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Victoria University of Wellington 1899 ~ 1999 A History

[nine] — Wisdom and gold

page 211

Wisdom and gold

THEN, IN 1902, the professors were debating the precise formulation of the college motto, and Easterfield quipped that wisdom was surely also to be desired for the sake of more gold, he could hardly have imagined that there would one day be a chair of money and finance, endowed by the financial community, a chair of marketing and a Department of Business Administration. The disinterested pursuit of knowledge versus the mercenary pursuit of a degree is a theme that is not particular to, but which has particular resonance in relation to the faculty of commerce. So, perhaps, does the question of academic respectability: of what is a proper field of university study. As put rather bluntly by a professor of accountancy, Edward Stamp, in 1966, ‘What has accountancy, for example, to offer to place alongside the study of the birth and death of the stars and of the atoms? How can economics, the dismal science, compare itself with the soul-stirring contemplation of the products of Shakespeare, Rembrandt, Milton, and Goethe?’1

Within the spectrum of disciplines that make up commerce, the miserable science economics, first known in the university as political economy, has always been the academically respectable part, allied as much with the arts as with commerce. The rise, in both status and numbers, of the more ‘professional’ subjects, accountancy and business administration, is the large theme of the postwar commerce story. Ironically, the crass commercial town that was considered in the 1870s and 1880s to be incapable of supporting a university college would have at Victoria a century later arguably the strongest commerce faculty and perhaps the strongest department of economics (but certainly the largest) in the country.

The faculty of commerce in 1950 consisted of Economics, headed by the Macarthy professor, and Accountancy, consisting of a senior lecturer and a temporary part-time lecturing staff. Horace Belshaw, who followed Murphy in the Macarthy chair in 1951, used to say – according to his successor, Frank Holmes, who disagreed page 212 with him – that economics was ‘basically a “useless” subject, like history, philosophy or political science, not immediately applicable to earning money or solving problems’.2 Belshaw's career as an applied economist would appear to contradict the latter point at least. A Canterbury graduate, he was Auckland's foundation professor of economics, appointed in 1926 after having done a doctorate in agricultural economy at Cambridge, where he was involved with J.M. Keynes' Political Economy Club. He was a scholar of progressive views (unlike his predecessor Murphy on both counts, some would argue). He wrote extensively in the 1920s and 1930s on New Zealand's farming economy, actively debunked social credit and advised the minister of finance as a member of Coates' famous ‘brains trust’. In America from 1944, he became director of rural welfare with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation. He came to Victoria when that organisation moved its headquarters to Rome in 1951; it was, ironically, in Rome on an FAO assignment that he would die suddenly in 1962, three years after taking early retirement from the university.

At Victoria, in charge of a department of typically 1950s proportions – two staff plus a professor in 1951, three and a half in 1958 – Belshaw pursued his interest in the economies of developing countries, both on UN assignments (when he could) and in writing on economic development theory.3 His department enjoyed far the largest economics enrolments of the four colleges, although the number of masters students, he lamented, was small – in common with all the colleges – and their quality ‘not, in general, high’.4 Concerned at the want of locally applied research, he set about founding an independent research institute, a project endorsed by the 1955 monetary commission and supported financially by the Reserve Bank and enlightened businesses.5 The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research was established in 1959 in a house on Kelburn Parade, and continued to have a close, although informal, relationship with this university.

Economics at Auckland and Canterbury universities by the 1960s was strongly mathematical – econometrics having been the growth area of the discipline. Victoria's was a little different, characterised, if this can be said, by its eclecticism, which included a greater openness to the aspirations of those ‘lowly’ professional subjects accountancy and business studies, and perhaps too by its attention to applied research and the local scene. From the outset, the ‘Macarthy school’ (as it was established, but not generally known) was to teach economics ‘with special reference to New Zealand conditions’, the college calendar announced – an applied focus that was emphasised by Belshaw and which by the late 1960s had become a ‘tradition’ of this chair.6 By the 1980s the department had come to identify a focus on ‘the needs of the country in fields of applied economics’ as its special character, just as the Hughes Parry committee in 1959 had said it should.7

The third incumbent of the Macarthy chair, Frank Holmes (incidentally one of that committee's joint secretaries), had taken his MA at Victoria and joined the staff of the department in 1952. His three-stage professorial career at Victoria (as Macarthy professor from 1959 to 1967; as professor of money and finance from 1970 until 1977; and as a visiting professor of public policy in the 1980s) enhanced page 213
Sir Frank Holmes, professor of money and finance. ATL F23939 1/4

Sir Frank Holmes, professor of money and finance. ATL F23939 1/4

the Victoria department's strong reputation in public economics, the university's public profile, and its links – generally individual rather than institutional – with government, especially in the early 1960s through his chairmanship of the Monetary and Economic Council. He built up the department in the 1960s with an eye for the leading trends in the discipline. When a second chair was advertised in 1963, he created two. To one was appointed Barbu Niculescu, a development economist, Romanian born and British educated, who had spent 11 years in Ghana and three in Melbourne. With his experience in Africa (where he had become a critic of the Nkrumah regime), Niculescu brought to the provincial university an aura of romance, along with an unassuming manner and a healthy lack of interest in academic empire-building. He returned to Ghana several times in the 1970s, and in Wellington made some contribution to government policy in the electricity and transport fields, but he kept a lower profile outside the university than many of his colleagues. An additional chair in economic history had been created at the same time for J.D. Gould, who had come from Auckland to a senior lectureship in 1961. This was New Zealand's first economic history chair, and a subject, albeit small in terms of student interest, in which Victoria would establish a reputation. It had been introduced as a separate unit only in 1962, although a chair of economic history had been in the commerce faculty's sights back in 1948, along with, equally optimistically, chairs in economic theory, public finance and – more hesitantly – accountancy.

By the end of the 1960s the Economics Department had almost achieved the seven-year development plan it had made in 1963: to increase its staff establishment page 214 from 10 to 24 (there were 20); and to develop the fields of public economics, development economics, economic history, theory and quantitative methods. Specialist lectureships had been created in transport economics (one of the ‘industrial development’ appointments, along with those in science), in Asian economics (part of the Asian studies programme), and in econometrics – although the latter remained unfilled until a professor (senior lecturer Fraser Jackson, who had missed out on the chair of information science) was appointed in 1968, to bring the department's complement of chairs to the planned four.


The robust growth of accountancy in the 1950s and 1960s is part of the larger story of accountancy's coming of age, as both a profession and an academic discipline: its progress, as Victoria's founding professor put it, from ‘a miscellaneous collection of book-keepers to an influential and diverse association of experts in financial affairs’.8 At Victoria it seems to have been an especially fertile growth. Accountancy subjects were reintroduced into the college curriculum (after that brief experiment in the 1910s) in 1934, taken by a full-time lecturer (H.R. Fountain) courtesy of the New Zealand Society of Accountants, but lapsing after 1936 to a part-time affair. It was back by popular demand: the students' Commerce Society had been established in 1932 expressly to achieve this end. Their numbers escalated immediately after the war: enrolments in Bookkeeping I jumped from 72 in 1945 to 192 in 1946 (though fell gradually after that to just over 100 by 1950). The BCom was clearly the degree of choice, or rather accountancy was the career of choice, for a large number of returning servicemen. Increasingly, the BCom degree rather then merely the professional requirements of the New Zealand Society of Accountants became the qualification of choice for accountancy students. In 1962, 98% of students enrolled in first-year commerce classes were intending to complete a degree (although rather fewer actually would).

Accountancy attained proper departmental status in the 1950s following a general revision of the BCom prescription and the appointment, in 1951, of a full-time senior lecturer, W.G. Rodger, an enthusiast for his subject more than a scholar, who had been teaching since 1941, and in the 1950s served three turns as dean of commerce. It became further entrenched in the university with the gradual introduction of internal examining (before the 1940s the Society of Accountants set, and nominated the examiners for, all accountancy papers).9 But it remained a predominantly part-time activity. In 1961 just 10% of commerce students were full time. The second full-time appointment to the staff was made in 1958. Whether accountancy was ‘worthy’ of a chair had been under discussion since the late 1940s. The case was tentatively accepted in Victoria's commerce faculty development plan in 1948, and actively pursued by the Society of Accountants (which had also proposed when the BCom was being revised that it be renamed the Bachelor of Accountancy which, in effect, it was). It was promoted in the 1950s by Belshaw and Holmes. The Commerce Faculty Club petitioned the principal in 1957, pointing to the ‘extremely rapid’ growth of accountancy as a page 215 body of knowledge and of the body of accountancy students, while Rodger sent a memo the following year describing an ‘emergency situation’. Enrolments in Accountancy I had increased 58% in the past two years; total accountancy numbers had grown by 150% since the beginning of the decade.10 Having been level-pegging with Auckland in the early 1950s, by the end of them Victoria had the most accountancy enrolments – half as many again as Auckland – and the most commerce students in the country. In 1960, 30 of a total of 68 BComs graduated from Victoria. It also had the worst staff:student ratio in accountancy by a considerable degree.

