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Victoria University of Wellington 1899 ~ 1999 A History

[eight] — Hits and misses

page 187

Hits and misses

IN 1949 J.C. Beaglehole lamented the young college's ‘if only’ approach to academic development: ‘if only’ the government would give it a few more pounds it might teach geology, or surveying, or commercial law. ‘It is obvious that every step in the development of the college was taken, not as part of the logical fulfilling of a well thought-out plan, to give a particular community the particular sort of university it needed in a particular age of history, but simply as an expedient dictated by the balance, for the time being, at the bank’ – an expression, he thought, of the colonial, not just the Victorian, mind.1 This was harsh, but probably fair of those first few decades of which he wrote.

The grants committee regime after 1948 encouraged the habit of forward planning. Later, academic planning according to ‘a consistent “idea”’2 in the form of the vision statement and strategic plan would become mandatory. But the springs of the university's growth, its direction and shape, were always more complex than the pursuit of a single vision. It grew along with the growth of the university-going population, and of the resources provided by the state. It expanded in different directions in response to the tastes of students and teachers, or to the demands of professions (like accountancy), or through the reputation of particular courses (like creative writing), or the charismatic pull of particular teachers (like zoology's Richardson). It followed institutional fashions, for centres or institutes or schools, as well as intellectual fashion. There were successes and failures. This chapter considers some of each. The old-fashioned quest for ‘special schools’ was not a thing of the past.

In 1948 the college had requested chairs of music, geography, philosophy and Asiatic studies: three out of four, by the end of the quinquennium, was not bad. Architecture and communications engineering were Victoria's bids for new departments in its 1953 quinquennial submission. It continued to pursue engineering vigorously for another 10 years or so. The context for this perhaps page 188
The campus plan, 1950s

The campus plan, 1950s

curious ambition was a national debate on technological education, an apparent national shortage of engineers, government planning for large-scale industrial development (oil, steel and ‘other schemes of comparable magnitude’), agreement by the profession and the government that professional engineers should have a university degree, and concerns in the university about the encroachment of technical colleges on their territory (technical colleges could train technicians, it was decided; the universities would educate engineers).3 And, of course, the idea of what a ‘real’ university should be. ‘The Council has observed,’ the vice-chancellor informed the New Zealand Institute of Engineers, ‘that every English University with a roll exceeding 1,300 has an engineering school or faculty.’4 As for the university's responsibility to contribute to the national wealth and well-being, physics professor Darcy Walker reported back to the Council from the Industrial Development Conference in 1960, ‘The present lack of technology at Victoria is embarrassing. In the future it will be disastrous.’5 It was, the Hughes Parry committee was told, ‘somewhat extraordinary’ that engineering had not been established here already.6

The early plan, devised by the science professors, was to develop postgraduate work in electronics and radio physics as the nucleus of a future engineering school; but on the advice of the Institute of Engineers that this approach was ‘unsound in page 189 principle’, it was decided instead to start with the first two years of an engineering degree (after which students would go on to one of the two existing schools, at Auckland and Canterbury). The Hughes Parry committee, however, was cautious, and recommended against the early establishment of a third engineering school. The government took heed. In 1960 Victoria was informed that the third school, when it was needed, would indeed be established here, and that planning for it should begin within the next 10 years; but by 1965 the University Grants Committee had decided that on the basis of the country's need for engineers there was no longer any justification for another school. Victoria had continued to refine its plan nevertheless, taking notice of overseas trends in engineering education towards greater science content and the ‘miniaturisation’ of engineering laboratories and buildings: convenient for a university so physically constrained, and especially perhaps in view of the city planners' refusal in 1964 to include the proposed engineering school site in the district scheme.7 By the next quinquennial round, however, Victoria had abandoned its quest for a full-scale engineering school, and subsumed ‘engineering science’ within the more realistic ambition of architecture – which, the chancellor observed, was by comparison ‘cheap to teach’, and had received the blessing (if not yet the commitment) of the grants committee.8


Victoria had had architecture in its sights since 1920 (architecture having been formally recognised as a ‘special school’ at Auckland in 1919), but not with intent until the 1950s. It was supported, at least initially, by the New Zealand Institute of Architects, which asked the university Senate in 1957 to establish a second
The first Reynolds– Culliford plan (the proposed engineering school, bottom left)

The first Reynolds– Culliford plan (the proposed engineering school, bottom left)

page 190 architecture school in Wellington. Asked for their views, Auckland opposed it, Canterbury wanted it and Otago supported Canterbury; the Senate procrastinated.9 The superiority of Victoria's case was advanced – through the usual process of quinquennial and Hughes Parry submissioning – on both economic and educational grounds. There were almost twice as many architecture students living in the Wellington region as in the whole of the South Island,10 and as the capital city Wellington had the largest concentration of architects' head offices, the greatest amount of building activity outside Auckland, and thus a supply of buildings, both government and commercial, to furnish ‘a stimulating environment and wealth of illustrative examples for the teaching of architecture’. It also had, over Auckland, a more ‘rigorous’ climate and a propensity to earthquakes (phenomena attractive to architects, engineers and geophysicists, if few others).11 Individuality was a key theme. Auckland's school was seen to be in the traditional ‘beaux-arts’ mould, with an academic and design orientation; Victoria's would be more practical and technological. Thus Victoria's proposal was by 1965 for a School of Architecture and Architectural Engineering, possibly offering a postgraduate diploma in structural engineering as well as an architecture degree. (Kingston and Reynolds had been consulted, and confirmed the wisdom of this strategy: engineering was playing an increasing part in architecture training and practice.) An architecture school of this character would also complement Victoria's strength in terrestrial geophysics. A more detailed plan prepared at the request of the grants committee in 1966 proposed two chairs, of architecture and structural engineering, and an intake of about 40 students a year.

