Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 12. September 6, 1954
That New Zealanders do, in fact, take more Interest in their University than our visitors think, may be inferred from a survey of public opinion in relation to the University conducted by the Department of Psychology of Victoria University College during 1953, A sample population in the Wellington suburbs of Newtown and Wadestown was selected . . . The report on the survey states that a test of the reliability of the results indicates that the findings are likely to be correct with-in a range of 3 per cent.
The sample population was asked questions concerning: (a) Who should be entitled to enter University? (b) What is the function of University training ? (c) What is the value placed on the University trained person? (d) Where should the cost of University administration and training be placed? (e) What opinion was held about students' extracurricular activities? (f) What opinions were held about University Students and (g) What is the public interest in Victoria University College.
I do not suggest that the answers of the sample population to these questions would prove a valid guide to the development of University education, but the answers to some of these questions should show reasonably well the attitude of the sample population towards the University.
On the question as to what is the value placed on the University trained person, one of the questions asked was this: "At election time would you prefer your candidate to have had a University education or would you prefer him not to have had?" About 40 per cent of the sample population preferred their political candidate to have had a University education. Only 4 per cent preferred him not to have had. Just over half of the sample indicated that they were more likely to be influenced by the personal qualities of the individual rather than the acquisition of a University education.
Upon the enquiry as to what is the public interest in Victoria University College, detailed questions were again asked. The answers may be summarised by saying that discussion on student activities and other University matters was reported in seven out of ten professional house-holds, but in only about one quarter of the households in the unskilled group. Over the whole sample population, discussion of University matters occurred in about half of the households.
The answers to the other questions with which the poll dealt but with which I have not the space to deal, would, in my view, confirm an inference that a genuine interest in University affairs was taken by about half of the sample population or Wellington. It would not be surprising if the public interest in the University cities was at least as great as it is in Wellington. In my view, that interest would be greater in Dunedin and Christchurch and perhaps, about the same in Auckland.
The conclusions to be drawn from our local "Gallup" poll indicate a public interest in the University which is much greater than the public interest which appeared to our visitors.
With regard to Professor Dunham's implied statement that the University administrator and professor occupies a relatively insignificant position in public affairs, I refrain from any comment concerning the administrators, among whom we are numbered I think that in New Zealand, in times of peace University professors arc not used to assist in the administration of public affairs to the same extent as they are in Great Britain or in the United States of America.
I think the reason why their assistance is not sought in this country, to any material extent, in times of peace is partly due to the fact that there is no tradition in the matter and partly to the fact that the selection of any individual for the purpose of advising on public affairs depends upon his personal qualities. The more a professor aquires a reputation not only for his professional knowledge but also for his wise judgment, the more is he likely to be asked to render public service. On the other hand, we should not forget that a professor's primary obligation is to do his own work and that any other work which he does will generally be justifiable only insofar as it does not interfere unduly with his professorial duties.
Having regard to the comments of our visitors, we might pay more specific attention from time to time to the real quality of the University education that we provide, to any improvements in that quality that are practicable and to any improvement in our public relations that may be brought about without the sacrifice of the freedom which is so vital a characteristic of a British University.