Massey University students and staff call for cuts to end

Massey University students and staff call for cuts to end

Massey University students and staff have made a plea for cuts at the university to end in a day of action.

The Tertiary Education Union held a stop-work meeting at Massey University in Palmerston North on Thursday where they called for more Government funding for universities.

Then the group Students Against Cuts held a demonstration protesting against university restructures.

The group held a mock funeral on the concourse for the university’s mascot, Fergus the Ram. The ram was strung up and carried as students marched through campus chanting.

They stopped outside university house, where a person wearing a mask of vice-chancellor Jan Thomas ripped the ram’s head off. Chalk messages had been written across campus calling for cuts to end.

Josh Parsons from Students Against Cuts voiced his displeasure with changes happening at the university.

The university recorded an $8.8 million deficit in 2022 so has been looking at ways to cut costs, including asking for voluntary staff redundancies and closing courses with low enrolment numbers.

“The papers I came here to study, a chunk of them no longer exist,” Parsons said. “Half of the rest of them have been shoved online.”

He said students had to live in awful conditions, had to work minimum wage jobs to make ends meet and were over assessed.

They wanted to create an education system that wasn’t ripping money from students’ pockets, he said.


The Students Against Cuts group held a fake funeral for the Massey University mascot Fergus the Ram.

PhD student Matt Russell said student protests were a regular thing in the early 2000s when he first came to Massey, but that had dropped off.

“You have achieved something I never thought I would see, a resurgence in student protest,” he told the group. “It used to be a normal part of student life.”

Hennessey Wilson from Te Tira Ahu Pae, the university’s student association, said the cuts had been laid bare for all to see, after decades of underfunding and then Covid-19.

Earlier, at the stop-work meeting, Tertiary Education Union president Julie Douglas spoke via video call and said the dedication and commitment from staff in the sector was wearing thin after decades of underinvestment, and now people were losing their jobs.

She said the funding universities received from the Government lagged behind other countries in the OECD.

Students marching through Massey University's concourse in Palmerston North.


Students marching through Massey University’s concourse in Palmerston North.

“If we want to compete with these economies we need to invest similarly in the future of tertiary education.”

She said the funding in New Zealand had only increased by 1.9% since 2019, but it had gone up by 13% in the United Kingdom, 8% in the United States and 6% in Canada.

“We challenge all parties to speak up for the sector. We need increases in funding for the expenditure per [equivalent full-time students], up to the OECD average.”

Education Minister Jan Tinetti also spoke via video call and said she was passionate about fixing things, which was why the Government pumped an extra $128m into tertiary education earlier this year. The funding of the sector was also being reviewed.

She said they had to create a better public education sector.

Andrew Steele, president of Te Tira Ahu Pae, the university’s student association, at the Students Against Cuts protest.


Andrew Steele, president of Te Tira Ahu Pae, the university’s student association, at the Students Against Cuts protest.

Political candidates for Palmerston North and Rangitīkei attended the meeting and were asked questions about their support for funding tertiary education.

The union’s Massey branch co-president Te Awatea Ward said they had invited the MPs to put pressure on the vice-chancellors around the country to put people first.

She said there couldn’t be a flourishing country without tertiary education.

After the meeting they marched through campus to meet the Students Against Cuts group.