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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1954]

The University of New Zealand

page 46

The University of New Zealand

The biggest change in the University system as a whole in the last five years or so has been the increase in staff at the Colleges, which have thereby been able to give better educational opportunities to students and also to do more to advance scholarship by research. We must never forget that where student and teacher meet, there the true university function is being carried out; all else serves only that end. Since, however, the Editor requires me to concern myself with administrative advances in the University, I shall restrict this article to that field mainly.

The University Grants Committee. Probably the biggest administrative changes in the time mentioned have been due to the work of the University Grants Committee. This Committee was appointed first in 1948 so its work has been mainly carried out in the five years. It consists at present of four members appointed by the Senate, the Principals of the four Constituent Colleges and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, who is the Chairman. Its duty is "to enquire into the financial needs of University education in New Zealand and to advise the Government on these needs." Since only about 13.5 per cent, of the University income is derived from fees, the rest of the funds, barring a small amount from endowments, come from Government sources through Grant Education.

The Grants Committee negotiated in 1949 a quinquennial block grant for each of the Colleges and during 1953 and the early part of this year has accumulated detailed estimates from the Colleges for the next quinquennial period 1955-59. These have now been submitted to the relevant Minister. A quinquenial grant allows College Councils (who employ all the staff and manage the Colleges) to plan ahead, and the block grant system allows them freedom to manage their own affairs without undue restriction. This system has been successfully used in British universities for over thirty years. The first grant was calculated on a formula which was intended to allow the University Colleges to achieve a staffing rate similar to the English provincial universities, and although that has not been quite achieved, the genuine improvement in staffing has been very marked indeed.

Buildings. In late 1952 the Grants Committee was recognised by the Colleges as the body through which the building needs of the Colleges and of the Special Schools, and the finances to meet those needs, were to be presented to the Government, In April 1953 voluminous reports prepared by the Colleges on building needs, setting out the priorities and outlining the long-term building plans for all the centres were submitted to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education. This year in May the Minister has been able to announce that the Government has agreed to finance a building at each University centre, the building in each instance having been the one placed first in priority by the University. The buildings agreed to are, of course, the new Engineering buildings at Canterbury and Auckland, the Science Block at Victoria and the Dental School at Otago.

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The Agricultural Colleges have special needs which must not be neglected in a country which derives about 95 per cent, of its export income from agriculture, and their needs too are being pressed by the Grants Committee.

The long drought of permanent major building which has lasted from about 1923 in Canterbury and 1939 at Victoria and Auckland, appears now to have been broken. A fast rate of building will be needed to catch up the backlog accumulated in the past and to meet the needs of a growing student population. The Grants Committee's secretariat and its continuous executive functions are carried out by the Central Office of the University of New Zealand.

Special Schools. The special professional schools are all intended to serve the whole Dominion although some have been duplicated already and others will follow as the needs increase. At present there are the following Special Schools in addition to the two Schools of Agriculture at Lincoln and Massey.

Otago School of Medicine
School of Dentistry
School of Mines
School of Domestic Science
School of Physical Education
Canterbury School of Engineering
School of Fine Art
Auckland School of Engineering
School of Architecture
School of Fine Art
Victoria School of Social Science
School of Political Science and Public Administration

These schools, which were formerly on an annual basis for finance, have this year been recommended by the Grants Committee to be placed on the same quinquennial footing as the Constituent Colleges.

The University is called upon to advise the Government on the need for establishing other Special Schools and at present the need for Schools of Veterinary Science and Pharmacy are being studied as also is the Chair of Town Planning.

A special report was prepared and received by the Senate last year on Medical Education; especially related to the possible need to establish a second Medical School in New Zealand.

Scholarships and Fellowships. The Scholarships and Fellowships of the University itself, which have been, and still are, financed from the examination fees paid by students, have increased sharply in value during this period and, indeed, should be increased further to meet modern costs if the money could be found to do so.

Many additional scholarship opportunities dealt with by the central body have arisen in the period and the overseas free passages, withdrawn during the war, were re-established in 1953, five for New Zealand, to be allocated in collaboration with the Shipping Conference in Sydney.

Imperial Chemical Industries established in 1951 two Research Fellowships (one awarded each year) for scientists to work in a New Zealand University page 48 centre and the Shell Company has established two overseas Fellowships of high value annually since 1952.

There are new French scholarships for study in France, some administered through the Department of Education, some through the Department of External Affairs, and there is a new fellowship given by the University of New Zealand from Government funds recommended by the Director of Education for a French scholar to study and teach in a New Zealand university centre each year. The present incumbent is now in Auckland University College by agreement within the system. Two previous Fellows were stationed, one in Victoria and Auckland, the other in Canterbury and Dunedin.

A new German scholarship arranged by the student body and the universities in Germany has this year been awarded to a New Zealand University student for further study in a German university. In addition the von Humboldt scholarships are now available to senior scholars from any part of the world for study in Western Germany. The University has assisted the German Legation in Wellington in collecting applications and selecting the candidates for these scholarships.

The Fulbright programme for American scholars to study in New Zealand and for New Zealanders to travel to the United States for study has been very effective in this period and new Nuffield Fellowships and Rockefeller Fellowships have become available to staff members. Certain new British Fellow ships for studies in nuclear fission have been established in the last three years, the University being the body which assists in the secretarial and selective work.

