Students in the third year of AUT’s business programme are appalled by the high cost of their semester-long work placement.
The nine-week co-operative learning paper, which aims to develop workplace skills, costs $3,650 and is a full-time internship which the students must find themselves.
One student*, who is paying for university partly through a scholarship and partly from her own savings, told Debate that she was “shocked” when she received the invoice for semester two.
“I thought it would be significantly cheaper than a full semester – I think it is very overpriced for the services we get.
“Having to pay my university to work for free is the peak of capitalist greed.”
The student, who works part time to pay the bills, is stressed that she’ll have to keep her job alongside the fulltime co-op.
“I’m going to have to do this internship 40 hours a week and then do part-time work on top of that.”
Another student told Debate they are frustrated that there is no explanation of the cost.
“We are just so baffled that no one is talking about this. Where is our money going?”
The co-operative paper includes two workplace training workshops and access to an individual supervisor, but students don’t think this is worth the money. A group of students in an email told Debate:
“The only way this would be justified would be if the workshops included full food catering, a wardrobe budget, massages and Moet champagne upon arrival.
“There is nothing wrong with expecting some more transparency about where our money is going. We shouldn’t be kept in the dark, it is not fair to charge that amount to thousands of students without quantifying why.”
Dean of the Faculty of Business, Economics and Law, Professor Kate Kearins, told Debate that one reason students choose AUT is because it is a leader in the co-operative education space.
The co-op has the same price tag as four academic papers, and when asked if it has the same educational value, Kearins responded:
“It depends whether you take a view of learning that it is about content, or if it is about skills.
“Increasingly, the balance between content and skills is swinging in favour of skills.”
Kearins says half the paper’s cost goes towards academic supervisors and administration staff who run the co-operative, and the remaining 50% goes back into the university to provide wider infrastructure.
The Dean says she is not aware of the negative feedback about the co-operative.
In twelve years, the school says it has never had a student fail to get a placement, however AUT surveys suggest that only 40% of these roles are paid positions.
Kearins concedes that AUT does have plans to downsize the co-operative paper, changing it from a nine-week 60 EFTS paper to an eight-week 45 EFTS paper, but says AUT is not walking away from co-operative learning.
“By 2025 we want more than 90% of graduates from bachelor’s programs to have completed work integrated learning papers.”
* The students who spoke to Debate for this story asked us to withhold their names (we did plead with them to let us print them though).