• May 15, 2019
AUT business students have questions over the price of their co-op paper. Photo: Daniel Brunskill
Third-year university business students are unhappy with the high cost of their semester-long work placement.
AUT’s nine-week co-operative learning paper costs $3650 and is a full-time internship which the students must find themselves.
One student, who did not want to be named, was paying for university partly from a scholarship and partly from her savings.
She said she was “shocked” when she received the invoice for semester two.
“I thought it would be significantly cheaper than a full semester – I think it is very overpriced for the services we get.
“Having to pay my university to work for free is the peak of capitalist greed,” she said.
The student, who worked part-time to pay the bills, was stressed about keeping her job alongside the full-time co-op.
“I’m going to have to do this internship 40 hours a week and then do part-time work on top of that.”
Another student was unhappy that there was no explanation of the cost.
“We are just so baffled that no one is talking about this. Where is our money going?”
The co-op aims to develop workplace skills and includes two workplace training workshops. However, students did not think this was worth $3650.
In an email to AUT’s student magazine Debate, a group of unhappy students wrote: “The only way this would be justified would be if the workshops included full food catering, a wardrobe budget, massages and Moët champagne upon arrival.
“There is nothing wrong with expecting some more transparency about where our money is going.
“We shouldn’t be kept in the dark. It is not fair to charge that amount to thousands of students without quantifying why.”
Professor Kate Kearins, the dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, said one reason students chose AUT was because it is a leader in the co-operative education space.
The co-op has the same price tag as four academic papers. When asked whether it had the equal educational value, Ms Kearins said it was subjective.
“It depends whether you take a view of learning that it is about content, or if it is about skills,” she said.
“Increasingly the balance between content and skills is swinging in favour of skills.”
Ms Kearins said half the cost goes towards academic supervisors and administration staff who run the co-operative, and the remaining 50 per cent goes back into the university to provide more extensive infrastructure.
She said she was not aware of the faculty receiving negative feedback about the co-op in previous years.
In twelve years, the university said they had never had a student fail to get a placement. However, AUT surveys suggest that only 40 per cent of these roles are paid positions.
Ms Kearins said AUT had plans to downsize the co-operative paper, changing it from a nine-week 60-point paper to an eight-week 45-point paper.
She said AUT was not walking away from co-operative learning.
“By 2025 we want more than 90 per cent of graduates from bachelor’s programs to have completed work-integrated learning papers.”