Professors of accountancy were appointed at each of the colleges in the next few years. Roy Sidebotham came to Victoria from the University of Manchester in 1961. It was a good appointment. He was a stimulating academic accountant, his own field being public sector accounting (he introduced here the first such courses in New Zealand or Australia); a talented academic administrator; and determined to enhance the status of accountancy as a graduate profession, and to create at Victoria ‘an outstanding school of commerce studies’. The opportunity was there. There was only one internationally known accountancy school in Australasia in the 1960s (Melbourne's); Victoria could have one too.11 His mission was cut short by his early death, at 43, in 1970, but not before he had played a leading role in designing a commerce degree and an Accountancy Department at Victoria of some distinction.

In his first few months on the job Sidebotham divined the essential problems: standards, staffing and the staff:student ratio. The very high failure rate in accountancy was patently related to the preponderance of part-time students.12 Sidebotham's idea, for two years of full-time study followed by three years part time – and his insistence in the first instance that accountants needed degrees – was not well received by a traditionally minded profession.13 Nevertheless, with changes to degree regulations, accountancy in time caught up with the university
Roy Sidebotham, professor of accountancy. M.D. King photo

Roy Sidebotham, professor of accountancy. M.D. King photo

page 216 trend towards full-time study. By 1968, 75% of first- and second-year accountancy students were full time.

The dual objective of raising standards and reducing student numbers was also approached by more direct measures. One was ‘February specials’, or second-chance exams, a common British university practice employed at Victoria only in commerce and law, and controversially: the ‘thin edge of the wedge’, the Evening Post suspected, while there were those in the professoriate who feared a lowering of standards.14 (The exams were soon abandoned as unpopular with full-time students and ineffectual.) Another was the more rigorous use of powers to exclude unsatisfactory students, combined with a more demanding first-year exam, ‘the idea [being] to kill students mercifully whilst young, rather than to allow them to linger on painfully in the middle courses of the degree’.15 ‘“Dead wood” to be eliminated: commerce students must measure up’, the press reported after Sidebotham told Wellington members of the Society of Accountants that there were too many part-timers and ‘loafers’: ‘the “billiard-players” would have to go’.16 By 1966 he could report ‘a very encouraging measure of success’: ‘The accounting courses, which were regarded as “soft options” in 1961 are now of at least equal standing with any in the university. We are having the (for us) gratifying experience of poorer students transferring from accountancy to some other less demanding subjects.’17 Unit enrolments had actually fallen.

Staffing was more difficult. There were three full-time positions in the department, including Sidebotham's own, in 1961; in 1968 there were 19, but eight of these were vacant, including two chairs. A second chair was created in 1964, from which the first incumbent, from Melbourne, left within a year. The second appointment was more impressive, but also short lived: Edward Stamp, a Canadian-born, Cambridge-educated, pugnaciously tempered public accountant
Eddie Stamp, professor of accountancy. M.D. King photo

Eddie Stamp, professor of accountancy. M.D. King photo

page 217 (a partner in the Canadian accountancy giant Clarkson Gordon) who had come to Victoria as a senior lecturer in 1963. It was his first teaching job, and he went from here in 1967 to a prestigious academic career in the United Kingdom, as the first full-time professor of accountancy at Edinburgh, then founding director of the International Centre for Research in Accounting at Lancaster, and by the 1970s ‘the best known accounting academic in the UK’. But during his ‘exhilarating’ New Zealand sojourn Stamp as much as Sidebotham was responsible for changing the culture of the department.18 His North American background was significant, and there was some tension with his very English colleague. His pungent critical commentaries on the accounting practices of major New Zealand companies for the morning daily Dominion in 1965–66 (‘Looking at balance sheets’) also stirred up the local business commmunity.

After Stamp's departure his chair remained vacant for a year. A third, in management accounting, was established in 1967, but not filled until 1969. While recruitment was a problem throughout the university in the bullish 1960s, at least two factors exacerbated accountancy's plight. It was a comparatively new academic discipline and there was an acute worldwide shortage of academic accountants. And as an academic field, the cutting edge in accountancy was North America. In the 1960s it was barely established in British universities (although more so in Scotland than in England) from which New Zealand traditionally recruited its academics. (The exceptions were Manchester, from which Sidebotham came, and Lancaster, to which Stamp went.) The response to this situation was a ‘grow our own’ policy: appoint graduates to junior lectureships, and encourage the brightest to do postgraduate study in America, from where they would (so the plan went) return. ‘Encouraging’ might even mean holding open a chair; and hopes were sometimes disappointed. When the academic employment market eased generally in the 1970s, in accountancy it got worse, as the growing attractiveness of accountancy and business management as career choices swelled student numbers and graduate salaries. The Accountancy Department seemed to suffer a perennial staffing crisis.


Devolution, the slow but sure dissolution of the University of New Zealand which brought a greater degree of curriculum autonomy, also loosened the tie between the accountancy profession and its qualifying requirements, and the university and its degree. In the new era Victoria took the opportunity to design a significantly different commerce degree, and a new faculty. The Bachelor of Commerce and Administration replaced the old BCom in 1966. The aim was to broaden the degree. The BCA regulations prescribed five compulsory stage-one subjects – economics, politics and law, accountancy, quantitative methods, and administration – to give students ‘an interdisciplinary grounding’ before they specialised. In accountancy, providing students with a broad, liberal educational background remained a guiding principle of Victoria's degree through the 1970s and 1980s. The change was not welcomed by the Society of Accountants: Victoria's was now page 218 the only commerce degree that did not give complete exemption from the Society's professional examinations, and the BCA was regarded as harder than the other universities' old-style BComs.19 Sidebotham's determination to keep control of accountancy education with the university and out of the hands of the profession, as he told the vice-chancellor, ‘has not made me personally very popular with some people in the City’.20 Developing postgraduate work was also part of the plan, and an accountancy honours programme was introduced. The proceedings of the Advanced Accountancy Seminar, held annually by the department since 1952 for staff, graduates and members of the business community, were regularly published from 1964. Bad blood between the profession and university should not be overemphasised: the Advanced Accountancy Seminar was highly regarded.21

The new degree, and the concurrent broadening of the commerce faculty into a faculty of commerce and administration, while expressing the interdisciplinary trend of the 1960s (and facilitated by the various departments' move into the Rankine Brown building), also made explicit Victoria commerce's strong public-sector and public-policy inclination. The BCA was designed ‘to give students a better unified knowledge of the nature and activities of public and private organisations’.22 The faculty reorganisation made the School of Political Science and Public Administration formally a member of this faculty as well as arts. The commerce faculty already contributed to its diploma and a recently introduced undergraduate course. Holmes in Economics had a strong interest in public policy and administration, while Accountancy claimed a special interest in public sector accounting. Broadly, the change suggested a social-science orientation to commerce at Victoria, although the larger idea of a faculty of social science was raised here only to be discounted. The new faculty proposal came, in 1963, from the four departmental heads of Economics, Accountancy, Political Science and Public Administration, and the brand new Department of Business Administration.

In business administration, in which Victoria established the country's first university chair in 1962, it had made, however, a false start. Like accountancy, business administration was well entrenched in American universities by the 1950s but had not yet arrived in Britain. Victoria's new professor, E.A.B. (Sam) Phillips, was a Welshman, a BA and a passionate joke-teller who had recently been working in personnel training in Rhodesia. He was well acquainted with the current trends in university business education in America, however, and these informed his approach to the task at Victoria: they should offer not a comprehensive professional course, nor specialised training for particular business careers, but a broad, liberal degree to prepare graduates for any business field.

