Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 1 18 February 1970
Certainly there is a greater provision for research in the new grants and of course the Grants Committee has funds for research. What I sought to do in the Science portfolio and will continue to do is try to interest industry and other sectors of the economy in making funds available to the universities for research.
Will this be tagged research?
I don't think there is much point in proposing to a company that is trying to improve its product that it should make a contribution to research just in general unless one is seeking a donation—and the Government has in fact encouraged this. The sort of thing that I am interested in is to be seen in what the Pottery and Ceramics Association did in establishing its contacts with the university—making funds available, interesting people in research. We want more of this. This will mean that there are more funds available to the universities—certainly tagged, yes. But it obviously means that they will have a wider opportunity to use the funds that they have; or at least their total research effort will be greater.
So private industry would sponsor tagged research in one particular area of university studies, releasing funds for research in social subjects.
Not necessarily in social subjects. I am not the slightest bit interested in trying to persuade anybody that all the work that is done in the university must add up in pounds, shillings and pence today, tomorrow or the next day. After all, this is not what the university is for. But I am interested in engaging, to a greater extent than we have in the past, the interest of the universities in scientific research. I am interested in promoting close association between Government laboratories and the universities and building up scientific communities at, for example, Massey, Lincoln, and at this complex in Auckland where I hope there will be close association between Auckland University and Dsir. I think this is one field in which we can certainly build up but there are increasing opportunities to be investigated.
Much of this scientific research work, however, would have a pay-off in pounds, shillings and pence. Do you not feel that there is also a need to stimulate research into social problems?
Yes, I think there is a need to do this, of course. Let me put it to you this way. The universities are autonomous bodies and they make their own decisions as to how they spend their funds on research. I don't make those decisions. They order their priorities in this field and one of the criticisms from people who are more interested in the economics, the pounds, shillings and pence of the economy, has been that they felt there has not been enough university work in this field. Now once again this is a question of the order of priorities. Everybody wants to know what my feeling is about the need for work in social fields—one of the great problems is that everybody sees this sort of question as black and white. You are cither on one side or you are on the other side. What I am seeking is a greater research effort because I believe that if we are to engage the interests of New Zealanders in problems that are real to New Zealand the time to do it is while they are at university. Another argument about them is whether they should go overseas. I think they should and it doesn't matter a damn whether I think they should or should not; they will go because they are New Zealanders and every New Zealander that I have ever come across has wanted to get overseas, simply because he is born here. They all want to go and they will both come and go, but it we can engage his interests, I believe that the challenge that the graduate has in front of him in problems relating to New Zealand is every bit as great as any challenge that would lead him off overseas.
One can see the validity of this line of argument in relation to many of the scientific research programmes but it has been a matter of some concern that research in social fields lags. Do you feel it lags?
My impression is that it probably does, but quite frankly I am not sufficiently familiar with this to give you a complete answer at this point in time. But as a general proposition I would say I am sure that more needs to be done, but you can say this about every aspect of every sphere of activity.
Education is one of these very difficult subjects to present a case for increased expenditure in the sense that a man can got to the Ministry of Works and present a case for a motorway ....
The case has been fairly effectively presented over the last few years. I have figures on buildings, land purchases, furniture and equipment—a very big item $720,000 in 1957, S13,800.000 in 1968. I think the case has been effectively stated. What you are saying is that we should have more. All right, I can't argue with this. I am proud of the Government's contribution to education and I have no doubt whatsoever that the increasing contribution that Government will make to education will leave me still feeling proud whenever my term in this portfolio comes to an end. I am absolutely certain that it will not satisfy the critics because this is the nature of things. Now I am not saying this is a reason to ignore criticism—I don't for a moment. But one cannot refuse to sleep at night because of criticism.
In Auckland we have a situation where the university is rapidly reaching saturation point in the sense that the student enrolment is reaching the 10,000 limit. Will the building programme be speeded up in Auckland so that more students can be enrolled?
I intend to have discussions with the Grants Committee about this. I am conscious of the problem. I will certainly look to the Grants Committee for advice, but I cannot give you the sort of satisfying answer you would like. But I am very conscious of the problem.
But has the need for an accelerated programme at Auckland been identified by the Grants Committee and presented to you or are you taking the initiative and going to the Grants Committee?
