Students see red over green masters

February 21, 1997

FOUR GRADUATES are suing the Victoria University of Wellington over a masters course they believe was substandard.

The claim, filed in the High Court last November, relates to an MA (applied) environmental studies programme which the students took in 1991.

The former students, who all left jobs to take the course, are claiming NZ$13,000 (Pounds 6,500) for fees from 1991 till 1994, NZ$8,000 for the lost opportunity to take another course, NZ$6,000 for loss of job opportunities while enrolled, NZ$20,000 for loss of future job opportunities, NZ$8,000 for one-year postgraduate diploma fees and NZ$20,000 for "frustration, annoyance and distress".

Grant Robertson, outgoing president of the New Zealand University Students' Association, said the case would have "significant implications for all students". The association and the Aotearoa Polytechnic Students Union are underwriting the graduates' legal costs.

The students filed the action after working through the university's internal procedures to get a settlement. The university had offered the students the opportunity of independent and confidential arbitration before a retired High Court judge and was also preparing a settlement.

Registrar Andrew Neeson said the course was reviewed in 1994 along with all postgraduate programmes in environmental studies in part response to the concern.

The students' association claims the review found the course comprised "ad hoc" and "cobbled together" programmes that were poorly resourced and did not adequately cover the Resource Management Act, or environmental law and economics.

At another South Island polytechnic, a group of students are preparing to take legal action unless the naturopathy course they started two years ago is granted degree status.

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