The Post Graduate Students’ Association (PGSA) and VUWSA are at long last preparing to enter a relationship agreement. The agreement, formerly a Memorandum of Understanding, will formalise the historically informal relations between the two student organisations.
The VUWSA executive has expressed general dissatisfaction at the agreement’s vague and ambiguous language. Education Officer Paul Brown says “there is a lot of repetition, the document needs a bit of work… Further discussion is required.”
The agreement was first mooted by PGSA early this year, but no progress resulted. Discussions over the issue surfaced again early this month and it was decided to put renewed effort into formalising an agreement.
VUWSA President Geoff Hayward says there has always been uncertainty over “the spheres of influence that both groups hold.”
PGSA President Wayne Pihema told The Postgraduate News that “the expertise of the PGSA developed over its organisational lifetime has been informally recognised by VUWSA and VUW… the agreement would broadly explore how both VUWSA and the PGSA could work more efficiently and effectively together.”
“The PGSA exists as a subsidiary representative group of VUWSA and see their role as taking responsibility for all postgraduates enrolled at VUW. This has been the historic situation since the PGSA has slowly evolved from a group that organised seminars and basic postgraduate support, more than 10 years ago to the broadly representative organisation it is now,” said Pihema.
PGSA hopes that formalising the relationship with VUWSA will allow it to gain certainty over the level of funding it receives from VUWSA. At present, funding is negotiated each year and there is no annual fund set. Both parties are guided by the year’s previous activities and expenditure in addition to the programme of activities envisioned for the upcoming year.
To ensure certainty over funding for the PGSA, the agreement proposes to put in place fixed caps and ceilings on the level of funding it receives. “In principle I think it is a prudent long term solution to supporting the PGSA. The challenge is making sure there is enough for the PGSA as well as our many rep groups on campus,” says Hayward.
Pihema told The Postgraduate News that “the negotiations have always been handled in a positive manner with plenty of goodwill from both sides”, despite there always being additional pressure from competing representative groups in the funding allocation process.
Hayward says that VUWSA has been inconsistent over the years in recognising the role of PGSA, “and in spite of this, we have had a relatively harmonious relationship.
But for both groups to work better together, we should formalise how each group helps each other… This [agreement] is a huge step forward, and cements the roles of PGSA serving postgraduates, and VUWSA supporting them.”
Pihema says he appreciates the support VUWSA gives PGSA. Hayward hopes that there will be a regular and constant line of communication between both organisations.
The agreement is currently under review. The VUWSA executive intend on finalising the agreement by October 1.