Already, a change to the BCom regulations in 1960 allowing students to take more arts and social science courses had been prompted by their growing interest in executive rather than accountancy careers. Bill Rodger analysed the career objectives of commerce students enrolling in the Accountancy Department in 1961, and observed that ‘the idea which was generally accepted some years ago – that practically every Commerce student aimed at public accounting – is no longer valid for it is clear that the majority of students are more interested in management’. page 219 Of the 400 students, 111 were intending to go into management, 94 into public accounting and 87 into commercial accounting (the rest included seven aspiring economists, four planning to become sharebrokers, three clergymen and a would-be author).23 At a conference in Dunedin two years earlier, when the idea of a national school of business administration had been raised, Rodger had ‘agreed with the eminently sensible view’ that the logical place for one was Wellington.24 The decision to establish a department was made, however, against the feeling of the faculty, which harboured doubts about the validity of business administration as an academic discipline. The preferred plan was the ‘upward growth’ of business studies within the established disciplines.25 What eventuated, as Sidebotham observed with characteristic frankness in the wake of Phillips' resignation in 1969, was ‘a department not originally wanted by Faculty … doing work it was never intended to do anyway’.26 The plan had been to focus the infant department's energies on a two-year postgraduate Diploma of Business Administration, which was modelled on the Diploma of Public Administration. This was a disaster. Only seven students graduated in seven years. In hindsight it was generally agreed that it had been an idea before its time: the New Zealand business community was not yet ready for the concept of managers with postgraduate university training. Instead the department, such that it was, had turned its attention to undergraduate courses after all: a unit in administration was introduced in the new BCA, followed by business administration at stages two and three. These failed to gain the confidence of the faculty (and possibly students).27 Finally, there was the inevitable difficulty in getting staff. The department was founded with a nominal establishment of a professor and three lecturers. The third lectureship was only filled in 1968.


The introduction of business studies in the 1960s had failed through error of judgement. In the 1970s they were back with a vengeance, while the relationship between the university and the business community in some more tangible forms was also growing. This was not to everyone's taste. In Salient in 1970 a student representative on the Professorial Board, Rob Campbell (a future trade union activist, and a future director of the Bank of New Zealand), attacked the university's growing links with the agencies of capitalism, accusing Victoria of ‘selling out to the almighty dollar’ by accepting business support for developments like marketing, finance, business studies and industrial relations, its academic staff of ‘sitting silently by as academic standards, integrity and university independence go flying out the window’.28 It was a view held not only by left-wing student politicians. The Salient broadside coincided with the establishment of a business studies advisory committee of the Council, originally a Sidebotham initiative to help kick-start business administration. One faculty member, senior lecturer in economics John Zanetti, dissented ‘because he did not believe that it was the Faculty's role to orientate its courses to the needs of businessmen’ – but this was an attitude that was rapidly becoming old-fashioned.29 The business studies advisory committee, consisting of Council, academic and business members, and a student representative, page 220
Economics students in class, 8 May 1970, while several hundred others boycott lectures in protest at the shooting at Kent State. Evening Post

Economics students in class, 8 May 1970, while several hundred others boycott lectures in protest at the shooting at Kent State. Evening Post

was meant to ‘counsel, advise and warn the Faculty and the Council in the development of business studies’, and to actively seek business support for postgraduate and post-experience programmes, research and the endowment of academic positions.30

Already, through the quiet persuasiveness of Barbu Niculescu, $10,000 had been solicited from the Reserve Bank and several other financial institutions to endow a chair of money and finance in the Department of Economics. Niculescu had this campaign well advanced before the Council was asked to approve the chair in principle in December 1968. This was a new venture for the university (the only real implication of the Macarthy chair being an endowed chair was its title), and there was some sensitivity over the issue of academic freedom and control. The vice-chancellor told a meeting of potential sponsors: ‘Not for a minute am I suggesting that should you decide to endow this chair you would wish to have a finger in the pie’ by either participating in the appointment of the professor or influencing his work.31 The professor would devote himself primarily to postgraduate work, external teaching and research (although some undergraduate teaching would be expected), in a field that was not yet developed in New Zealand universities and for which Victoria was, of course, ideally situated. Moreover, Niculescu observed (one detects an element of flattery), ‘there is also a flexibility and a willingness to experiment and innovate in our monetary and financial institutions in this country which is almost unique in the world’.32 Enough money was in hand for the chair to be advertised in July 1969.

As an additional carrot, Niculescu had let it be informally known that Frank page 221 Holmes was a likely contender. After two years at the coal face as economic manager for Tasman Pulp and Paper, a job that had developed not quite as he expected, Holmes had decided that his ‘heart is in the university’ after all. He had applied for his old job, the Macarthy chair, lest the money and finance scheme not come off.33 In the new chair, he was able to devote less time to administration and more to writing and research, and continued to be actively engaged in the public policy field, especially in education (more than he intended, in fact); he left the university for the second time in 1977 to head the New Zealand Planning Council.34 His main internal teaching responsibilities were an honours course and contributing to a new undergraduate course. He also helped teach the Diploma of Public Administration, and played a significant role in the replacement of the 30-year-old diploma in 1975 by the Master of Public Policy, a two-year postgraduate and more broadly interdisciplinary programme unique to Victoria.

The chief architect of the MPP on the public administration side was political science reader Alan Robinson. After his premature death in 1976 recently retired Treasury secretary Henry Lang, now a half-time visiting professor, co-ordinated the programme. In the 1940s Lang, an Austrian refugee, had done his BA and BCom at Victoria while working in a prune-canning factory, and had started at Treasury as one of its first graduate recruits; he left at the end of 1976 after (but not, he insisted, because of) a highly publicised difference of opinion with the prime minister, Robert Muldoon. The Dominion, reporting his move ‘From Treasury to Victoria’, discerned a pattern, noting the previous appointments of retired secretary for justice John Robson in criminology and former labour secretary Noel Woods in industrial relations.35

There had been, however, a ‘disappointingly small’ number of postgraduate students, Holmes found.36 This was true of economics as a whole, and more so of accountancy and business administration. An honours or masters degree added little market value to a BCA: staying on for postgraduate work carried a high opportunity cost when jobs and salaries for mere graduates were abundant. At the beginning of the 1970s, the rapidly increasing enrolments in economics were causing some stress. ‘I am frightened out of my wits about the possible enrolments in Economics I,’ the vice-chancellor informed Niculescu, who was on leave in Ghana for an indefinite period and requested to return, ‘– such is the price of success (yours I mean)’.37 It was not just the success of economics' ‘excellent team’, in Taylor's words, but the growing popularity of the new commerce degree that was putting on the pressure. The anticipated chaos in Econ I that year did not eventuate, but the department endured the third-lowest staff:student ratio in the university (surpassed in this dubious distinction by Accountancy and Law), and continued to teach very large stage-one classes of, increasingly, accountancy majors. Such was the price of success.

Niculescu had wanted the chair of money and finance established as a financially independent unit within the department, but the deans committee would not agree. His decentralist attitude was somewhat unusual for a university head of department, certainly in the 1970s, and it contributed to Economics' reputation as page 222 one of Victoria's most happily democratic departments. In 1970 economic history had been given its head in this way: handed responsibility for its own recurring grant and staff, who (except for the professor) were formally excused from teaching in regular economics classes. Gould had seen an opportunity to create at Victoria a ‘National School of Economic History’; Niculescu's motivation was also to unburden himself of responsibility for a part of his department whose interests were, more and more, distinct from the rest (nearer in spirit to art than commerce). By the mid–1970s economic history had two chairs in a staff of three, the second a personal chair created in 1974 for one of the department's own graduates, Gary Hawke, who had been appointed as a lecturer only in 1968. Economic history at Victoria came to be held in high regard; its honours programme, introduced in 1972, unique. In terms of student numbers, however, it did not fulfil the early promise: enrolments peaked in 1970 before settling to ‘a modest but reliable level’.38 The BCA students who had made up a third of economic history enrolments in the 1960s went off to business administration and accountancy in the 1970s, as these increased in range and quality. Economic history was not a requirement for an economics major, and the department resisted the temptation to market its courses as trendy options (‘“The Economy of Women in the Classical Environment” was always my favourite suggestion,’ joked Professor Hawke).39 When the department was reviewed in 1980 it successfully defended its undeniably privileged situation (three staff teaching four undergraduate courses and a small honours class). It readily acquiesced, though, to the downgrading of one of the chairs on Gould's retirement in 1983, as the university embarked on its chair-culling exercise.

