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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 3 March 28, 1945

College Overcrowding

College Overcrowding

Recently in this College the lecture rooms have become overcrowded to an alarming degree, and the shortage of teaching staff has been commented upon by innumerable people. Obviously the building and facilities are inadequate to meet the needs of the increased numbers of students whose education must suffer unless the position is alleviated. Owing to the war and the restricted building policy adopted by the Government there seems little hope of a building programme being inaugurated in the near future, but the question of providing additional tutors certainly deserves consideration as this would improve matters to some extent.

Interviewed, Prof. Gordon stated that he did not consider large classes detrimental to the students' general standard of work. Our classes are not larger than those of typical English provincial Universities. He said that the ratio of staff to students overseas is about 1:10, allowing for the great personal contact so valuable in a subject such as English. He thinks there is a fair strain on lecturers at Victoria. He himself is fortunate in having a loudspeaker system. Instead of overcrowding in itself being a menace. Prof. Gordon thinks that it is a good sign, providing there are adequate staffing and accommodation facilities available. The answer does not lie in cutting classes; if there is a demand on University education it is the job of the community to provide facilities. Large numbers are a sign of good tendencies but the teaching is not being increased to meet the demand.

Staff Opinions

When approached Prof. Richardson stated that large Stage I classes were in his opinion not detrimental to student work, particularly in science subjects where students are ignorant of vocabulary, and personal contact would be of little value. As Stage I science classes are really cultural he considers large numbers are inevitable and desirable. The size of classes is equally bad overseas; for instance at Sir George William College, Canada, in 1929 there were 1200 to 1400 students, in 1943, 3000, and no tendency to decline was observed. In these Universities lecturing facilities, both in size and suitability of lecture halls and visual aids are very much better than at VUC. Prof. Richardson used a projection system for blackboard work by which the material was simply projected from his desk on to a screen. This was suitable and effective for 250. The staffing position there was better as large numbers of specialist lecturers and tutors were provided to cater for greater specialisation by advanced students. At McGill a student attended 480 lecture hours during his degree course, whereas here he attends only 225. Our larger classes make comparable facilities impossible.

Most overcrowded of all is the Science Faculty. Mr. Monro, of the Chemistry department thought that the department was working at the absolute limit, but that under the circumstances every student was receiving adequate tuition. Yes, he did miss personal contacts with his class, but what could they do? He was not in favour of limiting the numbers of first year students, but unless the Government came forward with help and a building project, the position would not be alleviated.

In the Physics department, from Mr. Peddie, whose last specific gravity bottle had just been broken, opinions came freely, but in the interests of student unity a great deal had better be "off the record." The Physics class this year, he said, had grown far beyond the facilities intended for it, and owing to the miraculous number of Meds., further sub-division of the prac. classes had been necessary. Student demonstrators had been called upon to help cope with the large numbers, and while the ideal would be a specially trained staff, the present organisation worked quite satisfactorily.

Prof. Florance, when interviewed, did well to point out that an increase in students should be welcomed rather than deprecated; in this technical world today higher education is needed more and more. But he thought there should be some form of directing body to avoid the glut of students training for specialised courses. Adaptability was part and parcel of a good student, and he did not believe that careers would suffer in the least. As it was, facilities in his department became inadequate two years ago, but no concrete idea had yet been propounded in an endeavour to improve conditions.

Student Comment

Students in English 1 are so crowded that writing is difficult and uncomfortable. The speaker system is technically unsatisfactory. Those in the front row hear both the Prof.'s voice and the speaker voice, which, to make things worse, comes from behind them. Nothing can be heard at the hack.

Students in Zoology 1 find that acoustics are good, but that the class is so crowded that lecture conditions are most unpleasant. There is too little room between tables and the chairs are Jammed uncomfortably close.

Other students approached were singularly unhelpful. Responses varied from: "We always sit in the front anyway," to "Aw, I wouldn't understand even if I was close up."