This week, the vice chancellor of Victoria University (in Wellington) proved once again he is the bull in the china shop by doubling down on an $150 weekly holding fee for first year student halls.
Now, we can all sympathise with universities since they have lost a large portion of their income from international students. However, I feel duty bound to share an idea about how they might take advantage of a golden opportunity.
I’m not talking about turning halls into storage units as many suggest. While there is merit in cutting costs for food and internet access, with the rates he charges I doubt he’d have any biters.
No, I’m talking about having the biggest bake sale in history.
Think about it, 22,000 students are stuck at home doing next to nothing. If every single student baked one cake, that would be 22,000 cakes. And at $10 each, the university would make more money than it ever could from holding fees.
It even works as a PR stunt. I can see the headlines now: “vice chancellor sizzling snags at biggest ever bake sale.”
Not to mention that it solves the name issue. At Guinness World Record speed, Wellington’s version of the institute would become the predominant Victoria University in the world. No longer would international students accidentally enrol with the Australian or Canadian phonies.
But then again, a large bake sale poses its own issues. How can you ensure with certainty that no student has the coronavirus? Even worse, how could you ensure that every student fulfils their civic duty and bakes a cake – not to mention the varying quality of the pastry.
Perhaps there is another, safer alternative – one that makes even a large bake sale look like chump change.
Yes, it’s those international students. And no, not to increase the number of keen bakers, but to allow them to re-enter New Zealand and resume their studies.
New Zealand’s universities already attract large cohorts of international students through reputation. By being swift to re-open to students, and burnishing the success of the country’s elimination strategy, these universities could have a bumper year!
With safe and effective systems in place to quarantine student arrivals and courses provided online, Covid-19 could be transformed into an opportunity for New Zealand’s universities.
No need to shake-down absent freshers for pennies. We should all embrace our inner Scrooge McDuck, and aim high, so we too can swim in gilded pools filled with international cash.