The Macarthy chair had been vacated by Les Castle at the end of 1969 after a short incumbency: a specialist in the economics of social welfare, and like Holmes widely involved in public policy work, he returned to the department as a reader in the 1970s. The flagship chair was now occupied by Bryan Philpott, a graduate of this university and Leeds, who had been inspired by Belshaw in his interest in agricultural economics and held a chair at Lincoln; getting him here was a coup. The Belshaw theme of applying the academic mind to a pragmatic investigation of the problems of the New Zealand economy was also continued in the long-term Economic Planning Project which Philpott directed and the Treasury funded. Launched in 1971 with $10,000 a year, initially for three (it was subsequently augmented with grants from other organisations, including Holmes' Planning Council and James Duncan's Commission for the Future), it employed graduate students as well as contract researchers in the game of hypothesising the future of the national economy with the aid of a series of computer econometric models (known as Victoria, Joanna and Julianne), and made a handsome contribution to the Economics Department's quite large published output.

Elsewhere in the department research interests included taxation and wage inflation, labour mobility, housing conditions, consumer demand, and the nursing labour market. The latter was the work of Prue Hyman, one of the handful of women in Economics and a notable teacher in a department which has had perhaps, in later decades, a stronger commitment to its research than to undergraduate page 223 students (and has not been notably sympathetic to the cause of encouraging women in the university). Holmes' successor in the money and finance chair (D.K. Sheppard) helped to keep Victoria's economists in the public eye, having a penchant for engaging in debate with prime ministers and advising journalists. In the early 1980s the department successfully argued, more than once, to retain its full hand of professors after Barbu Niculescu's retirement in 1983 from the chair that was now specifically designated its economic theory chair.

This department has also made a notable contribution to the campus's canine population: Hawke's Scottish terriers (Barney Murphy also had a Scottie, although it is not known to have spent its days at the college), and Prue Hyman's rather larger animal, which caused consternation and a complaint to the head of department when it caught a janitor unawares late one night (‘I would just give [room] 516 a wide berth while the dog is there,’ he was advised).40


Business administration got its second wind in the 1970s from the growth of management and marketing, and a new professor, erroneously reported to be the university's youngest yet, at 29: Graeme Fogelberg. He moved across from Accountancy in 1970 with an MCom from Victoria, and an MBA and PhD in business administration from the University of Western Ontario. His interests lay in the direction of corporate policy formulation and financial management, and he thought New Zealand needed just one good postgraduate school of business
The dean's nominee. Jim Urry

The dean's nominee. Jim Urry

page 224 administration. By mid–1971 he was warning of a staffing crisis brought on by a ‘phenomenal’ growth in student numbers, enrolments in the stage-three course having doubled that year. Victoria was participating in a larger phenomenon: the burgeoning demand for university management, business administration and commerce courses generally. Accordingly, the department of five staff in 1969 had a full-time establishment of 12 by 1974. It also had charge of a $25,000, five-year research grant from oil company BP, which caused a territorial dispute between Business Administration and the Industrial Relations Centre: BP advised that it was not concerned which department of the university took charge of the grant, and Fogelberg made sure that it was his.

In arguing this case, Fogelberg reported that the department was devoting about a third of its attention to organisation behaviour (where lay the potential for rivalry with Industrial Relations), a third to marketing, and a sixth to business policy and planning. A chair of marketing was created in 1973, partly funded by the business community. A newish senior lecturer, David Cullwick, was promoted. He had earlier worked in export sales for the Hawke's Bay Farmers' Meat Company, and now followed an academic interest in international lamb marketing. He also directed a $23,000 research contract, awarded by the DSIR in 1976, to investigate the application of technology to manufacturing and processing systems. However, it was international marketing, service marketing and consumer behaviour that developed as this department's recognised research fields. Fogelberg co-authored the first published case studies in New Zealand marketing (three volumes); and the department launched the New Zealand Journal of Business in 1979.

The unfortunate Diploma of Business Administration, made into a full-time, one-year course in 1970, was restructured again in 1976 into a part-time, modular, post-experience undergraduate programme, comprising two-year certificates in marketing, operations management and personnel administration, and after a third year the diploma. This complemented the department's contribution to a burgeoning field of university extension. It was not until 1984 that Victoria moved ‘into the international mainstream in graduate level management education’ and introduced the prestige, American-style MBA: not your regular masters degree but a specialist programme designed for top graduates from any discipline. Its prospectus was ‘the most up-market publication yet produced at Victoria’, News VUW announced.41 This was the future both Phillips and Sidebotham had seen for business administration back in 1969. Otago, however, had been quicker off the mark, introducing its MBA in the 1970s; after a brief policy of ‘rationalisation’ on the part of the University Grants Committee, Auckland and Canterbury along with Victoria caught up in the mid–1980s. Teaching in the interdisciplinary programme involved some 20 university staff, and a few chief executives imported each year under the Cable Price Downer Management Fellows Award inaugurated in 1985.

Numerically, however, it was accountancy that was the growth area in commerce in the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1973 and 1979 the percentage of BCA graduates with majors in accountancy rose from 45% to 73%. In 1979, 159 accountancy page 225
Moving house – making way for the new commerce building

Moving house – making way for the new commerce building

majors graduated, compared with 32 in business administration, 21 in economics and five in political science. Accountancy was by now the university's largest department, with 12% of the student roll: there were more accountancy students than law. There were qualitative as well as quantitative changes too. There was a noticeable improvement in the academic calibre of commerce students (appreciably more top Bursary and Scholarship holders, the dean was pleased to observe), while the numbers of women choosing both commerce and law, historically almost entirely male departments, were rising fast. Women were 5.6% of commerce students in 1972, and 12% in 1978. (Science suffered to an extent from the rise of commerce as a prestige degree.) The growing attractiveness of accountancy as a career path, and an acute shortage of qualified accountants, were also recognised by the department with the successful (but initially controversial) innovation of a Diploma in Accountancy in 1976, a one-year graduate course for non-accountancy majors, which attracted 22 applications in its first year (and accepted 15). The improvement in the quality of its students – since the billiard-playing days – is the most dramatic development of the commerce faculty story.

The Accountancy Department had gone some way towards realising its founding professor's ambition to create the second top-ranking accountancy school in Australasia. Canterbury could claim to be academically the strongest in New Zealand in the 1960s, under the charge of a top Victoria graduate and senior lecturer, Athol Carrington, but in the 1970s Victoria caught up. It had more staff with doctorates than any other accountancy department in New Zealand or Australia, the chairman counted in 1975. An international league table, based on contributions to the scholarly journals over four years (1978–81), ranked Victoria page 226 20th out of 25, the only New Zealand department to rate, and one of only three in Australasia.42 But staffing continued to be a struggle, and Accountancy sometimes started the academic year with up to half its positions vacant. This was not just Victoria's problem: 30% of accountancy positions in the four main New Zealand universities were vacant in 1973. There were plenty of jobs for accountancy academics in America, and the widening Tasman gap in academic salaries made it increasingly difficult to recruit in Australia. When fresh BCA graduates were appointed to temporary lectureships in accountancy, the business administration professors complained that this was lowering standards, morale and their own ability to recruit high-quality staff. Competitive recruitment strategies – appointing bright young candidates to senior lectureships ‘before their time’, for example – brought resentful looks from other departments, although it was done with the full support of the vice-chancellor and chancellor.

There was a high turnover of accountancy professors for a time, partly as a generation of senior staff, appointed from the city during the Sidebotham era, reached retirement (and one was lost to the chair of management at Waikato). But things settled down in the early 1970s. Whatarangi Winiata, of Ngati Raukawa of Otaki and ‘well-known University front row forward and Wellington representative of the 1950s’, was appointed in 1974 to the chair that had been Stamp's.43 Winiata had gone to America to do a PhD in finance at Michigan and become an associate professor at British Columbia. His interest now was in the financial management of Maori incorporations. The North American and especially Canadian connection
Chancellor Duncan Stout with the senior football team and the Jubilee Cup, 1958 (Don Trow, future professor of accountancy, back right)

Chancellor Duncan Stout with the senior football team and the Jubilee Cup, 1958 (Don Trow, future professor of accountancy, back right)

page 227 has been noticeable in accountancy at Victoria. The Maori presence was rarer (as the Evening Post was at some pains to point out: Winiata was ‘probably the first Maori to be appointed to such a high university position in a New Zealand Faculty of Commerce or Business Administration’).44 Meanwhile, another prominent university footballer (they had been on the same team) had been appointed to Sidebotham's chair in 1971: Don Trow. He had joined the department in 1965 after some time working in New York, where accountancy, he had discovered, was much more than just bookkeeping. Trow became chairman of the department in 1973, when a professorial resignation meant that Accountancy became the first to implement the new administrative system (unhappily, as it turned out). A fourth accountancy professor, requested since 1974, was finally appointed, after several failed attempts, in 1979. A fifth chair, in public sector accounting, was established in 1983. Some looked askance.

