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August 10, 2014 | by  | in Opinion VUWSA | [ssba]

Exec Column

by Rāwinia Thompson, Vice-President Academic

Quality education. It’s one of those nice concepts everyone likes to get behind. We know it’s important. We all want it. We’d probably go out and rally for it if we had to. The funny thing is, most of us probably don’t even know what it is exactly.

It’s hard to imagine what a quality education looks like when you’re sitting in a crowded lecture theatre of 300+ students to one lecturer, who is talking at you off of a PowerPoint slide. There’s a girl sitting in front of you scrolling down her news feed on Facebook, liking her friends’ photos from the weekend. It’s hard to concentrate, because you didn’t have time to wait in the long queue at Vic Books for your morning coffee. You did the readings for this class last night, and the lecturer isn’t saying anything new. You regret getting out of bed.

It’s hard to even think about the quality of your education when you’ve got a lot on your mind – will you be able to work enough shifts to cover this week’s rent? Can you afford to get to university every day this week, when transport is getting harder and harder to afford?

It’s hard when you’re struggling as a student. Every student struggles in different ways. You could be struggling to maintain the grade average you need to keep your scholarship that allows you to study at university in the first place (it’d be too expensive otherwise). You could be struggling to keep up with your friends, because you’re taking five papers this trimester in hopes of fast-tracking your degree, and can’t help feeling isolated and lonely on campus. You could be struggling after suffering from a really traumatic event, and can’t figure out the overly complicated process to apply for an aegrotat (pass with special consideration). You’ve received a letter from your Faculty Dean, saying your lecturer has found plagiarism in your last assignment, and you are facing serious consequences – but you’re sure you understand what plagiarism is, as your lecturer explained it in class, and that you didn’t do it.

These are all issues I’ve dealt with this year in my role on VUWSA. These are the real experiences of students who have decided to uptake a tertiary education here at Victoria. Admittedly, it’s a pretty bleak picture. I’m getting a lot out of my education here at Victoria, but I’ve managed to get amongst all that university life has to offer, and I’m pretty privileged in that regard. When students are stressed, time-poor and cash-poor, it’s hard to think of the bigger picture that is a quality education. I’ve got a lot of hope that we can turn that around. Students deserve a quality education here at Victoria.

Rāwinia Thompson | Academic Vice-President
Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association
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