No, the Grants Committee did, of course, I don't know how many years ago, consider an area of land at Auckland as a site for further development and this was apparently unsatisfactory. I have to familiarise myself with the details of what happened, or who suggested what, but I know that moves have been made already but agreement has not been reached.
Obviously the fact that you are going to seek information on this would tend to indicate that you attach importance to it.
I hope it will indicate my interest in it.
How important do you regard it in relation to other matters of concern in the field of university education?
Why do you ask questions like this? What does it mean? How important do I regard it in relation to what?
Many say salaries are inadequate, research facilities are inadequate and the building programme is inadequate. What I am trying to get at is which need are you trying to deal with first?
Well, some of the needs you deal with in the order of possibility of dealing with them. I am sure everyone has been in the situation where you have thought to yourself, well now I would like to do this, then that and then that. But for a whole variety of reasons that crop up you can't deal with matters in that order so you deal something else. Now obviously one becomes involved here with a whole lot of problems. I regard the Auckland matter as an important problem, but if you want me to give an exact order of priorities. I'm afraid I can't do this.
On another area now; what is your attitude to Waikato University's claim for a Maori Studies centre?
Well, I am interested in it but once again this is a question of priorities. Here again, the University can set aside funds for this; it has its grant. I don't know what order of priority they give it.
The University itself represented its case to Cabinet last year so they obviously feel it is a pretty important question.
Well, it is not important enough for them to take it out of the funds that they have available.
Are funds going to be made available to them to do it?
Well, they've got a grant.
But it didn't include funds for this purpose and they feel it should.
But then the University is autonomous in what it does with these funds. Expansion is built into the grant. But where is this expansion going to be?
Waikato's coming back again this year with a further request and you'll consider it then ....
Can you give any rough estimate as to when a third medical school will be established.?
No. That's an honest ... that's a straight forward answer—delete the word 'honest' because everybody says if you say this is honest then everything else you say is dishonest. Damn it! I hate living in this crazy situation. A man's got to try to put in an ice-case every word he utters because it'll be grabbed and turned round ... turn that damn thing off a minute, will you?
Would you see the new technical institute at Heretaunga as the basis for a technological university?
I suppose it could well come to this. I don't see that it could happen in 10, 15 or 20 years, but of course this whole field is under review and moving in one direction and then another in different parts of the world. My immediate feeling is that I'm not enthusiastic about having two degree-granting sets of institutions. This could lead to all sorts of complications.
This seems to be a grey area—the division of responsibilities between technological institutes and the universities. What sort of relationship do you think they should have?
Well, I think what we want to see as far as this can reasonably be done is that there is no great overlapping. We don't want to have a degree of overlapping. The whole idea of these institutions is to do work that is not done by the universities.
What about the degree of autonomy which the technical institutes should enjoy? Do you feel that they should be given a greater degree of autonomy than they have in their relationship with the Department of Education at the moment? Do they need something equivalent to the Grants Committee—particularly for advising government?
In the immediate future, I can see that with the very considerable capital implications which there are in this that the Education Department will continue to have a very real degree of responsibility in this area.
Then you can't sec a similar body to the UGC being set up?
Not in the immediate future, no.
Do you feel that the UGC, which has been in existence for ten years, is operating effectively today, or is there a need to overhaul or reconsider the Committee?
The immediate answer one gives to this is that as far as Government is concerned it has accepted and endorsed the recommendations of the Grants Committee. Government supports the work of the Committee. Whether there is likely to be need over the next few years for a review, this is something we shall have to see.
The reason I ask this is because there have been instances—Waikato University would be one case and the University Teachers' Association another—where educational bodies went to Cabinet with their problems and did not deal with the UGC.
They did not deal actually with the UGC. As far as I am concerned the UGC has its area of responsibility and I think they are discharging their responsibility as they should.
What is your attitude towards these groups from the universities, then, who do by-pass the Grants Committee? You will refer them back to the Grants Committee?
Yes. I certainly would refer them to the UGC.
Most of the educational interest groups in New Zealand have at sometime or another called for an Educational Development Conference. Do you think there is need for such a thing?
I am not convinced of it at this stage.
What would it take to convince you? They have obviously been trying to create the climate in which such a conference could take place.
Well, as a result of the National Development Conference there is a considerable amount of work to do. I might be better equipped to answer this question after I have digested a lot more of the work involved in the portfolio. But I don't see, at this point in time, the need for such a conference.