Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University Wellington. Vol. 23. No. 1. 1960
What Good The Parry Report ?
What Good The Parry Report ?
What is wrong with New Zealand Universities? The Parry Committee on the Universities found itself asking this question often in their recent report. The recommendations on particular problems contain nothing likely to surprise the average student, or anyone familiar with University problems. The need for more full-time study, for better and more buildings and student accommodation, and for better staff salaries have been recognized by University people for a long time. But have they been recognised by other New Zealanders? The answer seems to be a bit depressing. Newspaper editorials on the whole made the appropriate noises about the export of brains and the high failure rate, but there has been no correspondence on the report in the newspapers, and little other public discussion of any sort. The Government has said little about it, but seems likely to increase staff salaries in the light of the Committee's statement that "steps will be necessary immediately to meet what is an emergency." Yet, even with this warning, the Government has not accepted the Report wholeheartedly and may be unwilling to spend the money, about £285.000 per annum, on this urgent reform. The reason is not only the natural reluctance of an administration damned as a "high-tax government" to spend more money than it can help, but also that New Zealand public apathy toward Universities and low regard for University education may make the move dangerous politically. The Committee was aware of this attitude when it said, "We think that the imagination of the public has not been sufficiently aroused to the unique importance of the Universities. ... We find support for this belief in the fact that the public is not yet alarmed about the alarming rate at which the University is losing its existing staff, because of the present inadequacy of buildings and equipment and because of the teaching conditions which, in large measure, stem from the undue proportion of part-time students."
This is one fundamental problem. The other is simply the high failure rate.
The Committee found that among full-time students in Arts and Science classes only 20-25% graduated in three years and. in one batch, 54% had not graduated after four years. This should be enough to shock anybody. The Commit tee has some hard things to say in its examination of the complex reasons for this poor showing.
Three Main Problems
The three main causes, the Committee thinks, are: (1) the loss of existing staff and our inability to replace it because of the existing salary scales: (2) inadequate buildings and equipment; ana (3) teaching conditions "which, in large measure, stem from the undue proportion of part-time students."
Staffing: It is quite clear that New Zealand cannot allow the export of its first-class brains to continue as it has done up till now. There is already some tendency in New Zealand toward the American practice, implicit in an obsession with Ph.D's., of equating research ability with teaching ability. A doctorate is an index of research ability, not teaching ability. However, it is painfully evident that many of the first-class Honours students who leave New Zealand would make excellent University teachers, and the Committee recommends immediate action to halt the flow overseas. In addition. New Zealand has already lost its ability to recruit worthwhile teachers from overseas. If present conditions continue, those who do come will regard New Zealand as a Stepping stone in their careers.
The Parry Report And Vuw
The Parry Report mentioned Victoria often, sometimes favourably, sometimes not. Here is a summary of what it had to say about the Old Clay Patch.
The Committee Liked
The now Student Union building. The building programme, and said that future plans should be carried out soon.
The Committee Didn'T Like
That high failure rate.
All those part-timers, particularly in Arts Faculty.
The lack of student hostels.
The Library—it is overcrowded, inadequate in its holdings, and poorly financed.
What The Report Could Mean To Victoria
Extensions to the Biology Block.
More day-time lectures.
More teachers, particularly in Bret-year classes.
Staff salary increases.
A £10.000 block grant to the Library.
"Five Years Behind in Building"
"Universities are about five years behind schedule in building programmes," the Report said, although the pace has varied from centre to centre. On Auckland, the Committee has a hard word or two for those trying to ease the University out of the Prince's Street site, and warns of the "disastrous effects on both staff and students in any further delay, by the Council in deciding what site to develop, and by the Government in carrying out its promises to acquire and develop the Prince's Street site."
Victoria comes in for some praise, surprisingly enough, and the Committee thought that an extension to the Biology Block should be pushed ahead. It seemed particularly impressed with the Student Union building. A recommendation that thin be pushed ahead, had it been made about four years ago, might have helped!
Carrots And Sticks For Part-Timers
The most controversial section of the Report—there are certainly very few—deals with part-timers. The Committee flatly states that there are too many of these, and that it would be no trouble for most to pursue full-time courses. The issue is, perhaps, not quite as clear-cut as the Committee seems to think. Part-timers play a big and valuable part in VUW life, and many of our most distinguished students have studied part-time. It may also be more difficult than the Committee thinks for many students from poorer families to study full-time. The Parry Committee does not seem to have gone into this question very deeply, which is rather a pity in the light of some of the "blanket" assertions it makes.
The big immediate problems of part-time study are the high failure rate (and consequent waste of University time and facilities) and the pressure on lecture room space in later afternoon and evening. To cut down part-time study, it is recommended that lectures be spread out evenly throughout the day, with part-timers having to take a chance on whether their classes are held in the even-page 8ing or not. Evening lectures would therefore be cut to a minimum.
Bursaries—Modest Increases Only?
There would, however, be carrots as well as sticks for the part-timers. The Bursary recommendations are important, for financial difficulties must play a major part in forcing students to study part-time. Many VUW students will heartily agree that the Training College Studentship scheme should be wound up as soon as possible. The Bursary provisions have become an easily-worked racket for some students. They also discriminate against perfectly able students who do not wish to bind themselves to State service. The reward of a studentship entails no work on the part of a sixth former, and the Junior and National Scholarships, which do, are worth far less. Anyway, is it really worth while binding students to work as teachers before they have had a chance to decide on their choice of careers? The scheme is merely a temptation for students to become unwilling teachers, or at least halfhearted ones, for the sake of the money.
To compensate for the winding-up of the scheme, big bursary and scholarship increases are needed, but the Committee's recommendations fall far short of what would be necessary to encourage more full-time study. The increase in boarding allowances to £100 per year is long overdue. but other suggested increases will not tempt those who at present have to work to keep themselves. The lack of any recommendation for a grant to University Entrance holders, other than the present payment of fees, is particularly disappointing.—J.D.