Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 10. September 14, 1959
The Crisis and You
The Crisis and You
The universities have been in the news for quite some time now. The local newspapers, who cannot be called enthusiasts for higher learning, have represented the problem mainly in terms of one of its symptoms: the need to pay higher salaries to staff. They have ignored the more important aspects.
Below we publish an article elaborating the subject by Professor L. H. Palmier, associate professor of Asian studies and chairman of the V.U.W. branch of the Association of University Teachers of N.Z.
The world at large has discovered that university education is a good thing. In consequence, the university rolls are swelling fast, faster even than the populations are growing.
Universities depend on their teachers.
To attract some at least of the best brains (nothing else really matters) to teach growing numbers of students, governments have given large increases of salary. British salaries have risen by a fifth, Australian by a sixth.
New Zealand has stayed put.
Obviously, more posts and higher salaries overseas threaten the New Zealand universities. In addition, student numbers here are certain to rise for some considerable time ahead. This means that if New Zealand is to staff her universities, she must fork out more in salaries.
This is so obvious that it cannot be denied.
Even if entrance were made much more rigorous, student numbers would still increase, and more staff would be needed.
Those who have to make the decision, however, drag up all the conceivable objections which can justify Inaction. They say, for instance, that the matching of overseas bids would mean that some senior civil servants would be paid less than full professors.
The only answer to this, of course, is "Dear, dear, and tut tut. If there is something wrong with that, why can't you raise the salaries of the senior civil servants. God knows they deserve it."
To which the answer comes, of course, "Oh, the Public Service Associations will then demand increases for all its members."
So it goes on, in an endless drone. In the meanwhile, of course, what suffers is the community's mind (which the universities alone constitute).
In many other countries the present ratio of one staff member to every 19 students would raise doubts as to the validity of the claim to be a university.
Unfortunately the ratio threatens to get worse as student numbers grow and staff numbers limp behind. The sufferers will be you.
The university teachers will leave for greener pastures; they will grow old, retire or die. You, in your successive generations, will remain.
The teachers who will be prepared to work here on low wages may in some cases have special reasons, but most will simply be unable to qualify as university teachers outside New Zealand.
Unfortunately for you the universities, and the qualifications you get from them, will be judged by the quality of their staffs.
Much is now expected of the Committee of Inquiry now about to look into the universities of the country. The Senate and the various Councils, the national and local A.U.T., as well as the Department of Education, are in labour, producing submissions.
It is doubtful if an advisory body such as the Committee can instil a will into the government and community which is not there in the first place. Indeed, past events do not encourage hope.
The last similar body, the Reichel-Tate Committee of 1925, made many recommendations which, if they had guided subsequent policy, would have saved us from our present desperate straits. But its Report was pigeon-holed and matters steadily got worse.
Whether matters improve does not rest with Committees, however eminent, but with the citizens of this country, particularly those most affected, you yourselves.
There are, after all, some 14,000 students in this country, as against only 760 university teachers. Whether you ever get proper university education, or just go on getting one-to-nineteen or worse, depends on you.