Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 13, No. 20. Thursday, September 7, 1950
To See Ourselves — Overseas Visitors Get Candid
To See Ourselves
Overseas Visitors Get Candid
It was inevitable that some of the overseas University men who came here would make comment on the University set-up in New Zealand Those who made the comments were not without honour in their own Universities, and it was to be expected that what they said would be worth considering.
One comment.—while otago had that settled air which made it almost a University, it was certain that Victoria hadn't: in one opinion, it wasn't even a University at all since it had so many part-timers.
Maidment of Auckland, answered this one. Said he: it is easy to see that the standards of work in the University of N.Z. are not all they could be. No-one is better aware of this than the University administrators of N.Z. But it is another thing to blame this lowered standard on the existence of the part-timers in large numbers. In fact there is little to support the view that the standard of work done by part-timers is any worse than that of full timers.
Another comment was that, while our specialist schools—like Otago—were up to standard, all the colleges seemed to lack the standard of -work in general courses on arts, particularly. Attention was paid to the specialist standards, but the philosophy of the general cultural course—if it could be so called without being either vague or priggish—was rather nebulous.
This comment is also worth considering. It needs to be considered separately from that of part-timers, because, as Maidment said, it is not proper to assume that the faults of the University can be visited on the part-timers.
To a large extent, the truth of the statement must be admitted. Our medical courses in New Zealand would seem to be of fairly high standard, by all accounts. No-one has suggested that the lawyers of New Zealand are any worse equipped than those of overseas countries: and the financial wizards of New Zealand have in the past been as well or as badly trained as their overseas counterparts.
But our art courses have certainly been pretty nebulous, and these criticisms come aptly.
It is possible—or it has been—to get a BA with three stages of Latin. Two of French, maybe a couple of English, and enough other languages to fill up the five subjects. It has been possible for a student to go through and get a general cultural degree without looking at English, or without even opening a history book: without knowing the first thing about philosophy and without even the mention of a laboratory.
The new course, which is based around the same idea as the core curriculum of the secondary school, would seem to remedy some of these faults. It should no longer be possible to go through University without getting a broad picture of the fields of thought, it should no longer be possible for a student to finish knowing nothing of a balanced view of human knowledge.
But it cannot be entirely separated from the question of part-timers.
The learning which goes on in a true university" must be largely in-formal—the by-product of a large amount of community life and feeling. Between the narrow hands of a clock, or existing precariously in the gaps between lectures, the easy informality of thought and discussion can barely find room to breathe.
What perhaps these visitors to our University did not see was the advantage of the part-timing system. The student who is not detached from the cares of life to give his mind a chance to roam, is nevertheless in close contact with the everyday feeling of his community. Older, more mature, he is likely to bring to his work a clarity of thought and a sense of realism which may be harder for the student in the peaceful closes of the university cloister.
Our visitors may have missed this aspect of our Universities altogether.
We have seen no comments on their attitude to extra-mural students—we can imagine that they would have been unimpressed.