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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 1. March 4, 1953


Some years ago, in 1946, I published an article called "Administration in the University" which summarised my dissatisfaction with the conditions under which university teachers had operated for many years. My solution for all this in 1946 was for New Zealand to give up the idea of a federal university and establish an independent university in each of the four main centres.

The editor of "Salient" has asked me to give my views in 1953. This—as any politician will tell you—is a dirty trick. Members on both sides of the House have wriggled and squirmed with discomfort as members—on the other side of the House—quote from Hansard of a few years before, and the air is thick with chickens coming home to roost. You can almost feel the beating of their wings.

But it is a fair question, and I shall try to answer it fairly. From its beginnings in 1870 the disembodied University of New Zealand imposed conditions on university teachers which crippled their effectiveness. The only kind of test they were allowed to apply to certify to a student's ability was an examination. The examination papers were set in England by overseas examiners and the candidates scripts were sent on the long voyage Home for assessment. The New Zealand teacher was (like the candidate) forbidden to communicate with the examiner, who often had only the haziest notion of what was going on in a class-room or laboratory twelve thousand miles away. Examination "and teaching bore no direct relationship with each other.

Secondly, all four, widely separated, departments in each subject had to submit for approval by the University Senate a detailed pre scription for each stage of the subject. It had to be the same prescription exactly for each university college. It was inevitably a compromise. It included detailed lists of set books to be studied, text-books, and even a list of passages and pages to be known in full When a change had to be incorporated, it took two years from start to finish he, from the moment it was decided to read pages 99.200 in place of pages 1-98 until the moment when the new prescription appeared in the university calendar.

The final decision, even on this compromise syllabus, did not rest with the four departments. It was a matter for the Senate, which then as now, was largely composed of professional men who were not university teachers.