On top of the generic difficulties of staffing accountancy departments, Victoria's suffered some more particular staff problems in the mid–1970s. There was tension in the professoriate. When the chairman was elected, the other professor, who had been on the staff since 1962, resentfully refused to do any administration. A senior lecturer whose teaching was lambasted in Salient in 1974, and whose personality created conflict with both his students and colleagues, was encouraged to leave;45 while next door in Business Administration a part-time lecturer (incidentally the professor's brother-in-law) had to be informed by the Council, after students complained, that using a company in which he was a major shareholder for a case study in marketing was ‘unwise’. Then there was the accountancy lecturer who discoursed to his class on numerology and distributed religious tracts. Meanwhile, the very good staff, of whom Trow counted half a dozen in 1976, showed a tendency to leave. Among them, for example, was David Shand, appointed senior lecturer in public sector finance in 1969 (he was only 23), and well known in the city in the 1970s as a Labour councillor and unsuccessful candidate for Wellington Central in the general elections of 1972 (by a famously narrow margin) and 1975. Trow was expecting him to abandon the university for his political career; he went to Australia following a falling-out with the Labour Party in 1977.


The distinctive character of Victoria's BCA was enhanced by a general overhaul of the faculty's degrees in the second half of the 1970s. Along with the introduction of the new postgraduate and post-experience programmes – the diplomas of accountancy, business administration and industrial relations, and the MPP – the BCA majors were also restructured, in the interests of greater diversity and flexibility. In accountancy, students now had to take a third-year course from another faculty (mathematics, chemistry and languages proved the most popular choices), and a stage-three accountancy course which was not part of the professional requirement. The aim was only partly to broaden the disciplinary basis of the degree. It was also to discourage the less determined student, and it had some effect. But as class sizes in all core commerce subjects, not just accountancy, continued to climb in the late page 228 1970s – with third-year accountancy classes reaching 200 when most had about 10, a staff:student ratio in that department half the university average, and commerce as a whole teaching half of all courses in the university with an enrolment above 150 – the faculty discussed more direct tactics. A proposal to move the first-year accountancy course to stage two was narrowly lost, and the possibility of a geographical enrolment restriction was also dismissed. From 1979 numerical limits were imposed in all core courses in the faculty. Other universities were also feeling the pressure: Auckland was the first to restrict entry to accountancy (to students with a B Bursary or better). Victoria, the dean urged, could not afford to take the others' leftovers. A wider-ranging scheme of restrictions enforced from 1981 brought student protest and city attention. ‘Commerce gets it in the jugular’, Salient cried, and the accountancy profession complained that the universities were not meeting its needs.46 Phone calls flooded in from angry parents; the faculty secretary was offered bribes.

The demand for accountants and for commerce degrees continued to rise in the 1980s, with economic restructuring (under a monetarist-inclined Labour government) and a sharemarket boom: the growth of corporate activity and the finance sector increased the need for good-quality auditing, and for tax experts in particular. Universities were now turning away a third of those applying for accountancy courses.47 Already under pressure, the Accountancy Department was not pleased when the University Grants Committee's Overseas Students Admission Committee increased the faculty's annual quota of overseas students – already far the highest in the university – by 60 (from 25 to 85) from 1985: at least half of these students would major in accountancy. Arguments over who was going to fare the worst and the allocation of the OSAC funding exacerbated existing tensions within the faculty.

It was perhaps the overseas student issue that was the last straw. In 1984 the Accountancy Department revolted. They would leave the faculty and become an independent School of Accountancy and Finance with faculty status, and offer a separate, four-year accountancy degree. Although tension over resources and status was the main cause of this bid to defect, an additional factor in the equation was head of department Whatarangi Winiata's long-term endeavour to, as he himself put it, ‘Maorify’ Victoria.48 The school was to be called the Aotearoa School of Money and Finance. (Winiata's larger programme for the department was based on the twin themes of ‘indigenisation and internationalisation’, the latter meaning keeping up with the globalisation of the economy.)49 The faculty resoundingly rejected the plan. In response Accountancy passed a motion of no confidence in the faculty.50 They would withdraw from faculty meetings and committees, and deal directly with the vice-chancellor and the Professorial Board instead. They threatened to ‘go public’. The (new) vice-chancellor, needless to say, was not impressed.

The review which was instigated (in October 1985) to sort out commerce's warring parties went further than confirming that accountancy would remain part of the faculty and the BCA programme.51 It recommended a wholesale page 229 restructuring of the faculty, with the dismantling of the departments and the formation of 13 ‘interest groups’. Computer science should be removed to the science faculty, where the interests of most of its staff lay; political science should keep to the arts. The BCA courses were to be rationalised, to minimise the core requirements and maximise the disciplinary strength of the majors. Business administration was considered not a discipline at all, and so should concentrate on postgraduate work, principally within the MBA programme. The review recognised that accommodation problems had contributed significantly to the commerce faculty's difficulties in getting along: it had been scattered across the campus in at least four locations since its expulsion from Rankine Brown in the 1970s (to make way for Law). The new Murphy building, it was hoped, would assist the process of reconciliation. So would the appointment from outside the university of a full-time dean.

The recommendations were accepted, and the faculty had been reformed into a configuration of interest groups by 1986. Athol Mann, the new dean, a New Zealander recruited from Peat Marwick in New York, succeeded admirably in his unenviable task. Accountancy lamented, perhaps, its lost opportunity; and, most of all, a consequent narrowing of Victoria's traditionally ‘different’ accountancy degree which brought it more into line with the rest. There were some in Economics who regretted the loss of identity of the largest and, they believed, the best university economics department in New Zealand. A more substantial issue was a feared dilution of economics' social science style in a commerce-driven environment. But restructuring, schools and groups were the way of the future.


Law, on the other hand, has always called itself a school. Law at Victoria shares a number of themes with commerce, including its closeness to the profession (and the attendant stresses), an American connection and recognition as one of Victoria's special fields. From as early as 1886 it was assumed that this college would excel in law. The law faculty was officially recognised as a ‘special school’ by the Academic Board of the University of New Zealand in 1949, although not given a separate grant like the other colleges' older and larger professional schools, or even this college's much smaller ones of Public Administration and Social Science. Although not, therefore, a proper special school, law at Victoria has been in some way a separate school: it has had a ‘sense of community’,52 or culture, that set law apart from the rest of the university long before it moved physically apart (off the Kelburn campus and downtown) in 1996.

It had its own private domain in the university library. The large compulsory component and structured format of the law course has meant that law students are likely to identify more strongly with their ‘class’ than those in arts, science or commerce. Law students have had their own brand of organised fun. The annual law ball and law dinner date back to the 1930s. Only the venues changed. The law ball, ‘patronised … by many eminent members of the profession’ (and their wives), was traditionally held at the Majestic Cabaret.53 The law dinner (shortly after page 230
Robert Orr McGechan

Robert Orr McGechan

finals) was at the Empire Hotel in the 1930s; the Grand after the war; at the Pines in the 1950s; in the new student union building in the 1960s (the graduands had theirs at the James Cook or the Royal Oak); at Wilton House in the 1970s. (The character of the event may or may not have changed: ‘a semi-sophisticated nosh ‘n’ grog at least in the early stages of the proceedings … notorious for deteriorating to a series of ribald toasts interspersed with exciting displays of formation flying by chicken (wings)’. That was the 1970s.)54 ‘Stein evenings’ were an established feature of the Law Faculty Club social calendar from the 1950s, and ‘the odd cocktail party’ and luncheons with invited speakers for the more seriously minded. There were inter-university moots, and an annual rugby match against the Auckland students for the Cleary Cup; a magazine of their own, Caveat, started in 1973. The Law Faculty Club was more active than many, and was involved more formally in faculty business before such things became fashionable, then mandatory at the end of the 1960s. It may be dangerous to generalise and just as easy to exaggerate on the theme of student culture, but the view of the law faculty as different is one it has held of itself.

