Our Purpose
Where to Find Us
PGSA Executive
History of the PGSA
PGSA Life Members
Photo Gallery
Friends of the PGSA
Official Documents

Our Purpose

The PGSA is the representative organisation for postgraduates at VUW. We exist solely to ensure you have the best possible academic experience. So, how do we do this? Simple! We cultivate:

  • Community
  • Excellence
  • Representation

We love to talk; even better: we love to listen so get in touch!

Who are We?
The Association is run by up to 12 postgraduate students who work voluntarily on your behalf. Our Executive Assistant, Fran Denton,  is likely to be your first point of contact.

We actively work with the University to ensure the unique concerns of postgraduates are included in University policies.  An important aspect of this work is the Minimum Resources Agreement, which specifies the minimum resources all research students are entitled to.

We promote excellence through:

  • opportunities for personal growth in leadership
  • opportunities for academic growth in workshops, forums and  informal discussion
  • recognition of success  in:
    3 Minute Thesis Competition
    Research Excellence Awards
    Victorias Awards
    Academic Conference Grants

We  focus on creating a thriving, university-wide postgraduate community. Are you looking  to:

  • network with fellow postgrads (outside of your office)?
  • attend social events (our annual quiz night, Tuesday Chats Pipitea, First Fridays Breakfasts)?
  • escape your office/lab/dungeon?

Then we are here for you! If at any time you have queries, problems, or grievances come and chat to us. We can provide guidance and assure to respect your confidentiality.


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Where to find us

PGSA Office:  Room 404, Level 4, Student Union Building, Gate 1, Kelburn Parade
Postal Address:  Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140
Tel:  +64 4 463 6973

You can also join in the conversation on facebook and Twitter (@pgsavuw)

Postgrad Computer Suite

The PGSA computer suite reserved solely for postgrads is temporarily located in the VUWSA Mezanine Level (go into VUWSA offices on level 4, and up the stairs), Student Union Building,  There are four computers and a printer available to use.

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PGSA Executive Members
Priyanka Roy
Will Abbiss
Leo Mercer
Taylor Cooney
Schyana Sivanantham
Roya Jabarouti
Andrew Lensen
Elizabeth Olsen


Read on to find out more information about each member of the Executive.  A copy of the PGSA Executive Manual and  guidelines for Exec Member Conduct can be found here.


Priyanka RoyPresident
Priyanka Roy

Programme of Study: PhD Theatre
 Joined the Exec: June 2017

Bio: I am pursuing my PhD in Theatre Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. I am passionate about writing. I have published two collections of poetry, ‘Willow Tree’ (2014) and ‘Love and a Thousand Questions’ (2016). Apart from working on feminism and theatre, I also write on culture, women’s issues, theatre and films for HuffPost. Joining PGSA felt like a natural process for me as I wanted to add a greater dimension to my PhD experience. Becoming an executive member, I felt, would not only help me support student issues in a meaningful way but also assist me in engaging with important issues of diversity, gender parity and student support that matters to us, not just as students, but as significant contributors to society. The very first day I attended the PGSA meeting , it was clear to me that PGSA was of immense value to student life at Victoria. It not only promotes greater engagement among students but also organises social activities and events to share crucial information regarding student services. PGSA endeavours to make university life both enriching and exciting for all students. Being immersed in creative pursuits like theatre and writing, I sought out PGSA to gain a better understanding of the student body at Victoria and contribute to student wellbeing. I have a background in communication and policy research and I wanted to bring my experience to PGSA and help in the activities that facilitate broader engagement between the students and the university. This experience would help me in building connections, applying my leadership skills and providing me with a great platform to work with students from all walks of life and from every corner of the world.