It was not until 1973 that the committee finally gave Victoria the go-ahead to appoint one professor, a secretary and a librarian to found its architecture school. In its enthusiasm the university went ahead and acquired five teaching staff by the beginning of 1975 (without ascertaining whether Victoria or the grants committee would be paying for them) – and a parrot belonging to the secretary. The German-born professor, Gerd Block, had taught for 10 years at the University of Melbourne; his wife and he had established a practice in Australia with a particular reputation for office (or ‘work environment’) planning; and he described his approach when he arrived as ‘very much management, technology and science orientated’.12 The school as built roughly followed the blueprint prepared for it, offering a ‘distinctly profession-oriented course’ with ‘a thorough grounding in building science and technology’ – although the ‘organic growth’ of an engineering school did not follow.13 A two-tier, five-year degree structure was designed, with a Bachelor of Building Science after the intermediate, plus two years and a Bachelor of Architecture after two more. (Masters in both and a PhD in architecture were added later.) The school and its degrees were officially recognised after the first BArchs graduated in 1979.

Twenty-five students enrolled in the first year, 1974. By 1983 the first-year intake had been raised to 35 and there were 18 academic staff, including two professors. Helen Tippett, who took up the second chair in 1979, like Block came from the University of Melbourne, and had a background in both architecture page 191 practice and management. The school also initiated that year a unique course in architectural history, but hopes of further development in this field were frustrated in the 1980s by staffing constraints. The Victoria architecture school's predominantly practical and industry orientation was also expressed in its energetic involvement in consultancy and contract research in the fields of building energy performance, post-occupancy evaluation, and building industry research; and in the innovation of appointing a leading (and notably idiosyncratic) local architect, Ian Athfield, as a professorial teaching fellow – following the American model of an ‘adjunct professor’ – in 1986. This, however, was not to be a wholly successful experiment.

The periodic professional reviews of the school through the 1980s had high praise for its research output and public profile. They also consistently faulted it for a lack of attention to design and drawing skills – and, however well planned Victoria's architecture school was in these terms, there was to be a lingering internal tension between the technical- and the design-minded. The reviews also criticised the school's accommodation, although this was hardly the fault of its members. The ‘nature and quality of this space’, two adapted old houses in Fairlie Terrace and the purpose-built Architectural Sciences Laboratory, ‘does not have the vitality or provide the stimulus expected from a school of architecture’.14 (Both of these issues would be addressed in 1990s.)


If architectural science at Victoria has been a qualified success, in the field of health science the experience has been less happy. In the 1950s when the university Senate was looking at the establishment of a veterinary school (aspiring vets then were given bursaries to study in Australia), Victoria offered to develop a pre-clinical course, with clinical training to be taken at Massey. Auckland, Otago, Massey and Lincoln also made representations: Massey was chosen. The college also put in a bid for a proposed three-year pharmacy diploma in 1955, but the powers-that-be (this time the director-general of education) decided that pharmacy training could happily be left to the technical colleges. Victoria's Council was ‘shocked by this decision and made the strongest possible protest to the Senate’, to no avail.15

The real prize, however, was a medical school. Otago had got in first, of course, when it established the country's first medical school in the 1870s, a quarter of a century before Victoria was even founded. From 1927 the final, clinical year of the medical course was shared among the public hospitals in the four main centres (Victoria's chancellor, Duncan Stout, taught surgery to the students in Wellington), and in 1937 branch faculties of the Otago Medical School were established at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch hospitals to take responsibility for all final-year medical students. When a Senate committee addressed the question of a second medical school in 1952–53, Victoria submitted that it should be established in Wellington (Wellington's Otago branch faculty, although it believed that the country really needed only one school, agreed).

It was Auckland, however, that got the second medical school. In the year that page 192 it was opened, 1968, Victoria's quinquennial submission casually suggested that it would soon be time to start planning for the third. And as Wellington had ‘the best developed single hospital in the country’ and Victoria a strong science faculty and sociology department, it was logical to site it here.16 The University Grants Committee would agree that Wellington was the place for a third medical school; the issue was not where but if, and if so, when. In October 1970 a joint committee convened by Victoria and Wellington hospital issued a report arguing for a full medical school in Wellington, to open in 1975–76.17 Specifically, it opposed the government's recently announced plan to meet the country's anticipated need for more doctors by expanding the existing schools and establishing clinical schools at Wellington and Christchurch hospitals under the jurisdiction of the Otago Medical School (to train fourth-, fifth- and sixth-year students from Otago). It would, Victoria argued, be no more expensive to establish a proper medical school in Wellington, and academically unsound to separate pre-clinical and clinical training. Victoria could easily accommodate a medical school within its current site development plans (an anatomy building was pencilled in south of the Maclaurin lecture block). The grants committee, however, was not convinced. It would commit itself only to considering, at the appropriate time (probably the early 1980s), the transfer of financial and academic responsibility for the Wellington clinical school from Otago to Victoria, and agreeing that when a third medical school was required, Victoria would get it: ‘an ambiguous statement worthy of a Greek oracle,’ Lincoln reader in microbiology A.P. Mulcock remarked when he turned down Victoria's microbiology chair.18 Resorting to that time-honoured strategy, deputations went to the prime minister and the grants committee, who remained unmoved. Victoria lost its chair in microbiology, and ‘was forced to accept that it had missed out again’.19

It had not given up all hope, however. The debate was revived when the grants committee informed the university in 1977 that it was deferring for another quinquennium the question of its taking over the Wellington Clinical School of Medicine. There was briefly talk of convening a working group to look at relations with the clinical school, with or without a proper medical school in view, until it became clear that the still-coveted third medical school was now ‘very remote’.20 Still later, in the early 1980s, a plan was prepared for a merger between Victoria and the Wellington Clinical School of Medicine to form the ‘Victoria University School of Medicine and Health Science’ (incorporating the prevailing, broader conception of health training). But the grants committee's position had not changed. A medical school at Victoria was not to be.