Victoria's law staff was very impressive at the end of the 1940s: with McGechan in the chair of jurisprudence; E.K. (Kingston) Braybrooke (who went to Western Australian and later La Trobe); Williams the professor of English and New Zealand law, though shortly to go off to the principal's office; and Ian Campbell who followed him in the chair (and later into administration). G.P. Barton came a few years later, from the United Nations with a Cambridge PhD. They taught about a tenth of Victoria's students, and by far the largest number of the four colleges. Auckland, the nearest rival, appointed a second professor only in 1954. But it was one thing being the biggest. They had plans. ‘At the present time the Law School at Victoria just fails of being notable,’ a faculty memo observed in 1948.55 One key to making it so was to overcome the part-time habit, whereby ‘the learning of page 231 law is relegated to such spare time as a man has before an early breakfast and after a late dinner’.56 Three-quarters of the law students were part-timers in the early 1950s: the faculty handbook advised them to take their first two years full time.

Another was to reform the method of teaching itself. Of the four staff, three – McGechan, Campbell and Braybrooke – visited the United States between 1949 and 1951, and returned inspired by the American case method of teaching which impelled the student to acquire not only the knowledge but also the technique of a lawyer. In fact they had already begun experimenting along these lines in the mid–1940s. McGechan described the growth of case-method teaching at Victoria as ‘a healthy indigenous development’ – but acknowledged the large influence of American teachers.57 Some of the most distinguished of these began coming here in the early 1950s, in the early years of the Fulbright scheme (Allison Dunham from Chicago, for example, and Dean Griswold from Harvard). Extensive (although never exclusive) teaching by the feared case or Socratic method has remained a characteristic of Victoria among New Zealand law schools since.

The American influence showed in all aspects of the faculty's postwar plan. It wanted to introduce an honours course that would be taught only at Victoria for ‘the best law students in the country’; to develop the study of new areas of law, such as administrative law and industrial law; to write New Zealand textbooks; do research; and contribute to ‘the solution of current legal and socio-legal problems’ like the laws schools of Harvard and Yale.58 Campbell had a suggestion for a Law Amendment Group: half a dozen students investigating and making submissions to the government for minor reforms in the law (‘I was tempted to suggest calling the group the Salmond Club,’ he commented, ‘but fear that its modest activities
I.D. Campbell, law professor, 1955. Dominion collection, ATL F145663 1/2

I.D. Campbell, law professor, 1955. Dominion collection, ATL F145663 1/2

page 232 would not warrant so resplendent a title.’)59 He had his own research plans in the area of common law and the welfare state (on the example of W. Friedmann's recently published Law and Social Change in Contemporary Britain); Braybrooke planned to continue the work on international law that he had begun at Columbia. McGechan had a major project under way in his own field of administrative law, in which he was preparing casebooks for the introduction of the new teaching method, before he was killed in an air crash in Singapore, with history lecturer Winston Monk, on the way to a Commonwealth Relations Conference in March 1954.60 The postwar makeover of law at Victoria can rightly be referred to as the McGechan reforms. His was the main though not sole impetus. Compulsory Latin was removed from the syllabus (in 1953) and the conjoint BA/LLB introduced. The importance of the arts component of the law degree, which had been increased from two units to five in 1938, was vigorously defended against the Law Society's complaints that the course was too long and the arts units too hard. (The faculty looked at the records. ‘There seems to be no substance,’ it concluded, ‘in the notion that there is a species of law student who fails in Arts but romps through law.’)61 It identified, further, a special link at Victoria between law and the social sciences. The establishment of the Victoria University College Law Review and of the law library and reading room were also McGechan's achievements. The Review was planned (since 1948) as a forum for student writing, and the top students were selected to form an editorial committee: the first, cyclostyled issue appeared in October 1953 (contributions were to be unsigned). It has kept its place as one of the country's leading legal reviews. An occasional News Bulletin was also launched to keep practitioners in the city law offices informed of the activities of their old school, which they might hardly have recognised. The transformation of B3 into ‘a comfortable – almost one might say a luxurious – Law Reading Room and lecture room combined’ (a place for law students to ‘be free to develop early that corporate spirit which is so marked a characteristic of our profession’) was completed during 1953.62 It was also designed to serve as a moot room, and compulsory mooting began this year (with a prize donated by Whitcombe & Tombs). A Law Faculty Club request that it be named the Robert Orr McGechan Memorial Law Library failed to gain the approval of Council, but the prize for the best piece of writing published in the Review each year carries his name.

The Victoria law library contained four times as many volumes in 1953 as Auckland's and Canterbury's, and the faculty enrolled more new students that year than the other three combined.63 ‘We are training,’ McGechan observed, ‘more than 1/3 of the lawyers of the Dominion.’64 They were not all men. ‘We always have a number of girls taking the law course,’ the faculty handbook noted; ‘They enjoy it, get through and have no difficulty in securing and keeping a job afterwards … the practice of the law takes a variety of forms and there is a place in it for the woman lawyer.’65 But 96% of them were men.

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Autonomy, of which McGechan was a keen advocate, was slow to come in law. While the colleges gradually gained some control over degree prescriptions in other areas, the legal profession (in the shape of the Law Society) remained wedded to the external examination system (and the convenience of part-time study). The university law course remained, apart from the arts units, ‘in the main a fearsome array of narrowly technical learning’, to which changes were made rarely.66 When Roman Law was withdrawn in 1959 the Victoria students celebrated at a toga party hosted by their lecturer, Shirley Smith (who as a student five years earlier had successfully challenged a ruling barring women from attending the law dinner).67 Only with full devolution did the universities gain control over their law degrees and examining for them, although still within the oversight of the Council for Legal Education – the body representing both the universities and the profession which had governed legal education since the 1930s.68 They were still required to teach for the professional exams.

They exercised their new freedom with caution. In the interests of stability, each university substantially adopted the structure of the old LLB. A degree of diversity came with a major overhaul of the degree, initiated by the Council for Legal Education, in 1967. At Victoria it followed three or four years of discussion about extending the full-time component of the course, and its range and academic substance – beyond the largely procedural, professional subjects to include emerging areas of the law such as criminology, family law, administrative law, taxation and commercial law. An early proposal was for a parallel full-time, three-year degree alongside the existing four- or five-year one. Under the new regulations students took three arts or science units in their first year, with more choice allowed than before, and the compulsory introductory paper Legal System which had replaced Roman Law, followed by one year of compulsory law and two of mostly optional courses. (The professional course, comprising six subjects, was not part of the LLB.) Honours was also introduced (at last) in 1967, and an extended compulsory mooting programme.

Another product of the 1960s revision of the law course was the combined BCA/LLB. Meanwhile, the commerce and law faculties had also been discussing their relationship in more intimate terms. This concerned the status and location of commercial law, which was taught in the commerce faculty for accountancy students and in law for the LLB. The commercial law lecturers in accountancy were already visiting members of the law faculty, and law's recently appointed professor of commercial law was a visiting member of commerce. It was an administratively and academically messy arrangement, some thought. (Moreover, the difference in both the coverage and approach of commercial law in the two faculties was compounded by a degree of snobbery on the part of law.) A proposal emanating from the Accountancy Department was to create a separate Department of Legal Studies within commerce, but headed by the professor of commercial law. Accountancy was divided on the plan, however, and by 1970 the two faculties had agreed only to convene a standing committee.69 Meanwhile, law and page 234 accountancy students and graduates maintained their own, less formal relationship through annual rugby and cricket matches and occasional luncheons.