Will AbbissCo-Vice-President
Will Abbiss 

Programme of Study: PhD Media Studies
Joined the Exec: October 2017

Bio: I’m a newly-started PhD student in Media Studies, specialising in contemporary British television and its depiction of the cultural past. I’m from the South of England, and arrived in New Zealand to take up a scholarship place at Victoria. As a recent arrival to the university and the country I’m really keen to get involved in the wider community, and becoming a PGSA Executive is the ideal way to do this. I hope that I can help make other newcomers feel welcome and supported by the university as a whole during my time on the Executive. In my fast-eroding spare time I am a trumpet player, currently with the Wellington City Concert Band, and while in the UK was an organiser of the national student brass band contest UniBrass. I am interested in this position primarily to play an active role in the postgraduate community I have recently become a part of. I think the Executive have a very important function in maintaining the visibility and engagement of the PGSA, ensuring it is perceived as a necessary resource and the equal to VUWSA for both students who have continued at Victoria after their undergraduate degrees and those joining as postgraduates like myself. It is vital that all postgraduates are aware of the PGSA and the support it can offer at times of difficulty, and the executive body is what allows this supportive community to thrive. The PGSA is hugely valuable to the postgraduate community and university as a whole, providing not only a sense of fellowship amongst students whose research demands may at some times leave them feeling isolated but also academic support with events such as the 3 Minute Thesis. The PGSA therefore helps students leave Victoria as well-rounded individuals with experiences that stand them in good stead for industry or academic employment when they finish their studies.


Leo Mercer

Programme of Study: PhD Environmental Studies
Joined the Exec: July 2018

Kia ora, my name is Leo and I am a PhD candidate in Environmental Studies within the school of Geography Environment and Earth Sciences. I started university here at Victoria University in 2013 and they haven’t got rid of me yet! I completed my BSc in 2015 majoring in Environmental Science and Geography and I am now in the second year of my PhD which is examining the land use options available to Māori landowners on the East Coast of the North Island. My research is particularly interested in the role that carbon farming can play in the development of Māori land and how this land use is valued when compared to its alternatives. In my spare time I enjoy mountain biking, tramping and attempting to read non-academic material! I am also a tutor and have developed an understanding and passion for this process. The PGSA occupies an important role for post graduate students who may often miss the sense of camaraderie enjoyed by undergraduates, who instead toil away in isolation. Developing connections between oneself and others in the same boat may at times feel daunting and difficult but incredibly important for the journey we are all undertaking. Connecting post graduate students, building a sense of fellowship and advocating for their interests at local and national scales is one of the important roles occupied by the PGSA, and one which I am excited to take part in. It is my aim to contribute to this good work by fostering links between the university, organisations that advocate for and represent students, and the student body itself.


Schyana SivananthamTreasurer
Schyana Sivanantham  

Programme of Study: PhD Psychology
Joined the Exec: August 2017

Bio: I’m Schyana, and I’m currently studying towards my PhD in the area of Cognitive Developmental Psychology here at Victoria University. My research investigates how Theory of Mind and motor cognition may be coordinated, and the implications for non-shared and shared intentional activities. I have been a student of VUW for four years so far, having gained my Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Psychology (2013-2016). In my free time I like to practice (and improve) my German language skills, and play the piano. As an executive member of the PGSA, I hope to be a voice for postgraduate students, both domestic and international. Postgraduate study is challenging for many reasons, and while I am on my own PhD journey I wish to help others feel at home here at Victoria, and support postgraduate students in any way I can.


Processed with VSCO with f2 presetExecutive Member
Taylor Cooney

 Programme of Study: PhD Microbiology
 Joined the Exec: March 2017

Bio:  My name is Taylor and I’m a scientific researcher in the Cancer Immunotherapeutic field – specifically looking at development of novel peptide cancer vaccines. I moved to Wellington after spending four years studying at Otago, and throughout my time down south always had a keen involvement in all aspects of University life – from two years as a Residential Assistant, member of the Otago University Rowing Club to various board and class representative positions. I believe that as a collective, postgraduate students have the experience, skills and maturity to shape the culture of both our own classes and also those of the undergraduates. I believe this board position is vital for maintaining a positive connection between the student body and the faculty, to ensure that both parties work together for the common goal and allow the postgrad community to make their mark on the Vic Uni culture. Postgraduate study can be challenging and even at times frustrating and isolating. Access to an inclusive, friendly and open PGSA is crucial for creating an enjoyable environment in which to ‘ride the research rollercoaster’. I feel that PGSA provides the important stepping stone between the student body and the faculty staff members. One of my favourite experiences at University was living in a residential college. This experience has given me a hugely valuable set of skills including the ability to work in very diverse teams, a ridiculously large amount of patience, the ability to relate in different ways to different individuals and strategies for prioritising many varied tasks. I have also spent time as a Student council representative and secretary, captained various sports teams, mentored undergraduate students, and been both a school prefect and class representative for science and commerce papers. I thrive on being involved in all aspects of University life, and would thoroughly enjoy the experience and new skills this position may bring. I believe I have the skill set and enthusiasm to be a constructive and valuable member of the PGSA board. 