The university had been involved in nursing education, on the other hand, since the 1920s. From 1928, students of the New Zealand Post-graduate School of Nursing had come to Victoria for courses in psychology, education and (briefly) economics. At first there were only seven or eight students each year, but their numbers increased after the war, until by the end of the 1950s teaching them page 193

The campus plan, 1968, including the gymnasium (1), carparks (2, 5, 9, 16), Rankine Brown (4), Easterfield (6), lecture theatres (7 & 8), Kirk (11), Hunter west wing (12), Robert Stout (14), Hunter (15), the student union building (17), tennis courts (18), SCM cabin (28), and university-occupied houses on Wai-te-ata Road (3) and Kelburn Parade (19– 27). Not shown: houses on Clermont Terrace and Fairlie Terrace

involved four or five staff in Education, and the department's head, C.L. Bailey, was suggesting that either a university lecturer be appointed to the nursing school to take over the work full time, or that a special school or department be established at Victoria. Informal discussions were going on at the same time with the Department of Health, resulting in a proposal going to the grants committee at the end of 1960 for a School of Nursing Studies at Victoria to teach a two-year diploma in nursing administration. Unfortunately, the Health Department was not interested enough to fund the development from its own vote, and for now the plan lapsed.

The context in which nursing studies was introduced into Victoria's BA curriculum in 1973 was complex. There was renewed government interest in page 194 nursing education, and mounting competition from other universities, notably Massey. The Department of Education was seeking to remove nursing training from hospitals to polytechnics, while nurses sought the status of a university degree. In the wake of the Carpenter report on nursing education (1971), the Department of Health invited Victoria to discuss the introduction of an undergraduate course (which Victoria had until now resisted), and the government set up a committee, the universities' representative on which was the entrepreneurial vice-chancellor of Massey. Massey began laying its own plans for undergraduate nursing courses, and Auckland too began to show an interest in an area that Victoria until now had had to itself. Taylor viewed the establishment of the government's committee, and Massey's pursuit of the quarry outside the normal grants committee channels, as ‘rather suspicious’.21 So Victoria continued to develop its own plans, with support from within the nursing profession. The C.L. Bailey Nursing Education Trust was established, and with the $12,000 it had raised by August 1972, and another $10,000 from the New Zealand Nursing Education and Research Foundation, the university was able to appoint a senior lecturer, Beatrice Salmon, and begin a stage-three nursing studies course in 1973. Honours and masters programmes were envisaged and, from 1978, a nursing option in the new MA (Applied) degree (external funding permitting).

It was Victoria's suggestion that the University Grants Committee take stock of the situation in 1978, as it and other universities included plans to expand their nursing offerings in the quinquennial round. The resulting (Langer) report took Victoria by surprise, however, with its recommendation of a faculty or department of nursing and a greatly expanded undergraduate programme at Victoria (which it had not put forward), and advice that if Victoria was not willing, Auckland was. By 1980 the University of Otago was planning a full undergraduate nursing degree; the Wellington Clinical School of Medicine was urging Victoria to establish one; and the Department of Health, it seemed, could not make up its mind. This uncertainty, the imminent retirement of Beatrice Salmon, and the small numbers of students enrolling in the courses lay behind the decision taken early in 1980 to suspend nursing studies after 1981.22

The proposal, a year later, to establish a department and chair of nursing studies and a Bachelor of Nursing degree – the country's first – was initiated outside the university, by the Department of Health. A joint programme of the university and the Wellington Clinical School of Medicine, the degree was intended, much like Victoria's 1960 plan, to ‘produce graduates, with the habits of mind inculcated by university study, who will provide leadership in nursing practice, management, teaching and research’.23 Michael Clinton, from the South-west Thames Regional Health Authority in London, was appointed professor of nursing in 1985 (to protest from ‘Concerned Nurses’ of Wellington over the choice of an English man rather than a New Zealand woman). In October 1986 the small department (of three) took up residence in the ‘Fieldhouse Centre’ on Kelburn Parade, named for Arthur Fieldhouse, retired professor of education (‘Victoria's own self-styled overstayer’)24 who had succeeded Bailey as nursing studies' chief protagonist at page 195 Victoria, and Alice Fieldhouse, his wife, whose long career in nursing had included part-time lecturing here. About 20 students per year were anticipated: five times that number enrolled in 1987. Outside funding supported additional appointments.25

Despite such a promising start, in what seemed to be becoming the pattern of nursing studies at Victoria, the department and degree were disestablished at the end of 1993 – for now. That failure was due in no small part to a conflict of purpose between the professor and senior lecturer (while a collaborative relationship with the School of Medicine had also been difficult). An internal review found the fledgling department ‘fraught with major difficulties which have never been successfully resolved’: it lacked academic focus, produced little research, was out of touch with the students' and profession's needs, and (here was the rub) attracted disappointing numbers.26


In the saga of Asian studies at Victoria, the politics were internal rather than external. The troubled fortunes of Asian studies were not, or at least not primarily, determined by economics. Nor was the issue whether to teach about Asia at this university; but rather, how. The creation of an Asian Studies Centre in 1965 was an early, and arguably misconceived, experiment in organising teaching across disciplines. Victoria was the only New Zealand university to take an ‘area studies’ approach – when it was in vogue – to the study of Asia, and it was not a success.

This story begins at the end of the 1940s, when the college was hoping for a chair of Asiatic, or ‘Oriental or Far Eastern’ studies: ‘the study of the civilisation of China, India or Japan’, in which, Hunter had argued, New Zealand was ‘probably at least 30 years late … already’.27 By the time a committee of the Professorial Board reported in 1955, the subject had been redefined as Asian studies, its geographical focus narrowed to South and South East Asia (being appropriate to New Zealand's geopolitical interests), and its intellectual framework updated to a ‘social science’ approach, as opposed to the now old-fashioned interest in Eastern literature, art and religion denoted by the term ‘Oriental studies’. Although not exclusively of the humanistic approach, the focus of Asian studies at Victoria would be on ‘recent and contemporary conditions and problems’.28

Interest was quickened by a series of six public lectures given in 1956, the first by visiting British historian Arnold Toynbee.29 Already, however, Asia was making an appearance in the college's curriculum, notably in the new Department of Geography, whose foundation professor, Keith Buchanan, was to become by the 1960s an international figure in the field of China, South East Asia and ‘Third World’ studies. A third-year course in Asian geography was introduced in 1953, and Buchanan was on the Professorial Board's Asian Studies Committee which was formed that year. Buchanan was a man of powerful invective, prolific pen and sometimes controversial left-wing views. In March 1956 (a month before the Asian lecture series began) his application, and that of English lecturer James Bertram, for special leave to accompany a New Zealand party invited to the page 196
Graduands waiting, 1971. Dominion

Graduands waiting, 1971. Dominion

People's Republic of China was declined by the college Council. (Bertram was subsequently given permission to go – on leave without pay and the understanding that he did so as an individual with a personal knowledge of China which would be of assistance to the group.)30 Several other members of the university staff meanwhile also pursued a personal or academic interest in Asia largely separate from the formal development of an Asian studies programme.31 This was part of the problem.