The Law Faculty Club observed the changing character of the law student body as the numbers of full-timers rose: from 40% in 1962 to 60% in 1964, to 74% in 1970. The Club was undergoing a metamorphosis: ‘Historically the Club has been supported almost solely by those students who have commenced their office training. The office grapevine ensured that these members knew what was happening and the full time was scarcely thought of … Now, with the new course extant, our Club will soon have a large full time contingent.’ Its 1969 annual report was pleased to report ‘not only more social and sporting functions but also more activities by the Club in its role as a “union” representing law students’.70 (This was a larger trend in Students' Association affairs, not only the law students', as the proportion of full-time students rose across the university.) The Law Review was also smartened up in 1967: commercially printed rather than multilithed, and in content as well as presentation oriented to the practitioner as well as the student. It was now one of two annual reviews produced by the Victoria law faculty, which had been responsible for the New Zealand Universities Law Review since 1963.71

Full-time teachers as well as students were also a growing breed. There had been two full-time staff in each of the law departments in the 1950s. In Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law there were six full-time positions in 1964, nine (including a second professor) in 1969. The Department of English and New Zealand Law had six full-time members by 1964 and 15 (and three and a half chairs) by 1969. The large complement of part-time lecturers – law practitioners taking classes after hours, mostly in English and New Zealand law – now belonged to a bygone era. More staff was a prerequisite for the expansion of courses in the new degree and the development of specialisations. The second professor in English and New Zealand law, appointed in 1963 (D.E. Allan, from Cambridge via the University of Western Australia), was a specialist in commercial law and property and established successful LLM courses in this field, attracting commerce students as well as law. He was succeeded after just two years by I.L.M. Richardson, a later privy councillor, knight and chancellor of the university, who came from the Crown Law Office (with degrees from Canterbury and Michigan) for the opportunity to develop taxation teaching and research. Commercial law was strengthened with the appointment at the same time (in 1967) of a third professor, E.P. Ellinger from the University of Singapore (an Austrian–Israeli with degrees from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Oxford). A specialist in criminology would also have been considered, but applicants in this field were disappointing (criminology, as we have seen, was to develop within the disciplinary frame of arts). In jurisprudence, local graduates were recruited to build fields such as international law (Ken Keith) and comparative law (Tony Angelo, a graduate in languages and law, and a member of the National Ballet). Industrial law was developed by D.L. Mathieson, a Victoria Rhodes scholar who had been one of the first of the new generation of sub-professorial staff, appointed in jurisprudence in 1961.

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Building up a full-time, qualified, quality staff in the 1960s was sometimes difficult, as it was everywhere in the university – although law's situation was not as acute as accountancy's. In law, though, the competing demands of the profession presented a different situation. Members of the law faculty were permitted by their conditions of appointment to engage in private practice. Law lecturers who practised appreciated the use of academic gowns in keeping the chalk dust off their suits so that they could make a quick dash to court after class – a sartorial practice that was also followed in other faculties but may have lingered longer in law. In 1961 the two professors (Campbell and McGechan's successor, Colin Aikman) had told the vice-chancellor that they had been concerned for some time about the extent to which law staff should be given an unqualified right to practise. It was not until 1967, however, that formal guidelines were drawn up.72 It became an issue in the 1970s, when tension rose within the faculty over the extent of some members' relative commitments to their practice and teaching. This may have contributed to a noticeable exodus of senior staff into private practice in the middle years of this decade. (Students, on the other hand, appreciated being taught by lecturers who were also lawyers – that, after all, was for most the object of the degree.)

A slightly different matter, but also a problematic one in the 1970s, was the work of staff outside the university for the government. The case at issue was the contribution in the international legal field of Quentin Quentin-Baxter, who took the second chair in the Department of Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law in 1968 after a diplomatic and legal career in Foreign Affairs. His membership of the International Law Commission, to which he was elected in 1971, required him to be in Geneva for most of the second term each year, and he was away for the whole of 1974 as one of the legal team taking New Zealand's challenge against
Professor Quentin Quentin-Baxter, one of New Zealand's most eminent international lawyers

Professor Quentin Quentin-Baxter, one of New Zealand's most eminent international lawyers

page 236 French nuclear testing in the Pacific in the International Court of Justice. This created administrative problems for the dean (and occasional murmurings of disapproval from the university Council) rather than friction within the faculty.73 On the other hand, as the Council was pointedly reminded, it reflected well on the reputation of Victoria's law school, and enhanced it in turn – Quentin-Baxter was a towering figure on the international legal stage. The prime minister's formal request for his services in 1974 came with $5000 for the law library's international collection: the case, the prime minister commented, had ‘demonstrated that this collection is a resource which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could neither duplicate nor do without’.74 The vice-chancellor for his part thanked the law dean, professor in jurisprudence George Barton, when he resigned from the position in September 1973, for his tactful management of the faculty during ‘a very difficult time’.75 But then, the tenure of his successor, J.C. Thomas – a senior lecturer with a reputation as being ‘colourful’ and ‘abrasive’, and with a ‘novel’ approach to Socratic teaching, and ‘outwardly one of the more progressive members of the Faculty’ – was hardly an easy time either.76

When Quentin-Baxter died suddenly in 1984, shortly after his return from Geneva, he was described by the deputy prime minister and his former law colleague, Geoffrey Palmer, as ‘one of New Zealand's most distinguished public lawyers’.77 Victoria's law faculty generally has made a special thing of public law, and in particular constitutional, administrative and international law, by virtue of its location and the reputations of its members. Calculating the university's influence is a difficult business, but in this field Victoria's law faculty has a proud story to tell: in the past 50 years its staff and graduates have provided half of New Zealand's Court of Appeal judges and chief justices, two out of three lawyer prime ministers and governors-general, and all but one solicitor-general. It has played a prominent role in the parliamentary legal process. Palmer himself, an expert in constitutional law – and a notoriously aggressive practitioner of the Socratic method – was appointed a professor in 1973, when a second chair was also created (by amalgamating two non-professorial positions, for this was a financially difficult time) for Ken Keith. Both candidates being considered ‘quite outstanding’78 (although Keith was the more popular teacher). Advising the government on constitutional issues in the Pacific is one field in which Victoria law staff have been conspicuous: Quentin-Baxter on Niue; earlier, Aikman on the Cooks and Samoa; Alison Quentin-Baxter was also active in this field; Richardson too in preparing and advising on tax codes. But perhaps the most notable contribution in this area has been that of Tony Angelo, who succeeded to Quentin-Baxter's chair, and who, as consultant law draughtsman to Mauritius since 1968, completely revised the legal code of the newly independent nation; he has also played an important role in the constitutional evolution of the Tokelaus. (It is interesting, if by the way, that J.W. Salmond, who first brought an American influence to law at Victoria in 1909, gave his inaugural address on international law.) While admitting that ‘none of his successors has achieved Salmond's international eminence as a legal scholar’, in the words of one of its deans, Victoria's law faculty has claimed a page 237 pre-eminence in the local field largely on the basis of its contributions in public law.79

Another notable contribution in legal research in the 1960s and 1970s was Don Inglis' on family law – a field, like commercial, industrial and later environmental law in which developments came from America. It is possible to exaggerate the American influence on Victoria's law school. Not all members of the faculty did their graduate work in North America and took their sabbaticals there, although a good many did. And, of course, other students besides law increasingly were taking the postgraduate road to America rather than the traditional one to Britain in the 1960s. And there were things they did not bring back: Victoria's law faculty has not fully engaged with critical legal studies, and did not develop clinical teaching, or law and economics. Still, the American effect on law at Victoria in the 1940s and 1950s was a distinctive and lasting one.


A distinguishing feature of the teaching of law at Victoria, in addition to its pioneering use of the Socratic method, has been its emphasis on research and writing – an emphasis which also goes back to the McGechan era. Law students at Victoria write a lot of opinions. Its honours degree has also been well regarded, and masters enrolments comparatively high. The honours programme, taken concurrently with the LLB, was extended in 1972 with the addition of a seminar programme to the existing writing requirement and LLM paper (four seminar subjects were offered each year), while the assessment value of the writing requirement was increased. Honours enrolments had risen from eight in 1968 to 47 in 1972, and more LLM students were now choosing research projects instead of papers. (It was in part the distinguished involvement of a number of the Victoria staff in the public legal arena during this period that attracted high graduate student enrolments.) With this growing student interest in advanced work, the new staff-intensive honours seminars and an increase in tutorial teaching generally, the staff were feeling under pressure. So were the students. In 1972 they formally complained. A hundred students attended a special meeting of the Law Faculty Club to protest at the combined burden of the amount of legal writing required of them – far more, it had been ascertained, than at most American let alone other New Zealand law schools – and the new internal assessment. Law students were not the only ones to discover that there was a downside to internal assessment, but they found a sympathetic response. Discussions were held with the faculty, which was itself finding internal assessment administratively challenging – with the result that the university-wide reform of assessment methods was curtailed in law.

