Postgraduate students haven’t been eligible for a student allowance since 2013, when they were scrapped by the National Government. Since this point in time, all three coalition partners (Labour, Greens and NZ First) have stated that they would restore it if given the opportunity, but students are still waiting.
“We are now half way through this Government’s tenure, and there hasn’t yet been any mention of a restoration date,” says the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations President James Ranstead.
“The restoration of the Postgraduate Allowance is urgent. As the cost of living continues to rise, students are increasingly driven to work long hours on top of full-time study to cover their day to day necessities such as rent and food. How are these students meant to be able focus on their often ground breaking research when they can’t afford the basics?,” says Ranstead.
In the lead up to the rally, NZUSA has been reaching out to students.
Nicole, a student at the University of Waikato, decided not to pursue her dream of studying a postgraduate qualification in psychology as the financial barrier was too great. She wanted to research mental health.
Rose, a masters student at Lincoln University is working on finding a solution to Kauri Dieback, the disease that is threatening our taonga (treasured) species with extinction. She already has 40k debt from her undergraduate studies, and that amount continues to grow.
A student graduating with a bachelors degree now has a median loan of $32,000, up from $19,000 a decade ago. A study carried out by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research also found that the removal of the Postgraduate Allowance has resulted in increasing amounts of student debt.
“We are burdening some of our most ambitious and talented young people with tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even hit the workforce,” says Ranstead.
Students will meet on Parliament Lawn from 12.30pm, and the event will include speeches, politicians from a variety of political parties, and the petition handover to Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
The Otago University Students Association will also be holding a campus event at Union Lawn, where students and staff will be speaking.
The Otago University Students Association Postgraduate Representative Dermot Frengley says the current allowance system is inconsistent and exacerbates inequalities
“We are heading into a world being driven by AI and automation, and we’re going to need more sophisticated approaches to how we make a dollar. Our students are listening to this rhetoric, however they are being financially punished by carrying on with their study”.