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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 4. Monday, April 8, 1963

University Gov't

page 2

University Gov't

When the ideas of students conflict with the policy of the University authorities, always the inevitable murmurings about red tape and thick-headed administrators come out.

The student knows there is a Vice-Chancellor (a peculiarly inapposite appellation for a man who is responsible for discipline, among other things), a Registrar, and a Professorial Board.

If he is very well informed he may have heard of that lofty and all-powerful body, The Council of the Victoria University of Wellington. But for the most part the student understands only the workings of his own Students' Association. The perplexities of University Administration generally mystify and annoy him. They are matters beyond his comprehension and his interest.

The administrative staff at Victoria numbers 54. This means there is one administrator to every 75 students. The category "administrative staff" includes everyone from the Vice-Chancellor to the typists.

As bureaucratic structures go, this does not seem excessive. The sphere of administration is wide—including staff, students, adult education, hostels, buildings, grounds and examinations.

Although it may be possible to analyse at Victoria the workings of Parkinson's law—the more staff you have the more you need—on the whole the University's private bureaucracy is no better and no worse than other bureaucracies.

But the story is not finished when the administration has been acquitted from blame. A distinction must be drawn between the bodies which carry out the decisions and those bodies which make the decisions. The real weakness of University government lies in the decision-making bodies.

Who makes the decisions that matter at Victoria? Is it the Professorial Board, the Council or the University Grants Committee?

It seems to us the governing organs of the University are top heavy, confused, and perhaps redundant.

The structure of University government in New Zealand is based closely on traditional British lines. And it is submitted that this structure is now outdated and needs a thorough overhaul. This will not be easy. The government of the University is entrenched by Act of Parliament.

The supreme internal body is the Council. It shall have, quoting from the act, "entire management of and superintendence over the affairs, concerns, and property of the University."

Membership of the Council looks as though it is designed to promote an equitable accommodation of interests. The Governor-General appoints four members. Six are elected by the Court of Convocation, which means graduates. The Students' Association appoints one, the Professorial Board three, and the University staff one, the district secondary schools one—even the Wellington City Council appoints a member.

Omnipotent as the Council is at Victoria, it is not a law unto itself. The University Grants Committee has the power of the purse. The Committee's jurisdiction extends to all New Zealand Universities.

What the exact relationship between the Committee and the Council is remains uncertain, but the control of the committee does not end with finance.

Yet another body enters this triangular hierarchy of control—the Professorial Board.

Its functions are defined as having "a duty of furthering and co-ordinating the work of faculties and departments and of encouraging scholarship and research." In addition the Board deals with the library, discipline among students, and courses of study.

As if this triumvirate of control is not enough, both the Council and the Board are mothers to a host of committees set up for various purposes. The Council has 10 and the Professorial Board no less than 16. One of them has a title informative as "Committee on Basic Problems."

Somewhere in the middle of this morass the functions of policy making and administration merge. But the result is to make decision making in the University a long drawn out process, where the lines of authority are imperfectly determined.

If the Council and the Board were merged and pruned some improvement might occur. And it might mean that the academics were released from some of their extra curricular activities. They would then have more time to spend on their own Departments and on teaching.

After all, University teaching is what these people are trained to do. By all means allow some of them to make policy, but only some.

The administration should be left to the professional administrators. They would do a much better Job if they were not responsible to a multiplicity of authorities.—G.W.R.P.