Executive Member
Roya Jabarouti

Programme of Study: PhD Literary Translation Studies

Joined the Exec: March 2018

I’m a PhD Candidate in Literary Translation Studies, in the School of Languages and Cultures, at Victoria University of Wellington. I look at translation metaphorically, in life and while writing my dissertation, where I focus on the semiotics of motions and the translation of emotions in selected poetic writings. My Master’s education in World Literature was the starting point to appreciate a wide range of literatures and cultures from around the world. Joining PGSA is an opportunity for me to get on board of an aspiring multi-cultural community, while bringing my bit and enriching my academic experience.



Executive Member
Andrew Lensen

Programme of Study: PhD Computer Science
Joined the Exec: September 2018

I am currently in the last year of my PhD in Computer Science, with a focus on using a branch of Artificial Intelligence (AI) called Evolutionary Computation to solve difficult data science problems. I have enjoyed studying at Victoria throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate study and am looking forward to giving back to the student community that has supported me during this period. I am passionate about student well-being, especially during stressful doctoral study, and hope to be able to help represent postgraduate students.


Executive Member
Elisabeth Olsen

Programme of Study: Philosophy
Joined the Exec: September 2018

Bio: I was born in Africa in the ’80s, and grew up through apartheid and its end in South Africa. At 15, I moved to Texas just a month prior to 9/11 where I experienced the retaliatory reaction to the terrorist action. I have been in New Zealand for over 10 years and I appreciate being a citizen of a country where so many people value justice, equity, and respect for their fellows. I am involved with the PGSA to do my part to build an inclusive and equitable society.


btySecretary/Executive Administrator
Fran Denton 
Joined the Association: October 2017

Bio: Tēnā koutou! I’m Fran and I’m the only paid employee of the PGSA. I’m an experienced administrator with 5 years of experience in roles similar to this one – I have been working for the PGSA since October 2017. If you see me around the university or in the office come and say hi!  I’m excited to work with the PSGA to offer a wide range of events, services and representation to all Postgraduate Students at Victoria.

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The Postgraduate Informer is our monthly e-newsletter. The current and previous three copies of the Informer are listed here but if you would like to find further copies go to the National Library.

Volume 6.1 February 2018
Volume 6.2 March 2018
Volume 6.3 April 2018
Volume 6.4 May 2018

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The Postgraduate Students’ Association (PGSA) was formed in 1994 by a committed group of postgraduate students with a focus on providing services to postgraduate students not already provided by the University.

In 1997 Dennis and Trevor Landers established the Landers Award in order to recognise an individual who provided outstanding work which fostered the ethos and the objectives of the PGSA, or who had done much to improve the experience of the postgraduate student experience. This was in recognition that in the informal beginnings of the PGSA there were people working tirelessly to support postgraduate students. The Landers Postgraduate Award was an attempt to recognise those who had gone before (operating with their own personal resources) and to recognise those who would come after.  The motivations were also partly in response to the closure of the Graduate Students Office.

The first Executive Assistant of the PGSA was Trevor Landers, who worked in an entirely voluntarily capacity as at this time, as the PGSA had no funding or institutional recognition. A delegation, including Trevor, Peter Howland and Vicki Culling met with Alastair Shaw (then President of VUWSA) and argued for a devolution of the quantum which postgraduates paid. Vice-Chancellor Les Holborrow and the Senior Management Team needed convincing. Through discussions, came the Minimum Resource Agreement in which the PGSA and Victoria still discuss and adhere to today. The delegation demanded rights for postgraduate students, and argued that postgraduate students bring in the majority of the income of the University.

