4 Oct 2019

Victoria University student's death didn't raise questions - Vice-chancellor

8:56 am on 4 October 2019

Universities are coming under pressure to answer questions after a second case of a student's body going unnoticed at a university hostel.

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It has been revealed that a man's body was found at a Victoria University hostel about three days after he died in January last year.

Last month a Canterbury University student's body was found at the privately-owned Sonoda Campus weeks after his death.

Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford told Morning Report the student who died at the hostel was a 31-year-old Australian PhD student.

The hostel, which is run by the university, is for older students and contains self-catered apartments.

He said hostels like these have a lower number of RAs (resident advisers) than others, usually about 40 students to one RA.

"The older students, such as this young man, are not expected to sign in or sign out, we try and respect their privacy but we do keep an eye on things."

This death didn't raise questions about care in halls of residence, he said.

"This was an understandable situation, a sudden death of an adult student.

"In this particular case, in the middle of the holiday period, we were able to detect it three days within it occurring so I don't think I can ask more of my staff in this regard."

Mr Guilford said the university reviewed its critical instance procedure after the death and the only change made was that the room of an absent student would now only be entered by a senior or manager.

There is a rising tide of anxiety and depression among first year students, he said, and in 2017, the university restructured the halls of residents so that younger RAs would not have to deal with some of the mental wellbeing issues facing students.

Mr Guilford said the minister is right to request a review of the processes across the country in the halls of residents.

A former High Court judge has been appointed to lead an investigation into the death of the Canterbury University student.

University of Canterbury Council head Sue McCormack said the investigation will determine if student welfare policies at Sonoda Village were adhered to, and whether they need to be reviewed.

The discovery of the body sparked calls for minimum standards for all tertiary accommodation by the New Zealand Students' Union.

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