There was, nevertheless, a major reform of the law course in the later 1970s: the introduction of ‘small group’ instruction in the second year, and of a new first-year subject, Law in Society. The first was designed to improve students' research, writing and advocacy skills.80 The latter had a more innovative purpose – or rather two purposes. One was to address the ‘Enchantment Factor’, or dis-enchantment factor: the progressive feeling of frustration and disappointment that page 238 afflicted law students, reaching a nadir in the third year and in some instances developing into ‘outright cynicism about the viability of legal ideals’. The other was to redress a ‘radical separation of text and context’ in the law curriculum which, it was argued, concentrated on teaching the technique of law and devalued its significance.81 The new course would draw on other disciplines, such as history, philosophy, sociology, linguistics and anthropology, to give the students an awareness of the role of law and lawyers in society, and (if they came) interpret the law to non-law students.82 Small-group teaching was a great success. Law in Society was not. It was introduced, in 1977, only after intensive debate, with the faculty narrowly divided. The lecturer appointed to develop the course left, disillusioned, after a few years, and it was carried on by a succession of staff, sometimes reluctantly. The ideal of integrating in the first-year programme text and context Legal System and Law in Society, was not realised. Law in Society eventually disappeared from the curriculum in 1993.83

Standards in another sense had been worrying the law faculty in the second half of the 1970s too. Pass:fail ratios were introduced in 1979, following concerns about the substantial variation in the results of individual courses from year to year, and at least two years of debate, but with the perhaps constructive result of precipitating a lengthy process of course-by-course review. It was also in 1979 that the faculty starting limiting enrolments, the last of the country's four law schools to do so. They had been talking about it for eight years. In 1971, in response to George Culliford's report on the accommodation implications of the university's rapidly rising roll, the law faculty appointed a committee to investigate ‘the future of the Law School’, including its optimum size and admission and exclusion policies. The committee reported, and the faculty unanimously agreed, that some limitation on student numbers would be desirable before the university reached its overall ‘optimum size’ of 10,000, and that the right way to impose this was by controlling entry into the second-year courses. Throughout this debate the faculty stayed committed to the principle of open entry into the first year of law (to Legal System). The magic number was 475 equivalent full-time students, excluding Legal System, or 560 in total (being the anticipated 1973 roll).84

The matter rested during 1973, when enrolments levelled off, but was raised again with a little more urgency in 1974 as the number of law students passed the agreed-upon figure by 150. In 1971 law had enjoyed a comfortable staff:student ratio, ‘below the average prevailing in most University Departments’; it now had the second worst (behind accountancy). Still, pressure on staff and resources was not the point. Rather, the limitation argument was about protecting the special character of the law school: the ‘sense of belonging’ felt by the students, the common intellectual and professional interests shared by the students and staff. ‘No increases in staff, library and other facilities can recapture that sense of community which is essential to a professional school but which can be destroyed by too large an enrolment,’ the university Council was told when asked to approve in principle a plan for limiting enrolments in law using Legal System as a prerequisite.85 Victoria's law school was one of the largest in the Commonwealth: bigger than any English page 239
Model of the proposed Hunter redevelopment, which included a new multi-storey building for the law faculty (and Queen Victoria's statue on the lawn)

Model of the proposed Hunter redevelopment, which included a new multi-storey building for the law faculty (and Queen Victoria's statue on the lawn)

law school, and any in Australia except Sydney and Melbourne; comparable in size to the largest Canadian ones; and just smaller, now, than Auckland, which had been limiting its enrolments since 1969. The proposal was referred to the university's Academic Development Committee which, however, was presently taking stock of the ‘10,000 plan’ in the light of more modest growth.

During 1974 the law faculty also felt a more immediate threat to its identity. ‘Gloom … descended upon the students and staff of the Law School with the announcement of the proposed evacuation of the Hunter Building.’86 That they must move out of the earthquake-weakened building was sad but true. They did so reluctantly, over the summer of 1974–75, to the sixth floor of the Rankine Brown building and two houses towards the bottom of Kelburn Parade, having argued strenuously but without avail that the move posed a grave danger to the existence of the law library as a separate entity and the heart of the school, to morale, to standards and to ‘the University's historical commitment to legal education’.87 Professors discoursed eloquently on the unique character of the law library: ‘a place where students may browse. It is a repository of writings about the law. But it is more, much more than that. It is what a library is to the historian: it is what a laboratory is to the physicist: it is what a hospital is to a medical school: it is what a telescope is to a School of Astronomy.’88 They offered to take the prefabs on the southern carpark rather than have two-thirds of their staff marooned in Kelburn Parade and having to make a 15-minute round trip to the library ‘as opposed to the present 5 minutes’.89 The move was accepted on the conditions page 240 that it was to be short term, and that there was a definite long-term plan for a separate new law building and a separate entrance to the law library.

Whether the move out of the Hunter building compromised the character of the faculty, and whether law suffered more than some other departments from the accommodation crisis precipitated by the Hunter problem, may remain a moot point. When the issue of limitation was revisited in 1977 it was in response to immediate and particular pressures rather than abstract debates about size and character. In the early 1970s law had refrained from asking for increased staff and departmental grants in the annual budget round, in view of the university's overall financial circumstances. It had abandoned this hold-back policy in 1974 in the face of a sudden depletion of staff, particularly in jurisprudence, and by 1975 was pleading urgency. The mooting and writing programmes were suffering; new developments, like the proposed small groups, depended on more staff. When the Academic Development Committee reported on the question in 1977 it observed that only one new course had been introduced since the mid–1960s (Law in Society). And although the staff:student ratio had not deteriorated markedly since 1974, there was an additional consideration: Victoria was now the only New Zealand university that did not restrict entry into second-year law (Canterbury and Otago having begun to just recently). This raised the spectre of its being flooded with ‘inadequate students’ rejected everywhere else (as the commerce faculty would soon worry too): ‘From a position of pre-eminence, Victoria will deteriorate until it has a higher proportion of poor students than any other law school in the country.’ This was, it was argued, an especially alarming prospect for law because the success of Socratic teaching in the early years depended on the contribution of the students.90 A plan was agreed, to take effect from 1979, limiting the size of the second-year classes to 170.

In the event it was not necessary to impose this limit until 1987 (the pass rate in Legal System being sufficiently low to keep entry into stage two within it). In 1988, when the establishment of a fifth law school, at Waikato, was being discussed, Victoria was still the only one not to restrict entry into first-year law. The notion of 560 as an optimum size had been forgotten now. When the university began planning a new law tower on the Hunter site in the late 1980s, the faculty advised that it should be designed to accommodate 1000 students and 67 staff.


For all the pressures and debate of the 1970s, at the end of the decade law appeared to be in good form. The Law Faculty Club was at least. Victoria won both junior and senior national moots in 1978, and the club purchased a cup for its own mooting competition (with a bequest left by past graduate and chief justice Sir Richard Wild). Two Victoria students made up the first New Zealand team to attend an international moot court competition in Washington in 1979. The Review marked its 25th anniversary with a jubilee issue. The law dinner was revived after a lapse of some years, and the ball turned a profit after a financial disaster in 1977. In terms of sheer numbers, there was never a return to the heyday before the page 241 1920s when law students had been a third of the college's roll. But they had recovered from a nadir of about 3% during the war to make up 12% of the student body by the 1960s, and remained at around this level since.

More curriculum change was afoot in the 1980s, largely driven by the Council for Legal Education. Part-units – optional, half-year courses in the third year, to give students more choice in a degree programme 80% of which was still compulsory – were introduced in 1982 (having first been discussed in 1972). Here, in fact, the faculty showed a conservative side: it was considerably slower than Auckland's to introduce options into its degree. Administrative process, welfare law, Pacific legal studies and competition law were the first topics offered; the next year welfare law, energy law, Maori land law and intellectual property law. Enrolments were not high, but the part-units were considered valuable enough to those interested to be continued. (Developing new courses in emerging areas of the law like this had been one of the plans of the curriculum sub-committee which had instigated the Law in Society reform in 1975, staffing permitting.) In the honours programme a number of new seminar topics in the 1980s showed the rise of the ‘information industry’, broadly defined, as a field of legal interest: the television and film industry, media law, entertainment law, copyright, official information, and ‘computers, communication and information’. Victoria was the first in New Zealand to develop a computerised Legal Information Retrieval System.

The next major review of the curriculum, however, was precipitated by changes made to the professional examinations by the Council for Legal Education in 1987 – essentially removing these from the universities' responsibility. It would take the Victoria faculty several years to successfully respond to the opportunity to redesign its LLB degree; others were faster. But in the spirit of the 1980s it did effect an administrative reform, following a review of the responsibilities of the dean. The decision was made in October 1988 to amalgamate the two law departments. They had not functioned autonomously in any real sense (including financially) since the mid–1970s, and an accidental imbalance of chairs in the faculty had highlighted the arbitrariness of that traditional division. In 1987 English and New Zealand Law had one chair and a total staff of 20, while Jurisprudence and Constitutional Law had four chairs and a staff of 14. They became one big family in 1989.