Salient. Victoria University Students Newspaper. Vol. 38, No. 2. March 11, 1975
The mythical Tertiary Bursary
The mythical Tertiary Bursary
Student pressure over recent months has resulted in important moves by the Labour government over the new standard tertiary bursary during the last week. It now seems likely that the Labour government is going in announce definite plans for the introduction of the new bursary system shortly.
After the Cabinet meeting last Monday Acting Prime Minister Tizard said that the Minister of Education had been told to prepare definite plans about the introduction of the new bursary system as well as plans to give university and technical institute students interim assistance in their present bursaries. The Cabinet meeting followed a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party caucus on Thursday, February 27. This caucus meeting may have been an important factor in speeding up government action on bursaries. Salient understands that a number of Labour backbenchers have become worried that a failure to implement the party's 1972 promise to introduce a new bursary system could alienate the Labour Party from students and other education groups in an election year.
Prime Minister Bill Rowling and Education Minister Phil Amos experienced students' feelsings on the bursary question first hand last week.
Rowling returned from his visit to Europe to face a grilling from students about bursaries at a packed forum at Auckland University last Friday. While the Prime Minister would not give students any definite promises Salient understands that he appeared worried by charges that the Minister of Education had failed to consult student organisations properly over the bursaries issue.
Amos himself got a taste of rank and file students' feelings on the bursary question he arrived in Dunedin on Friday to open a new gymnasium at John McGlashan College. No sooner had he got off the plane when he was 'greeted' by 70 angry students from Otago University, Dunedin Teachers' College and the Otago Polytechnic.
The Minister of Education looked as though he wanted to get back on the plane and return to Wellington as he faced a barrage of questions from students who wanted to know why the government had refused to answer their requests for an interim increase in bursaries and the introduction of the standard tertiary bursary.
After the Minister had given several non-committal answers to questions Otago University student president Nigel Dunlop turned to the students and asked, 'Do we have confidence in the Minister of Education?' 'No!' was the reply.
Commenting on the Dunedin demonstration NZUSA's Education Vice-President Sue Green said that it came as no surprise that students were becoming militant over the bursary issue because Mr Amos had seemed 'consistently unwilling to conduct meaningful discussions on the bursaries issue with students or their representatives.'
She added that while NZUSA was confident at last of positive action by the government on bursaries, 'an attempt to introduce the standard tertiary bursary without proper consultation with student organisations would be not only unacceptable, but farcical.'
The government's failure to hold proper negotiations with student organisations over the standard tertiary bursary in the 20 odd months since NZUSA first met Mr Amos over the matter is concerning the national associations of university students, student teachers and technical institute students.
The three national student organisations intend to circulate a mass-distribution leaflet outlining a draft proposal for the new standard tertiary bursary within the next two weeks. This leaflet will not represent the three organisations' final position on the new scheme but a draft proposal for discussion and criticism from rank and file students.
One matter that also concerns the national student organisations is the government's ideas on dealing with student teachers. At present these students receive much higher allowances than other tertiary students because they have to bond themselves to the state to repay the money they receive during their training.
Student representatives who attended discussions with the Education Department last year on the new bursary system found that the fate of student teachers in the new bursary system was one matter that had never been fully discussed. However it is known that the Department circulated a secret paper about the new bursary system last July. Student representatives speculated at the time that this paper proposed that student teachers would face a pay cut.
New measures related to technical institute bursaries and university and pharmacy student hardship allowances were approved by the Government today, the Minister of Education, Mr Amos said today.
- Approval for an interim increase of $100 per annum for technical institute bursaries, effective from the beginning of the 1975 academic year
- Approval for the payment of a hardship allowance not exceeding $150 per annum to those university and pharmacy students, currently receiving a boarding allowance in conjunction with a Fees and Allowances bursary, who are able to prove financial hardship to the satisfaction of the Department of Education
- The Minister to submit a substantive proposal for the consideration of Cabinet in relation to the introduction of a standard tertiary bursary.
Mr Amos said that there was a strong case for granting interim help to students on technical institute bursaries because of the longer academic year. Technical institute students' academic year was 43 weeks against the university year of 35 weeks, and Mr Amos said the longer year meant that there was less time to supplement allowances with earnings.
The burden of argument presented by the New Zealand University Students' Association had centred around the difficulties of students who were required to board away from home to attend university.
Additional money has been provided for the Department of Education to administer in the form of hardship allowances. Hardship will continue to be measured by the department under the existing regulations taking into account the financial circumstances of the student and his parents', Mr Amos said.
On the question of the standard tertiary bursary the Minister said that the discussions initiated so far would continue, in line with the government's manifesto undertaking.
The New Zealand University Students' Association today described the Government's announcement of interim assistance to students as 'thoroughly inadequate'.
NZUSA said that the Government's decision to provide a hardship allowance of $150 to university and pharmacy students who are receiving boarding allowances and fees and allowances bursaries 'was introducing the inequitable principae of a means test into a bursary system
NZUSA said that it had presented its case for interim assistance to the Government over five months' ago and that the Government had failed to make provision for assistance to students following costly courses of study and had also failed to increase students' boarding allowances.
The Government is now talking about comprehensive proposals for the introduction of the standard tertiary bursary. 'NZUSA can only regard this announcement as some sort of cruel joke on students because the Government has been talking about this new bursary system ever since it has been in office.'
NZUSA said that unless the Labour Government came up with genuine proposals to relieve students' financial difficulties and to introduce the standard tertiary bursary. Government Ministers could expect an angry reaction from university students on all campuses in the country.
On Monday 10 March, the Minister of Education presented some ideas to Cabinet. They weren't very good ideas, but Cabinet accepted them anyway. The press release from the Minister is printed here, along with the strong response from John Blincoe of NZUSA. In view of the situation as outlined in the last issue of Salient, Amos's measures, and his whole statement, deserve the strongest censure.