An Asian Studies Department was established with the appointment in 1957 of an associate professor, Leslie Palmier (a research fellow at Yale, with a degree from the London School of Economics and a sociological interest in Indonesia), and the introduction of Asian Studies I in 1959. The department would be concerned ‘with the social, political, and economic problems of modernizing societies, typified in Asia’.32 By 1961 students could take an Asian studies major for their BA. Victoria was well ahead of the field here, locally speaking: it was almost 10 years before Auckland's more traditionally styled Department of Asian Languages and Literatures was established.

As a department, Asian Studies was tiny (a lecturer was appointed in 1960) and its life was short. The Asian Studies Centre which replaced it was closely modelled on the recommendations of a recent British report – the Hayter report – which emphasised the same modern, social science approach to Asian studies that Victoria had chosen, and looked to America for its institutional model of a ‘studies centre’. Victoria's own Holmes–Palmier report (November 1962) acknowledged that there were problems with Asian Studies: few students, and competition and overlap with other departments. But following the current model, rather than a crisis in the status quo, seems to have been the main impetus behind its call for a ‘radical page 197 change’. Its proposal was for a Hayter-style Asian Studies Centre, consisting of a director and a small specialist staff (eventually six), who would do research as members of the centre but their teaching in other departments. The Asian studies courses per se would be discontinued: the appointment of Asian specialists in Political Science, Economics and Sociology would form the ‘hard core’ of Asian studies, along with a general introductory course to be taught in History.33

Languages were seen as an ancillary rather than essential part of the programme at this stage. Simultaneously, the New Zealand Vice-chancellors' Committee was discussing the distribution among the universities of non-European language teaching (of which there was none, yet). When suggestions were invited in 1962, Victoria's faculty of arts decided that Asian languages should be concentrated at this university, and drew up a plan for a department of Oriental languages, to begin teaching in 1966. They had in mind Chinese and Japanese at first, and later Malay; a staff of six; and enrolment of about 60 by 1969.34 The Students' Association, on the other hand, lobbied for the immediate introduction of courses in Chinese and Malay, with preference for Malay.

While Asian studies enrolments may not have been large, students were definitely interested in Asia in the mid–1960s, for political and cultural reasons, and because of the increasing presence of Asian students on their campuses: numbers of Colombo Plan students grew dramatically in the first half of the decade. Both the Asian Studies Centre and a department of Oriental languages were put before the University Grants Committee in 1963 as interdependent developments, although it was admitted that the former could proceed without the latter – as, in fact, it did. The committee was briefly concerned about a possible proliferation of Asian studies developments as four universities made representations in the 1963 quinquennial round; but Canterbury and Massey soon abandoned theirs, and Victoria's and Auckland's were seen to be suitably different: the latter oriented more towards languages and civilisation, Victoria's, according to the original plan, to social science.

A director of Asian studies, with professorial status, was appointed in February 1965: K. Janaki, a graduate of the University of Travancore (South India) and Tufts (Boston), and New Zealand's first woman professor outside Otago's home science school.35 By 1967 the centre had a ‘theoretical establishment’ of three lecturers: S. Puvirajasingham (from Kuala Lumpur) in Economics; R.K. Vasil (Lucknow) in Political Science; and A.M. Khan (from the University of Dacca) to teach, with Tim Beaglehole, the keynote Asian history course. The latter proved a particularly difficult appointment in a context of fierce international competition in this burgeoning field.36 The lecturers were appointed jointly to the Asian Studies Centre and a disciplinary department, responsible to both the director of Asian studies and their departmental head. It is clear, perhaps, that this arrangement was likely to cause difficulties. Professor Wood's insistence that Khan have his study in the History Department rather than in Asian Studies across the road was a small warning.

There had been hopes of getting some American money, from the Carnegie page 198 Foundation or from the Ford Foundation as the Australian National University recently had. But the grant for the centre did cover Janaki's scheme of a research collection, compiled largely of clippings from English-language newspapers to which the centre would subscribe – a plan from which the university librarian dissented. (The scale of this operation was substantially cut back when subscription costs rose sharply in the early 1970s, but the final review of the Asian Studies Centre in 1975 also asked whether ‘well over $20,000’ might have been better spent.)37 There was another flurry of controversy in 1967, aired in the pages of Salient, when the Asian Studies Centre was accused of contributing to the nation's ‘brain drain’ by sending its students to do postgraduate study in Australia or to the East–West Centre in Hawaii, and from there on to careers in America.38 (It had never, in fact, been supposed by its designers that the centre would be able to support significant postgraduate work here, at least for some time.) But conflict of interest and confusion of purpose were the deeper issues that made the Asian Studies Centre if not doomed from the start, at least problematic, while the condition of university finances in the mid–1970s dealt the final blow.

