Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 3. 1969.
Concepts of efficiency
Concepts of efficiency
Nevertheless, behind Context B there does lie a concept of efficiency which is radically different from the common New Zealand one. It goes with a radically different concept of the function of the university, and its staff.
In our, British, kind there is a fee for each course, Presumably, as with other commercial transactions, it would be unethical to 'take' a course for which one has not paid. In the other kind, the student pays a fee which, with supplements where required, entitles him to follow any course. Thus, in our kind, a member of the staff may give a brilliant series of lectures to a handful of students who have paid the fee. Such an uneconomical procedure would, in the other kind, be unthinkable—a "waste" of the lecturer's talent (and salary). For the lecturer there has before him "his own" students and perhaps ten times that number of other students, colleagues; and interested people from the city. All these additional people represent social benefit from the lecturer's work.
British style university classes are reserved for students with an examination interest in the subject. The other model university lecturers are open to people with an interest in the subject. The lecture rooms represent the universities themselves, and their concepts of their social function. The European model has, so to say, an added feature, and its internal relationships become: staff—general public— student−examination. The consequences of the fourth feature is something like the consequence of having a distinguished visitor in the house. The lecturer's cookery improves too. However, we are now concerned with the consequence of closed classroom door/open classroom door policies with respect to examination success.
Competition to enrol in British universities, other than London, is extremely severe. With exclusive admission policy and exclusive study regulations a high pass-fail ratio is to be expected. Conversely, in universities with easy admission and open-door study facilities one can expect a lower pass:fail ratio. In countries with large scale unemployment, easy admission to university and even a 1:1 pass:fail ratio are simultaneously possible only by lowering the value of the degrees, a measure not in the students' long term interest. New Zealand again falls in between. It manages to have a liberal admission policy, but shuts its classroom doors to non-examination oriented people, and it has a high pass:fail ratio. One guesses that, so far, opportunity for immediate well paid employment has kept away those without a definite bent for academic study.
In all countries there is strong criticism of the role of the universities in the country. In Britain there is much concern over the small proportion of its people to have been to a university. British universities certainly serve their students while they are there; but it seems to be assumed that even their students' interest in university teaching is terminated with graduation. In the European university patern, the teacher is not so concerned with "his" students and their personal success and failure; and a university is not an agglomeration of self-contained study groups. It is more a municipal asset, in which examinations have a smaller place than elsewhere.