Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 2. 1969.
I Am Glad To have the opportunity of discussing higher education and its place in the New Zealand economy in an atmosphere such as this, and I want to take the opportunity of bringing together some of the many points made during the past year or two since I first raised this question.
After raising the matter briefly when addressing a meeting in Christchurch in early 1967, I deliberately put the following in the 1967 Budget:'
"There is, I believe, general agreement on the essential need for adequate expenditure on education. In recent years expenditure has increased much more rapidly in the university field than in other areas of education. This is no doubt attributable in part to the rise in the university student roll which has now reaehed almost 24,000, double the number of nine years ago. Over the same period, the share of resources devoted by Government to the universities has increased at a much higher rate than the share of resources expended on education generally. The upsurge in spending on university education points to the need for some reappraisal of the allocation of scarce resources of money and personnel to ensure that they are being expended in the manner most beneficial to the New Zealand people.
The presentation of the Budget was immediately followed by a statement from an officer of the New Zealand University Students' Association suggesting that this was flying a kite for a decision to reduce university spending. In fact what I have aimed to do throughout. and I believe successfully, is to stimulate discussion and investigation.
Normal selective newspaper reporting from my own speeches and the speeches of others has given an impression of violent disagreement. but at no time have I attempted to put forward dogmatic views on this subject, on which I am not an expert, and most of the speakers who have discussed the matter in public have understood this.
• Thirty years ago, the 1937/38 year, total education vote $9.4 million—of this, higher education 2.8%, that is to say $270,000 for all purposes. Adding expenditure on senior technical education would lift it to $300,000, or about 3% of the whole education vote.
• Higher education vote last year—21% of the total, not $300,000. but $36.3 million. Current building programmes:
|Wellington||over $14 million|
|Waikato||approaching $7 million|
|Massey||over $15 million|
|Christchurch||over $10 million|
|Lincoln||over $2 million|
• Thirty years ago expenditure on education as a percentage of national income— 2.73, $7 per head of population. On the change of government in 1960/61. 3.91 — $36.70 per head.
• The current year. $66.70c per head — over 5% of national income, which of course in not known yet. In absolute figures:
of this, the figures relating to higher education have increased in a greater proportion in every respect.
• The latest Treasury estimate of projections for university spending excluding technical institutes.
This allows for inflation at an annual rate of 2½%. and includes only $7 million for qualitative improvement, a figure which I believe is too low. These qualitative improvements include improvement in the staff/student ratio, improvement in major faculties such as medicine, arising from the development of the new school at Auckland or the adoption of the Christie report at Otago. increased expenditure on equipment such as the installation of computers, or improved bursaries for students.
The interest of the Minister of Finance is his endeavour to reconcile the views of all the sectors of the economy which are competing for resources—the impossible task of assessing qualitatively and qualitatively the merits of increased expenditure on hospitals, social security benefits, secondary industry, land and forest development, education in all its forms, basic and applied research both in and out of the universities, police, law and order, and all the other elements which make up the total economy.
Overiding criterion—the best interests of the whole population, both in the short and in the long term- an impossible task, but nevertheless my reason for being keenly interested in such an important sector of the economy. No room for waste.
The Robhins report on higher education in Britain points out in paragraph 25 that one of the objectives Of being at a university is the practical one of preparing oneself for a career. and pointed out that Confucious said in the analects that it was not easy to find a man who had studied for three years without aiming at pay.
The Report suggests that the ancient universities of Europe were founded to promote the training of the clergy, doctors and lawyers, and that although at times there may nave been many who attended for the pursuit of pure knowledge, they must have been a minority.
A somewhat similar point of view from the aspect of the country at large appeared in the Parry committee report in New Zealand. It said that if New Zealand wants to foster more and more advanced study of its own life and problems, then the universities will have to be equipped to carry out such study, much of it at the more expensive graduate level, Chapter 2 of that report makes a strong case for devoting additional resources to universities for the purposes of New Zealand's economic development.
The two themes emerge from each of these studies:—
The maximum benefit to the individual as a motivating force, and the maximum benefit to the mass of the people—that is the economy.
I have been accused of "bringing an accountant's mind to bear on the matter." It is extremely difficult to measure results even in terms of personal satisfaction, in terms other than which can be correlated by an accountant. If they can't be measured, it is difficult to compare them.
An article in Minerva by Sir Eric Ashby, Professor of Botany, Master of Clare College, Cambridge, and a Member of the the University Grants Committee in Britain:
"Constaints imposed by government are few, and some impinge on the essential autonomy of the university, in such things as control over the admission and examination of students, control over curricula, control of appointment and of tenure of academic staff. but opportunities for influence by the Government occur once in every five years when the quinquennial grant is announced, and from time to lime during the quinquennium when capital expenditure grants are decided upon, or when increases in salaries are announced. That it is inevitable that hands of some sort will be laid upon the universities, but it is important that they predominantly be the hands of other Dons, that is the committees of Vice-Chancellors and the University Grants Committee."
Taking some topics in detail: I believe that the rapid increase in the absolute amount, the percentage of national income and the amount per head of population in university spending, will reach a point in the foreseeable future where some Minister of Finance in some government will say "Stop, I cannot finance this". I have pressed for an examination of this by the appropriate authorities so that this head-on collision may be avoided.
I have suggested that if our resources, both in the physical sense and in manpower, brains, are limited, then we should first limit those areas of education which are less important to the economy in its broadest sense
We do not have to cut out anything, but if there is to be a limit on growth it should be first applied in the less vital areas.