Update on halls of residence

Victoria University of Wellington has advised students who have rooms in its halls of residence that the 100 percent discount it has applied to the cost of the rooms during the level 4 lock down will come to an end after 28 April.

Instead of paying all the costs of the halls, the University will now move to a policy of passing on 100 percent of the savings from the partially empty halls to the students through the discounts it is offering.

This concludes a five-week period in which the University has waived all fees for its accommodation in order to support its students through the lockdown while at the same time continuing to pay our halls of residence staff. The University continued to pay the staff—including its residential assistants, most of whom are students—to protect their livelihoods and to ensure these talented people remain in our employment so they can once again care for our students when they return to the halls.

The University has incurred costs of more than $2 million in its accommodation services during this period. These costs have not been offset by the government’s wage subsidy scheme and instead require us to cross-subsidise the halls of residence from tuition fees. Tuition fees are paid to meet the costs of the teaching programmes for all of our students. They are not paid to meet the operating costs of the halls of residence which are occupied by just a small proportion of our students. As a result, this cross-subsidy cannot continue unabated and it is now time for students who wish to retain their rooms to begin to contribute to the costs of the hall operations.

We have held students rooms with the items they left there when they returned home. With the country moving into alert level 3 on Tuesday 28 April, and anticipating a shift to alert level 2, we are now embarking on cleaning halls, scaling back up our pastoral care support processes, readying our catering service and other aspects of our halls experience.

We have advised students in catered halls, which are generally those occupied by first-year students, that we will charge a weekly fee of $150 to hold rooms for those who intend to return to the hall as soon as they are able. This fee is heavily discounted. We are also discounting a portion of the activity fee students pay.

We recognise that this will be an unwelcome charge, but are balancing this against the need for the University to retain a viable high quality accommodation offering without undue cross-subsidisation from tuition fees.

We encourage students to discuss their options with us. Those who do not wish to have their room held for them can initiate the contract cancellation process. We encourage students who wish to retain their rooms but who are experiencing hardship to apply to our hardship fund if they need support. The University has already paid out more than half a million dollars in student support this year and we expect the demands on our hardship fund to markedly increase over the remainder of the year. We understand our fee waiver has been significantly more supportive of our students than most other institutions and private landlords.