A visiting American professor in 1963 had noted the ‘amiable disagreement’ within the university over which part of Asia its centre should study. The director's terms of appointment narrowed the field down to ‘selected areas of South and East Asia’, and the initial staff were all specialists in this sphere. A 1967 paper on the future policy of the centre advised the appointment of someone in Chinese or Japanese to give regional balance, as well as the introduction of an honours
The new lecture block, 1968. M.D. King photo

The new lecture block, 1968. M.D. King photo

page 199 programme and language teaching. The accepted principle was to provide an ‘informed awareness’ of the major cultures of Asia for undergraduates, but a regional focus at graduate and research level.39 Later that year Janaki recommended renaming the centre the Centre for South East Asian Studies, and warned about the ‘tendency which could produce sporadic, fragmentary and unco-ordinated teaching of isolated Asian subjects which may reduce us to being purveyors of “a little knowledge” on a great many segments of Asia’. She also observed the debilitating effect that the ‘unhealthy expedient’ of joint appointments had had on the centre, as its interests were sacrificed to those of the other departments, and its staff physically scattered.40

In fact Britain's six ‘Hayter centres’ had developed somewhat differently from Victoria's. They each had a strong regional focus, a teaching programme centred on languages, a core of full-time staff, and resources to develop research and postgraduate work. At Victoria, more modestly, an Asian studies honours programme commenced in 1970, based in political science. Indonesian, the first choice for languages, was introduced in 1969. The addition of Chinese in 1972 came, however, not at the instigation of the Asian Studies Centre but from what has been termed the university's ‘China lobby’ (the faculty of languages and literature's committee on Oriental languages, convened by James Bertram).41 The University of Auckland was already teaching courses in classical Chinese, but Victoria's was the only one in modern Chinese, and there were ambitions, for a time, of building on this distinction to establish a centre or a chair of Chinese studies. Some thought it would have been wiser to concentrate on Indonesian.42

The 1975 report which precipitated the end of the Asian Studies Centre counted a number of reasons for the university's ‘disappointment’ in it, although it was careful to lay the blame on the university as well as the centre itself. The shared appointments had been a source of ‘serious embarrassment’ (the introduction of Chinese and Asian studies honours were cited as particularly fraught demarcation disputes). There had always been, its author, dean of arts John Gould, observed, those who questioned the academic integrity of area or regional studies generally, and the diversity of geographic and disciplinary interests among the centre's staff had resulted in a lack of intellectual rapport and stimulus to research. Honours and postgraduate enrolments were disappointing, and undergraduate courses attracted, ‘for the most part, only a modest degree of support from the student body’.43 Even the geographers admitted that, in the second half of the 1960s when student interest was noticeably stimulated by the Vietnam war, ‘in truth there never has been a great interest in Asia amongst the general student body’.44 The report observed that there was plenty of opportunity for Asian studies at undergraduate level in a casual fashion – as had been, in fact, the original plan. The most popular of these courses, Gould also observed, predated or had developed independently of the Asian Studies Centre, in History and Religious Studies. The centre had developed its own undergraduate courses in 1973–74, in an unsuccessful attempt to lower its staff:student ratio. At a time of redeployment when vacant positions were being frozen, a ratio more than twice as comfortable as the university average was the cause of palpable resentment towards Asian Studies. (Asian studies page 200 teachers, one commented, were widely regarded as ‘lazy or under-worked’.)45

The vice-chancellor annotated his copy of Gould's report ‘AMEN R.I.P.’. The decision to dismantle the Asian Studies Centre was made at the end of 1975. The teaching staff were transferred to their other departments, happily in most cases. The teachers of Chinese and Indonesian were appointed to the faculty of languages and literature.46 Janaki was retitled professor of international relations, and continued to teach ‘a small number of courses reasonably well patronised’ until taking early retirement for health reasons in 1990.47

Asian studies at Victoria were still alive, however (if not as well as some would have liked), in the form of a motley array of courses, research and professional links in the faculty of commerce and administration, as well as the social sciences and humanities, not to mention the geophysicists' ongoing collaboration with Japanese and Chinese scientists in earthquake prediction. It was decided in the late 1970s, in the interests of rationalisation, not to extend beyond stage two the teaching of Indonesian or Chinese, in which Auckland already offered majors. A decade later, Asian languages, and Asian studies generally, were entering a new period of development. A board of studies for Asian languages was established, covering Japanese (new in 1989), Indonesian and Chinese. Japanese was the popular choice. (Enrolments in Chinese were still modest, and the once-anticipated chair of Chinese studies did not eventuate.) Growing interest in the 1990s would see an Asian studies major introduced in 1996; but the Asian Studies Centre was not revived.


When it was still a dream and not yet a disappointment, the Asian Studies Centre had been the model as well for a Pacific Studies Centre. This one, however, was stillborn. The proposal, included along with Asian studies and Oriental languages in the 1963 quinquennial submission (40 years after G.H. Scholefield had written to the college Council suggesting a Pacific studies chair), came from a newly established Pacific Studies Committee of the Professorial Board, convened by Colin Aikman, dean of law and an adviser to the government on constitutional matters relating to the Cook Islands and Western Samoa. He was also the president of Volunteer Service Abroad, which had been established the previous year (in the wake of an NZUSA-organised conference on developing countries held at Victoria) and in which a number of Victoria staff would continue to play a prominent role.48 Wellington ‘could become one of the foremost centres in the world for study of the South and Southwest Pacific,’ contended the Professorial Board's Pacific Studies Committee, mounting the usual arguments in the university's favour, with the addition of the city's pre-eminent research facilities. Compared with Asian studies, the field of Pacific studies was ‘so much smaller, and existing holdings in Wellington libraries are so notable, that it should be the aim of this University to make available to postgraduate students unrivalled materials for research,’ a report from the faculty of arts concurred.49 The development would also be contingent on the early introduction of anthropology and Maori studies, and the page 201 extension of sociology (it was admitted that Victoria was not strong enough in the social sciences). Auckland was already at work in Pacific studies, particularly in anthropology and archaeology, but there was room for two.

As with Asian studies, there was no intention to teach separate undergraduate units in Pacific studies – although a masters course was considered. Then the scientists got interested, and suggested doubling the size of the proposed establishment from five or six staff to 10 or 12. The grants committee, however, was worried (again) about duplication of resources in a suddenly expanding field: it had received 20 research grant applications in three years. No specific provision was made for a Pacific Studies Centre in the 1965 quinquennial grants, and Victoria and Auckland were advised to co-operate.50

The Pacific Studies Committee continued to meet, although not frequently. Enthusiasm waned, partly in the face of the ‘opposition associated with regional studies’ from which Asian studies also suffered.51 A new proposal emerged in 1973 for the ‘organic growth’ of a Pacific Studies Institute from the appointment of an existing staff member (Nancy Pollock of Anthropology) as a part-time ‘co-ordinator of Pacific studies’. In 1973 there were 11 courses (most of them in Anthropology), and 14 staff in the social science and arts departments and seven in biological sciences with a Pacific interest. In the context of the country's increasing political and commercial involvement in the region, the establishment of an institute somewhere was ‘virtually inevitable’, the convenor of the committee, Sociology's John McCreary, observed.52 When the idea was raised again two years later, 34 staff expressed interest in becoming members of an institute. The plan was approved in principle by the Professorial Board, but there was not, it seems, enough activity, will or common intellectual ground to turn an interest into an institute. The Pacific Studies Committee discharged itself in 1979.


