By Todd Harper
Apr 08, 2019

Postgrad's Parliament Protest

If you’re wondering why your lectures are quieter this week it may be because all of the post-grad and mature students have piled into their Toyota Prius (we assume), driven to Wellington and are keen to do what they do best - ask questions of authority figures for hours untill they get the answers they want.  

This Thursday postgraduate students will take to the steps of parliament in a bid to reinstate postgraduate student allowances. The rally follows a petition led by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Association (NZUSA), which currently has over 2,500 signatures.

The $240 weekly allowances were scrapped in 2013 under the previous National government. For the last six years, postgraduate students have had to fund their own study efforts.
 
Campaign statements by Labour In 2017 suggested the reinstatement of these allowances was a possibility but groups like the University of Waikato Postgraduate Students’ Association are sick of waiting.

Speaking to Nexus the PGSA said they are keen to see what form the proposal will take.

“The PGSA is aware of the call on the government to reinstatement a Postgraduate Student Allowance (PSA) made by the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations and others.

“The PGSA supports the introduction of a PSA and is keen to see what form the proposal will take. We will be engaging with our members to determine what approach the PGSA will take in demonstrating its support as the proposal develops further.”

The petition is also supported by WSU President (and current postgrad student) Nathan Rahui, who believes all postgrad allowances should be reinstated.

“Although there still needs to be an improvement in all allowances in general, undergraduates are fortunate enough to receive some support to alleviate financial stress. I don't understand why the government thinks that by postgraduate level, any of those financial strains have disappeared? The research conducted by our country's postgrads, and especially Waikato students, is vital to the future of our country and on a global scale.

“Since the abolition, students that aren't one of the few recipients to receive a scholarship have to try and balance study with steady work to make enough income to pay for rent, kai, bills and often provide for their own whānau. It can often mean more time away from their commitment to studies, as well as loved ones. By reinstating allowances, it means allowing students to be able to focus more on their studies without having money worries continuously in the back of their minds. If postgrads are trying to do work that betters our society, why are we trying to hinder them?”

The rally to reinstate postgraduate student allowances is going to take place at Parliament on April 11th, between 12.30 pm – 2 pm.

The petition calls on the government to reinstate the postgraduate allowances urgently. According to the NZUSA, there have been many cases of students not being able to complete their postgraduate studies due to financial struggles.

NZUSA President James Ranstead says restoring the postgraduate student allowances is vital for New Zealand.

“Restoring the postgraduate allowance isn't just good for students, it's good for the country. Across Aotearoa, postgraduate students are studying in fields that are crucial to our country's future – climate change, freshwater, poverty and mental health. The current government is committed to solving these issues, however, in order for this work to succeed, we urgently need to be supporting and empowering our people to gain skills in these areas. A postgraduate student allowance is an easy step towards making this a reality.

“Fairness is important to all of us. We need a fair and equitable student support system across all course types, from certificate level right through to a PhD. Education should be upheld as a way of reducing inequality, however, the lack of a Postgraduate student allowance stifles student opportunity.”

There is little information about what a return of the postgraduate student allowances could look like, as the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has said he will not comment on issues that surround the upcoming budget release. This is expected to delivered by the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson on 30 May.

Till then, the lack of financial support for postgraduate students has current students questioning whether they will continue with studies after completing their degree.

University of Waikato Psychology student Nicole says she’s had to put her dream of postgraduate study on hold.

“I’m passionate about reducing New Zealand’s horrific suicide rate through studying towards a career in psychology. Unfortunately, due to the lack of financial support at a postgraduate level, I’ve had to put that dream on hold.”

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