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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 33, Number 10. 8 July, 1970

Refresher leave: Just a holiday?

Refresher leave: Just a holiday?

Over 5 per cent of the academic staff at Victoria University were granted approval for Refresher or Extended Research Leave starting next year at the June meeting of the University Council.

On full salary, and with personal grants between $1125 and $2250, twenty-one members of the teaching staff will travel overseas for periods of between 216 days and a full 14 months.

From lecturers with an entitlement of 200 days leave after five years of service to senior members of staff with an entitlement of 14 months leave after seven years of service the word is "get overseas".

Described by Professor Titchener as a "well-entrenched rite" and as a possible cause of the failure of New Zealand academics to co-ordinate their research work, these periods of leave will cost the community more than $100,000. Over $35,000 will be spent on leave allowances and much of this will pay for fares. And if an average of only $3000 in salary will be drawn by each of the touring teachers the cost will reach the $100,000 mark.

The return to the university or to the advancement of teaching and research is difficult to assess.

The only duties of the returning academic are first, to provide the Assistant Bursar with satisfactory evidence for the expenditure of the grant, and secondly, to make a report to the Vice-Chancellor.

These reports may vary from a brief quarto page to some fifty or more pages in length and will occasionally result in some response from the University Council Meeting to which they are presented.

Whatever the value of these exercises, and their value will be questioned by very few of those eligible for them, they have become the standard practice for New Zealand universities.

Criticism at Victoria University would be out of order, For, in response to a suggestion that New Zealand universities might, in some respects, be wasting public money, Mr K.B. O'Brien has called on one critic to "stop branding dedicated researchers as wasters".

Yet even for those who find value in the reports of the experiences of those who have been on refresher and extended research leave, it might be difficult to believe that their average value even approximates the $5000 or more that each will have cost.

In fact, the total outlay on leave allowances alone for 21 members of the staff would pay return fares for every academic at Victoria University to visit another New Zealand university and still leave enough for every one of them to have at least $50 in out-of-pocket allowances.

And, as Professor Titchener suggested in his address to the University Teachers in Auckland in May, "the pace of research could only be quickened."

Far be the thought that overseas visits arc of no value. But when the final result is little more than the insight that could equally well have been obtained from a few days' work in the periodicals section of the university library, or a few letters, then it might not be out of order to ask the occasional question. That the results are in fact more than such insights will be the obvious, and occasionally true, reply.

Lindsay Wright.