The changing complexion of the student body was an integral part of the establishment of Victoria's English Language Institute. A unique venture in 1961, this has been Victoria's most successful ongoing involvement with Asia and the Pacific. In contrast to the Asian Studies Centre, the English Language Institute was developed by design outside the mainstream programme of the university, drawing its initial impetus, the bulk of its funding, and its students from elsewhere.

Within the university it started out under the wing of the English Department. It was established to meet two specific needs, which had nothing intrinsically to do with Victoria: to provide English language tuition for the Colombo Plan students who had been coming to New Zealand from Asia since 1951 (more of them to Victoria than the other universities), and to train teachers for an English language project in Indonesia with which New Zealand had been involved since 1957. These were the responsibility of the External Aid Division of the Department of External Affairs, whose deputy secretary, Frank Corner, after a casual meeting with Victoria's professor of English Ian Gordon on The Terrace one day (as Gordon tells the story), enlisted the professor's help to hold a summer course at the university page 202
The first English Language Institute language laboratory

The first English Language Institute language laboratory

in January–February 1960, which was taught largely by new graduates of Gordon's department. The two of them, meanwhile, cooked up the plan for an institute.

In terms of academic planning this was a little unorthodox. The deal was struck before Gordon took it to the vice-chancellor.53 Cabinet approved a proposal from External Affairs in November 1959; the University Grants Committee assented in December; and by February the government had agreed to provide the money. The Department of External Affairs covered the operating costs, including salaries. The Department of Education bought and renovated the house at 14 Wai-te-ata Road that remained the institute's home until 1981 – and which in 1960 was the university's southernmost habitation (excepting the Boyd-Wilson gym). Gordon took a fact-finding trip to Australia before the position of director was advertised, and an Australian, George Pittman, was given the job. This was not, presumably, because his initial training had been as a geologist. He had had a major role in Australia's postwar English language programme for its (mostly European) new immigrants, and was director of education in Nauru before coming to Victoria in December 1960. His work was informed by American structural linguistics and behavioural psychology, and in practice based on situational teaching. The other foundation staff of the institute included a retired teacher of English in Japan, Arundel del Re; Helene Woolston, trained in Hawaii, who was recruited to run page 203 New Zealand's first ‘language laboratory’; and two recent graduates of the English Department as junior lecturers.

Having established the institute Pittman moved on, to the South Pacific Commission, at the end of 1963. His successor, H.V. George, brought by contrast a vocabulary-based approach to the task, in the ‘British Council’ tradition of language teaching (language as words rather than structure), and teaching experience in Liverpool, Malaysia, India and Iraq. He was described by one of his first Victoria students as a ‘future-oriented guru’:54 iconoclastic and considerably ahead of his time.

The first-year intake was a group of teachers from Indonesia and a class of students from Vietnam. The institute's main teaching programme continued to meet those two original needs: a one-year Diploma of Teaching English as a Second Language (the DipTESL), and a proficiency course taught over the summer months to equip overseas students for academic work. The ethnic mix of its students expanded along with the reach of New Zealand's external aid programme. The first Pacific Island students came in 1963; in the 1980s they outnumbered those from ASEAN countries. The Department of Education began sponsoring New Zealand teachers to do the DipTESL course in 1976. But of the total of 3653 students from 83 countries who enrolled at the institute in its first 25 years, the best-represented countries were Thailand (17.5%) and Indonesia (15.5%). The institute's extracurricular involvement has been primarily in these two countries, in Singapore and more recently China.

Its third director, Graeme Kennedy, had been one of the first junior lecturers. When he returned to the institute from the English Department in 1982, he noted the changing political climate of English language teaching – in the post-colonial context the spread of English could no longer be regarded as an unquestionable good – and the growth of similar programmes at two other universities and further afield. His concurrent appointment as professor of applied linguistics signalled an intention to develop the institute's work in that area, and to integrate it more fully with the rest of the university – notably with one of principal strengths of Victoria's English Department, linguistics and lexicography.


Criminology and industrial relations, an institute and a centre established in the 1970s, take us into a different disciplinary area. Like the English Language Institute, however, both were unique to Victoria, and supported by funding from outside the university system.

Teaching in criminology began in law but later migrated to the arts. It was to America that the law professors looked in the 1960s for developments in this new field (Victoria's law faculty generally has looked to America). A visiting professor of sociology from Boston had given a short course for law students in 1960; in 1964 senior lecturer Don Inglis investigated institutes of criminology in America while on leave there, and Ian Campbell later made a similar inquiry in Britain. A committee of the Professorial Board subsequently reported, however, that the page 204 creation of an institute would be premature and that the practicable course was a more gradual, inter-departmental and inter-faculty development. The difficulties included Victoria's smaller resources compared with the American universities: in the way of money, obviously, and also in supporting disciplines other than law, especially sociology. (A chair in sociology, another new-fangled ‘American’ subject, was established in 1966.) Law introduced its criminology course for third-year students in 1969. Later that year, retiring secretary for justice John Robson was appointed to a three-year position as visiting fellow and director of criminological studies, with the brief of co-ordinating the development of criminology and introducing a BA course. This began in 1972, with teaching from arts and law departments (at which point law's quite different criminology course was renamed the criminal justice system).

