meet a mentor locally is important to distance students. This group reports its activity to EXMSS and the University where it is analysed to determine needs and inform future support programmes.
Online community: EXMSS maintains an on-line community of members who, through an web interface much like and connected too Facebook, are able to form regional groups, create personal blogs, discuss issues and find members with similar interests or who are geographically close. The sense of belonging to a learning community is an important factor in the success rates of distance students.
Peer-to-Peer Paper Reviews: Called the Rate It survey this web-toll offers students the opportunity to review the papers that have just taken and comment of their perceptions of quality, cost and relevance. This in turn allows prospective students to view other student’s opinions of papers. This strengthens the decision making ability of students when making decisions on which paper to take.
The development of Peer-to-Peer reviews has been recognized as nationally important through Ako Aotearoa, the funding body supporting excellence in tertiary teaching. EXMSS is now developing a tool called Review It that will encourage students to reflect on their learning experience, advise future students and recommend positive pathways. This stands to benefit all students through enhanced decision making ability and fits well the TES goal of providing students with useful information in order to make good decisions on what and where to study. This type of project would not be initiated by institutions nor would be progressed in a voluntary membership environment.
The EXMSS Membership Survey Appendix 2
In order to gain the mandate to speak on behalf of Massey extramural students and for this submission to accurately reflect the views of the stakeholders within EXMSS’s sphere the views of over 17,000 students were sought resulting in over 1200 responses. Discussions were also held with the university, other student organizations and local iwi. Furthermore the University and our membership were invited both to contribute to and confirm that the draft of this submission is a true and accurate reflection of stakeholder opinion.
The membership survey was done in two parts, contacting two cohorts of students. The first in November 2009 resulted in 1000 responses, the second in March 2010 approximately 300. With the response rate being low (therefore compromising the statistical validity) EXMSS looked to the reliability of the results. It was found that the % supporting the status quo (as well as those supporting services such as advocacy and representation) was the same in both surveys. EXMSS is therefore able to conclude that the reliability of the results is high.
|Total Responses||% In Favour of Status Quo||% students who want exiting representation to continue||% students who want existing advocacy to continue||% student who want EXMSS services to continue|
Written comments were also encouraged as a part of the survey. This offered insight into the views of members who felt strongly about the issue. The comments clearly demonstrated the personal benefit for many students of having a student association – in many cases the support received had rescued the student from failure. Opposing this are comments that purport to support the principle of Freedom of Association. None of these students appeared to be in a position of disadvantage or compromise – they were all students who had a learning experience that was positive and without severe hardship
 Kensington Swan Report – Legal opinion of consistency of existing law with NZBORA. Feb 2010
 EXMSS Survey of Membership
 Price Waterhouse Coopers Report March 2010
 TES introduction: ‘Rising demand for tertiary study in a period of significant fiscal demand means that Government expects our investment to be used efficiently and effectively by tertiary education Associations and students’
 The AUSSIE survey will be used for international benchmarking and includes student experience data.
 Price Waterhouse Coopers Report
 Kensington Swan Report – Legal opinion of consistency of existing law with NZBORA. Feb 2010
 EXMSS survey results
 MoE research – Ibid
9 Australian Senate Report: Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, March 2009
 EXMSS survey
 Anne Tolley: First Reading, Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill “the sky has not fallen [at Auckland University]”.
 Australian Senate Report: Standing Committee on Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, March 2009.
 Criteria for Hardship Grants of up to $500
 As described by students
 EXMSS membership survey