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March 23, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Planning for a better future

VUWSA was founded in 1899, and has a long and proud history of serving the Victoria University student body.

In order to ensure that the students’ association is fulfilling its constitutional goals and serving students to the best of its ability, it’s important that VUWSA undertake and implement an appropriate level of strategic and operational planning. In past years, annual planning was generally both sporadic and inadequate. In instances where planning was undertaken, it was often developed late in the year, plans tended to lack a thorough and considered incorporation of association goals and key priorities, and poor or non-existent reporting mechanisms were in place.

Criticisms of former attempts should not necessarily be taken as an en bloc ‘write off’ of previous efforts. Rather, it is important to highlight VUWSA’s past inadequacies in this area, in order to enrich and enhance the services that we offer to students from this point onwards.

In an earlier column I mentioned VUWSA’s 2009 Strategic and Operational Plan, which was formally passed by the Executive in January. This Plan outlines the work that VUWSA is undertaking in 2009, and how we will go about achieving the goals of the association in order to best serve you—our members.

The Plan was developed in result of several months’ discussion and consultation. This process begun in October 2008, when I met individually with every incoming Executive member. At these meetings, we discussed their priorities for 2009, both within their specific portfolio areas and for VUWSA in a wider sense. After feedback and guidance, I requested that everyone further consider and develop their priorities in preparation for the Executive-elect retreat.

This retreat was held in Jerusalem, located on the Whanganui River, over 3 days in early December 2008. I ran a full-day planning session, where all attendees listed their proposed priority goals under the relevant overarching goals of the association.

VUWSA has 8 constitutional goals, which form the core areas of its work. These are:

Goal 1. Education: Student Support

To secure and maintain adequate state income, welfare and employment support for students.

Goal 2. Education: University

To ensure the University provides equity and quality in assessment, teaching, conditions and course access supported by sufficient resources.

Goal 3. Education: Equity

To promote equity for disadvantaged members in access to and within the University.

Goal 4. Services

To control the student union complex and provide quality cost-effective (consumer) services for members.

Goal 5. Activities

To provide or assist sporting, social and cultural activities, for and by members; primarily through clubs.

Goal 6. Public Issues

To promote discussion and action as appropriate, on issues concerning students as citizens.

Goal 7. Finance

To maximise the benefits to members by minimising fees or user charges through internal efficiency and non-member revenue.

Goal 8. Accountability

To ensure that the structures and procedures of the Association result in effective and efficient communication, management and accountability.

At retreat, each proposed priority goal was then debated in a plenary-style fashion, with attendees justifying why they felt that their individual priorities should be included in a VUWSA-wide plan for the year. Subsequently, each priority goal was subject to consensus agreement, both as to its inclusion in the Plan, and to the order of rank by which it was to appear under each of the 8 goals of the association. At the close of retreat, I requested that incoming Executive members produce draft Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), along with relevant supporting information, such as completion dates, for each KPI.

This data informed the basis of the Plan, which I drafted over the Christmas-New Year Period.

During January 2009, this draft was tabled at meetings of both the Executive, and of the VUWSA staff. All Executive and staff members were given time in which to provide any feedback desired as part of the consultation process. The Plan was unanimously approved on the 26 January at a meeting of the Executive. It is now an official document of the association.

The Plan also specifies the methods by which progress against the Plan is to be reported. This includes at least monthly reviews by both the Executive and staff, whereby actions to date and progress made is recorded. VUWSA also endorse the production and implementation of the plan being publicised in Salient, along with Executive members progress concerning their mutually agreed responsibilities as outlined in the Plan. Further, the Executive are to complete a review of their progress concerning their responsibilities under the Plan, and concerning constitutional goals relevant to their respective positions, on a quarterly basis.

It is my intention as President to help build a sustainable and accountable students’ association. Appropriate planning and implementation might not seem very exciting to some readers, but such basic measures are vital in order for this to happen.

Like the VUWSA budget, an annual plan is a basic requirement of VUWSA (as with any other functioning organisation). At this stage in VUWSA’s progress, a strategic and operational plan, written and implemented at the start of each year, is the most realistic and appropriate process to follow. It is my intention however, to further investigate and implement the extension of VUWSA’s planning processes, in order to incorporate both adequate business planning and longer-term strategic planning.
In 2009 I want to see VUWSA lift its game and do the very best for its membership. I see the implementation of the Plan as the start of the process.

In solidarity and service,

Jasmine Freemantle

The VUWSA 2009 Strategic and Operational Plan is available on the VUWSA website: Alternatively, contact Jasmine Freemantle at if you would like to electronic copy e-mailed directly to you. Hardcopies are available for viewing at VUWSA’s Kelburn, Pipitea and Karori offices.


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