The establishment of an institute in 1974 was prompted partly by the lure of funding, the government having made available to the universities in 1973 $20,000 for research into crime and delinquency, and partly by the imminent expiry of Robson's contract. He was disappointed by the university's failure to develop criminology as he had hoped, but (despite his age and occasional health concerns) was eager to stay on. The vice-chancellor, acknowledging that criminology had been ‘struggling to get off the ground’, as well as the university's financial situation and existing commitments, thought this one was worth the risk: ‘I am all too aware,’ he wrote candidly to the deputy vice-chancellor, ‘of the pended developments (Microbiology, Survey Research Centre, etc.) and it might be difficult to side-step them but they may simply have to go to the wall in the light of student numbers and what is best, in the round, for the University.’ They could ‘sell’ criminology within the university by emphasising its social value.55 Pre-empting any move by Auckland, which had made the only claim so far on the government
Easterfield lecture bench. M.D. King photo

Easterfield lecture bench. M.D. King photo

page 205 grant, also figured in the decision. If Victoria didn't take the initiative, Auckland might, Robson observed (adding that ‘Auckland could not mount a case as strong as ours but they could argue with eloquence about the need for research at the grassroots’).56

The plan was for a small institute, consisting of a director, a senior lecturer and four research fellows, allied with the arts rather than law. It received the sanction of the grants committee and of government funding as the national institute for criminology research, after some hesitation over terminology (reminiscent of Peter Fraser's about social work in 1949). Criminology, wrote the minister of justice to Taylor, ‘to the layman … has a rather ugly appearance and perhaps an ominous connotation as if it were concerned with encouraging rather than understanding criminal offending’: Cabinet members had asked him ‘to enquire whether the word could not be avoided by entitling the proposed institute as say “The Institute of (for) Criminal Research”’.57 The minister agreed nevertheless to fund two research positions, and a third in 1976. Robson was confirmed as the director and joined by a senior lecturer, Michael Stace. The existing stage-one course was upgraded to second- and third-year courses, and an MA introduced in 1981. Criminology flourished as a teaching subject in response to student demand, although that had not really been the original plan. After Robson's (reluctant) retirement in 1980, the appointment of Warren Young consolidated the institute's national status. He was a lawyer and part-time lecturer in criminology at the University of Auckland. When Victoria introduced a certificate course for criminal justice personnel in 1982 (with funding from the Justice Department) Auckland discontinued theirs.


The Industrial Relations Centre, established with impressive speed in 1970, was an offshoot of the Department of Economics. In one sense it was an organic growth from the work of this department, in which labour economics and industrial relations had been introduced into the stage-three course in 1964; but it had a direct external stimulus, and from the outset a predominantly extracurricular role.

Although the idea of an activity of this kind had been raised a decade earlier by psychology professor Ernest Beaglehole, it was in response to a climate of industrial uncertainty, a recommendation of the National Development Conference in 1969 and encouragement from minister of labour Tom Shand that a formal proposal was before the university Council in March 1970, and the centre in existence within six months. Its staff were formally members of Economics, but what would later be described as an ‘odd’ administrative relationship within the normal workings of the university was based on a close partnership between the centre's founding director, F.J.L. Young (reader in industrial relations in the Economics Department), and the then pro-chancellor, Kevin O'Brien.58 Three academic staff were initially required: the director, a visiting fellow (former secretary of labour Noel Woods) and a senior lecturer (E.J. Keating from the Department of University Extension, and a former Labour MP). A large advisory committee page 206 chaired by the pro-chancellor, with representatives of the university, the government, organised labour and employers, was convened, in the first instance to find the $16,000 a year over 10 years that it was estimated the development would need when fully established. The university committed $20,000 and accommodation, and the government, through the Department of Labour, a ‘handsome’ annual grant of $4000.

The first funding appeal brought pledges of $7000 per annum for the first three years and more than that again in single donations. ‘The response to the Centre's establishment,’ recorded its first annual report, ‘has been quite astonishing even to those with a vested interest in the teaching of industrial relations.’59 University courses in industrial relations and labour economics were extended from 1972, to stage two through to the supervision of postgraduate work. But teaching outside the university, to meet the ‘“felt needs” of organised labour and management’, was the centre's busiest work.60 Its academic staff spent one third of their time on internal teaching. Their lectures and seminars to employers and trade unions, schools and service clubs proved gratifyingly popular. In the second year they gave over 50 lectures and held over 45 seminars (including a particularly popular role-playing exercise) around the country. An appreciative letter from the chairman of Fletcher Holdings was, the vice-chancellor responded, especially cheering at a time when ‘too often the University and, in particular, its Vice-Chancellor are on the receiving end of criticism’.61 The centre hosted international visitors too, mostly from America. A visiting professor from Johns Hopkins University produced its first research monograph, on Attitudes of New Zealand Workers, in 1975.

An ancillary project, and part of Young's original plan, was the establishment of a Labour Archives Trust. By the time a trust had been properly established in 1973, and the library prepared, the university had already received a bound set of the Maoriland Worker on permanent loan from the Federation of Labour, and the papers of labour leader (and father of a Victoria professor) ‘Big Jim’ Roberts, for which the university librarian ‘had to commandeer the men's staff cloak room’. Although quite how much material could be expected and where he was going to put it was unclear, he was ‘prepared to take drastic action to take custody’ of it.62 Subsequent significant donations would include the records of the Federation of Labour and the Wellington Trades Council.

By 1973 the centre was crying poor in the face of demand. As the end of the initial three-year funding period approached, another appeal was drafted (although not in fact sent out until 1975); in the meantime a loan was sought from the university Council, and the government considered a request to raise its direct contribution from $4000 to $10,000. In 1976, with the centre now threatening to retreat from its ‘closer-to-industry objectives and activities’, the Department of Labour increased its grant to a total of $21,000 over the next three years plus the salaries of two additional staff.63 It was the Treasury's intention that the University Grants Committee should thereafter take over this financial commitment, but the grants committee thought otherwise, and the Industrial Relations Centre continued page 207 to be supported by three-yearly guarantees of funding from the Labour vote, as well as independent donations. The third fundraising campaign in 1979–80 attracted contributions from more than 40 sponsors, ranging from $10,000 from the Reserve Bank to $50 from the New Zealand Journalists' Union; the single largest industry donation was $5000 from the Mobil oil company. Still, the university remained the centre's largest and most reliable funder: in 1981 Victoria contributed 62% of its income, the Department of Labour 30% and outside sponsors 7%.