The mission and values of the PGSA have not changed drastically from its early beginnings:  to get support and resources for postgraduates students, and encourage the University to take postgraduate students seriously and to treat them well.

Past PGSA Executives have participated in international fora on postgraduate issues and management of a postgraduate voice.  Trevor Landers in August 1997 attended the World Postgraduate Association Conference in Budapest, where the Budapest Declaration was issued and a World Postgraduate Body established, and was achieved without access to external funding.  Once external funding was secured and institutionalised, the foundation of the PGSA was determined.

In 1998 the PGSA as we know it now became established and sustainable, thanks to the financial support from VUWSA and the University, and was formally recognised as a representative student association by VUWSA.  We operate as an autonomous association for and on behalf of postgraduate students in partnership with VUWSA. The PGSA is the representative body of all postgraduate students, providing representation and services for all postgraduates enrolled at Victoria. Postgraduate students comprise roughly 20% of students at Victoria and are defined as students who are enrolled at Honours level or above (with the exception of Law, for which Honours is included as an undergraduate course), including graduate diploma students.


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PGSA Lifetime Members
Sue Kelly
Gemma Swan
Tara Officer
Olayinka (Yinka) Moses
Lynette Johnson
Monique Beyer
Rachel Qi
Hayden Green
Tim Brox
Neal Barber
Professor Neil Quigley
Professor Laurie Bauer
Rebecca Burke
Mary Redmayne
Mabel Hamon
Tanja Schubert-McArthur
Julene Marr
Wayne Pihema
Nicky Hager
Dr Peter Howland
Sam Mackay
Nester Russell
We would like to thank the following organisations who generously sponsored prizes for the 2018 PGSA Quiz Night:

Thistle Inn

Lighthouse Cinema (Cuba)
Victoria Street Cafe
Pegasus Books
Hunter Lounge
Milk & Honey Cafe
Vic Books
Backbencher Gastropub
The PGSA has strong associations with the following university groups:
Faculty of Graduate Research (FGR) http://www.victoria.ac.nz/fgr/
Victoria International (VI)  http://internationalstudenthome.victoria.ac.nz/
Student Learning (SL)  http://www.victoria.ac.nz/st_services/slss/
Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association (VUWSA)  http://www.vuwsa.org.nz/
Ngai Tauira (Maori Students’ Association)  http://www.ngaitauira.org.nz/
Pasifika Students’ Council  http://www.victoria.ac.nz/vicpasifika/our-identity/pasifika-council.aspx
Official Documents

The Constitution of the Victoria University of Wellington Postgraduate Students’ Association Inc. was ratified at the AGM on 6 October 2014.


Members’ Meetings 

2017 Annual General Meeting – October 2017

2017 Initial General Meeting – 6 March 2017

2016 Annual General Meeting – 3 October 2016

2016 Initial General Meeting – 7 March 2016

2015 Annual General Meeting – 5 October 2015

2015 Initial General Meeting – 9 March 2015

2014 Annual General Meeting – 6 October 2014

2014 Initial General Meeting – 10 March 2014


Executive Meetings
Due to space constraints, we will only put up the previous 6 month’s executive meeting documents here. If you would like to receive a copy of papers for previous meetings, please contact us.

Executive Meeting, February 2018

Executive Meeting December 2017

Executive Meeting, November 2017

Executive Meeting, October 201

Executive Meeting, September 2017

Executive Meeting, August 2017
President’s Reports

4 August 2017

7 July 2017

5 May 2017

7 April 2017

3 February 2017

9 December 2016

3 November 2016

9 September 2016


PGSA Annual / Interim Reports

President’s Reports

President’s Report March 2017

President’s Report October 2016

President’s Report March 2016

President’s Report October 2015

President’s Report March 2015

President’s Report October 2014

President’s Report March 2014


Treasurer’s Reports

Treasurer’s Report March 2017

Treasurer’s Report October 2016

Treasurer’s Report March 2015

Treasurer’s Interim Report October 2015

Treasurer’s Report March 2015

Treasurer’s Interim Report October 2014

Treasurer’s Report March 2014



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