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AUT Fees Set to Increase in 2021

By Jack Pirie

AUT has decided to increase the annual tuition fees for both international and domestic full-time students. The increase of fees will begin at the start of 2021. Overall there will be a 1.1% increase in total tuition fees for domestic students. Breaking this down it means that:

- Majority of undergraduate and pre degrees will cost $6,310.66

- Other undergraduate degrees will cost $6,785.83

A reliable source has informed Debate that AUT was intending to increase fees by up to 4% for international students and by the maximum amount permitted by the government (Government Set Annual Maximum Fee) for domestic students. The calculations provided in the email suggest that AUT were initially anticipating an increase of 2% for domestic fees for 2021 (the same fee increase permitted in 2020). However, the government announced on July 30th that this has been reduced to 1.1% for 2021, the lowest it has ever been. AUT has since decided to also increase fees by 1.1%, the maximum amount now permitted by our government.

In a statement released by AUT they justify the increase of costs as “AUT must continue to develop and grow as well as keep up with an excellent reputation.” On top of an increase of tuition fees, there will be an increase in the ‘Building Levy fee.’ This fee is paid by students as a way of maintaining and renovating buildings on campus. The proposed fee for 2021 is $77.52 per student. AUT has said “The building levy is to support the maintenance, development of recreational facilities.

In a live stream hosted by AUTSA, President Sisifa Gigi Lui asked Vice Chancellor Derek McCormack about the reasoning behind the purpose and increase of the building levy. Sisifa asked “why do offshore students have to pay for the building levy?” The Vice Chancellor said “What we are looking at is an interim situation. We don’t expect students to be studying offshore in the long term. Our expectations are that our offshore students will be able to come onshore.” In a follow up question Sisifa asked if the university has a contingency plan in terms of fees if we go back into lockdown (which we are now) to which the Vice Chancellor replied, “I think we would have to look at the situation when it arises, I don’t think we are in any position to comment on that.”

An AUT student told Debate that “it’s unfair to charge students for a building levy fee, when we’ve only spent about 5 weeks on campus this year.” As it currently stands, AUT ranks 2nd as the most expensive university in terms of fees increasing, second only to Auckland University. After reaching out since we’ve gone into Alert Level 3 in Auckland, AUT hasn’t replied or responded to emails in regard to that contingency plan that now seems to be more relevant than ever

With the increase of fees, which will affect every student personally, you would think the university would send a direct message to students in some shape or form. Well guess again, AUT has failed to send out a direct line of communication in regard to the fees increasing. When Debate talked to students, almost every single student was unaware of the fact that fees were actually increasing in the first place. No email has been sent to students from the university. The only form of communication we have seen is on the AUTSA’s Facebook page.

Students have told Debate they feel they have been “kept in the dark” and “cheated”, with one student questioning the “lack of transparency in the way of communicating important information to students.”

In an interview with Sisifa, after her live stream with members of the AUT council she voiced her concern that “Not even 1% of the student body” watched the stream. Where approximately 20 out of 29,000 students watched the discussion about the increase in fees. How are students supposed to understand important information surrounding their university careers if there is minimal engagement and information being clearly released for consumption from their university? When asked how can AUT can better communicate with its students the Vice Chancellor said that AUT has a fees discussion every year. Also adding the fact that the AUTSA President sits on the council. When asked about her ability to project the student voice on that council Sisifa said “there’s a difference between hearing what I’m saying and actually listening to me and doing something about it.

AUT is yet to release any further information about the proposed increase of fees for 2021. As AUT goes online officially for the second time this year, the independent review underway and a COVID-19 case under investigation, it seems fair to say that 2020 still has everyone on their toes. There’s a lot going on right now and it's ok to be a bit overwhelmed, but always remember that there are support systems around you. Let’s remember to keep people accountable and keep kind to one another.

*On page 11 there is collation of AUT and AUTSA services that are here to help during these unprecedented times


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