The centre's extrovert character also raised sensitive questions of status. It was misunderstood, Noel Woods argued, because of the extent to which it operated like a business organisation: ‘I have the impression that this type of activity is so novel to the University that the university authorities still have a very inadequate idea of what it amounts to.’64 The denial of the professorial title which Young coveted, when the university had created seven personal chairs in the last three years, and when comparable irregular activities, like Asian Studies, had professors, was felt to be a rebuff. Others, including the chair of the Economics Department (himself a frustrated associate professor), questioned whether the centre was well enough established or academically enough based to merit a chair. Concerns were also raised about the procedure by which this matter was handled. However, in 1976 Young became a full professor, and Victoria could claim the country's first industrial relations chair.

Although the status of industrial relations as a field of academic study still needed to be argued in the academy, at least the centre did not experience the frustration that the university's first fellow in industrial relations had in the 1940s, when the very idea of academic inquiry in the field was foreign to the government, employers and unions (not to mention the fellowship's private sponsor) alike. Nevertheless, as the minister of labour was reminded, ‘academic work in industrial relations is almost as sensitive as industrial relations themselves’.65 The national status of the centre and the importance of its work were recognised by continued government funding and the representation of both employers and organised labour on the advisory committee. But it did not enjoy the degree of support from the trade union movement that it would have liked, nor total trust. A lecturer's involvement in the production of a trade union video in 1984 brought a complaint from the Employers' Federation and an assurance from the university that this did not compromise the centre's ‘industrial neutrality’.66

Its monopoly in its field began to be diluted as early as the mid–1970s, when there were occasional territorial skirmishes as other universities seemed to be venturing onto the turf. Still, Victoria retained its position as the recognised national centre for the academic study of industrial relations. By the end of the decade, though, the expansion outside the university of the short-course, guest-lecture and one-day-seminar field prompted a change in the centre's priorities. It would shift its focus now to the certificate and diploma courses that had been introduced in 1976 and 1977, and to broadening its internal teaching programme, more professional and intensive seminars, and research.

page 208
The campus in 1981

The campus in 1981


Woods had been wrong if he thought the Industrial Relations Centre was misunderstood because it was totally foreign to the way the university taught. In fact its external teaching activities complemented the already rapidly expanding field of university extension, from which one of its staff had come, and in which the commerce faculty was prominent. When adult education became the responsibility of each university in 1963, it was remade as a regular department of this one.67 J.C. Dakin, appointed in 1959, remained its director until 1974 (during which time he also wrote Education in New Zealand, 1973). Already in the postwar years, adult education had moved closer to the universities and further from its page 209 origins in the labour movement and WEA. The continuing trend was fewer and fewer adult education courses and more and more university extension-style and refresher courses, more closely linked with the regular academic programme of the university. There were new refresher courses in 1964 – the new department's first year – for lawyers, post office officials, history teachers, insurance executives, farm managers and bank officers. The first university extension certificates (sub-degree qualifications) were introduced a few years later in social studies, industrial relations and personnel administration. The number of lecture courses arranged by the department halved between 1964 and 1965, while short refresher courses, seminars and ‘schools’ were an expanding field. The change in demand was acknowledged by the change of the department's name in 1967 from Adult Education to University Extension, along with its physical move from Tinakori Road onto the campus (technically, at least: it remained to a real extent an outpost, at the farthest southern reaches of the campus in Fairlie Terrace, until the rest of the university stretched up there).

Business management, trade union education and public administration continued to be growing fields in university extension in the 1970s. Economics professor Frank Holmes had for a decade been a strong advocate of the rapid expansion and closer integration of external teaching into the regular work of the university, across all faculties, that was presented in its 1973 quinquennial submission. He was by then also promoting a scheme for a residential centre for university extension (a new facility alongside and in association with Weir House was an idea). This did not come to fruition, however; and some stagnation is evident in the 1970s after the robust develoments of the 1960s. There were 271 courses and some 6400 enrolments in university extension in 1968; in 1976, 158 courses and enrolments just below 5000 (an enrolment of 5284 in 1985 was the highest for a decade). At the end of the 1970s, a clutch of staff vacancies, including the directorship, presented an opportunity for a ‘fresh start’, and the refashioning of the department into a Centre for Continuing Education – which was really a reaffirmation of the existing trend. With that trend, though, the legitimacy of university extension and its precise place in the academy remained a point of some tension, as the university as a whole broadened its reach and changed its style.

University extension was about taking the university out there, but it also demonstrates a movement from the outside in – not only in broad institutional terms, but as fields of teaching that started on the fringe came inside. Industrial relations was one of these; so, for example, have been creative writing and art history, languages (such as Spanish), and Maori studies.


The failure of the Survey Research Centre that Taylor had been prepared to sacrifice for criminology might better be called a lucky escape. The plan for an academic unit devoted, at least in part, to what would later become the market-research industry, evolved in the 1960s from the social science departments, at a page 210 time when research in the social sciences was largely conceived in terms of social surveys. A committee chaired by economics professor Frank Holmes presented to the Professorial Board in 1965 a proposal for ‘a programme of substantive and methodological research in the social sciences, using the survey method as its principal tool’.68 This would include a laboratory for advanced training in social research technique, and contract research undertaken for the government and commercial organisations. Suggested fields of investigation for the centre's own research programme included population movement, elections, socio-economic studies of communities and suburbs, leisure activities and opinion surveys. A chair was advertised in 1970, and accepted by R.E.A. Mapes of Keele University; but when he changed his mind in September 1972, the position was frozen.

In these inflationary years this rejection was considered a welcome breathing space. In time it also came to be realised that survey research was essentially a skill, or tool, rather than an academic discipline, while the proposed centre was overtaken by other developments. These included the creation of the Institute of Statistics and Operations Research, the arrival of the Burroughs computer and establishment of a Computing Services Centre, the provision of courses in statistics and research methods in a number of departments, not to mention the growth of commercial market-research companies. No feathers were ruffled or eyebrows raised when the idea was formally abandoned and the committee discharged in 1978.