The University of Otago has, from the beginning, supported its students and alumni. During the first wave of lockdown, the University of Otago made some quick decisions to help domestic and international students. Although, now amid the second wave, they’ve found that by going through it the first time, they are well prepared for the current lockdown.
The University of Otago has helped students in financial need with the Pūtea Tautoko support fund. Since it started in May 2020, grants of over $659,156 have allocated. This support fund has also received a significant boost from alumni, friends, staff, current students and parents, who have pledged nearly $300,000.
Created to support students facing hardship due to the pandemic, the University has committed an initial investment of $1.5 million to the fund, making it the enormous hardship support in its history. The fund is helping students cover their bills, accommodation costs, travel costs, groceries and toiletries.
“Unfortunately, the need we see now is only likely to grow over the coming months as the reality of further job losses and pressure on businesses continues to play out.” Says The University of Otago.
What’s great about this fund is that all students are eligible to apply, whether they are New Zealand or International students, full-time or part-time, undergraduate or postgraduate.
Moreover, the University has aimed at supporting its students by clear communication and helping them to make sense of the chaos. The University has been reaching out to all students, staff and community members, and giving them appropriate information in regards to COVID-19. The University of Otago Communications Director, Megan McPherson, is proud of the way her team has stepped up during the COVID-19 emergency.
A good figure to start with is the 375,000 page views of the University’s dedicated COVID-19 website. Since late January the site has been updated more than 600 times with information tailored to the requirements of students, staff and parents.
“The size of the contribution of the whole team cannot be underestimated. There’s just been an ocean of information, and our job has been to make sense of that chaos.” Says Megan McPherson.
However, they are not only giving out vital information to students but have also set up an online Student Support Hub, OUSA, which was launched during the first lockdown to help support students. The platform allows students to digitally contact Student Support to request support, access hardship grants, make appointments with the team, and find resources for student life. The platform also gave students activities to keep them active during the lockdown, as well as a place to virtually hang out.
Student Support Manager, Sage Burke, says there was a massive influx of students coming to them for support, estimating there was a 600 per cent rise in student enquiries related to financial hardship compared to the same time last year.
The virtual hub seems to be popular as it even reached a global audience, with high numbers of visits from overseas IP addresses. Mr Burke says getting a global reach is encouraging. “I think that we can achieve anything [as a team]. We have had so much great feedback from students. So it is good to know we are appreciated.”