There are other fellowships granted by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to graduates in Science and the Vice-Chancellor, being a member of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and a member of the Fellowship Committees mentioned above, is able to promote the interests of our able graduates not only as a member of all University committees but as a liaison with Departments, companies and overseas Foundations concerned in giving the funds.

One new and encouraging development has been the offer by a New Zealand industrial concern to the University of New Zealand for bursaries to enable advanced studies in a branch of Engineering at the Engineering Schools. It is particularly interesting because the initiative which has led to the offer came from a group of engineering students at one of the Schools. The official announcement of this new scholarship will be made when the conditions have been agreed to by the Senate.

College Executive Heads. A big advance in University administration came with the appointment of full-time Principals at the four Constituent Colleges. Strangely enough the Colleges of Agriculture had enjoyed this advantage for many years previously. Victoria appointed a full-time Principal in 1947, Otago and Canterbury appointed full-time Executive Heads in 1948 and Auckland followed suit in 1949.

The existing Vice-Chancellorship of the University of New Zealand was filled by invitation in May 1952.

The increase in size and complexity of the Colleges, the big increase in staff and funds made full-time executives essential for efficient functioning. Not only page 49 is the Principal the chief executive officer of the University centre, but he is expected to give a lead in educational policy and to give continuity to all policies both educational and administrative. His appointment brings to an effective focus the whole work of the institution.

Changes in Function. The whole University population has increased from about 700 students at the turn of the century to about ten thousand at present. The character of the four centres differs considerably since Otago is mainly composed of full-time students in Special Schools, while in the others are students studying mainly Arts, Science, Law and Commerce, the Special Schools in them accounting for only a small fraction of the whole student body.

With the increase in size and the greater coherence due to full-time Principals, there has come a rapid development of self-sufficiency in the Colleges which will eventually lead them to full university status when those who are principally concerned judge that scholarship will be best served that way. Size has little to do with the title "university" since great federal universities like the University of California in its six campuses spread over the state has 40,000 students: Columbia University of New York, consisting of multiple colleges, has about 25,000 students: London, with its many colleges, has about 15,000 students and the universities of India, all federal in type, have up to 80,000 students in a single university system. On the other hand, there are universities in Britain and America with less than a thousand students, which are full unitary universities. I believe that the wide geographical separation of the University Colleges, their provincial origin and their growing size and complexity, will lead to their becoming separate institutions. Central functions, especially in finance, Special Schools, Dominion policy, scholarships, some research function and especially some coordinating function in the interest of the students who move from centre to centre, will probably remain and require a central organisation in some form, possibly not very dissimilar from the present University of New Zealand.

While the finances of the University Colleges have risen sharply to meet their growing responsibilities, those of the central body have not risen commensurate with extra activities of Grants Committee and other bodies.

The biggest change in the University of New Zealand has come through the realisation that the old University, whose function was only examining and giving degrees, had changed completely with the 1926 Act which formed the University of four Constituent Colleges together with the Schools of Agriculture.

It is probable that the implications of that Act will not have time to be fully worked out before the body of the University of New Zealand breaks up into its constituent parts to become four full individual universities if the people of New Zealand think that better scholarship would result.

As a step towards such full separation a new Curriculum Committee is being set up by the Senate with power to permit courses of study prepared by Professorial Boards of the Colleges and submitted by College Councils to be legalised even if they differ from courses at other centres. The central body in agreeing to such diversity would be charged with the duty of protecting students changing from one centre to another during their courses from undue hardship, and also to check the equivalence of scholarship between the different centres.

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Research. A great improvement in the amount of research work in the University as a whole has come about during the last five years. The research fund supplied by the Government and administered by the University Research Committee has increased to £15,000, and will probably increase considerably. This fund has permitted many teachers in the Colleges to engage in research in their chosen field by grants for special equipment, technical assistance and travel grants, and some £5,000 a year from the fund has been applied in fellowships to assist graduates with Honours to undertake research and higher studies for their doctorates.

Greatly increased grants have been made from the D.S.I.R. to University staff members doing research, more especially in the Agricultural Colleges, about £20,000 per annum being applied in this way.

Social Science Research. In 1953 a Vice-President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York visited all the University Colleges and considered suggestions by workers in Social Science for special grants to enable work to be accelerated in that field. On his return to New York, the Corporation offered a grant of $60,000 to be used over five years to finance research work in the Social Sciences on condition that it was administered by the University through a committee of workers in the field with the Vice-Chancellor as Chairman. That committee has now allocated the funds for the first year and research projects in Law, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology, History, Geography and other branches of Social Science are now being promoted vigorously throughout the University.

Conclusion. There have been then in the last five years considerable changes in the University in the enhanced activity of the Grants Committee in connection with the financing of the Constituent Colleges, the Special Schools, the Agricultural Colleges and University buildings. There have been very great increases in research activity with funds from many sources. There have been many more opportunities for higher study for graduates in New Zealand and abroad. The appointments of full-time Principals have given extra coherence and direction to the Colleges and there has been a rapid development of academic self-sufficiency in all centres.

There has also, I believe, been a greatly enhanced awareness in the community generally of what the University stands for in professional training and in scholarship. This is now, and will continue to be, reflected, I believe, in the much greater funds available in the University centres than there were six years ago for University education for young people in New Zealand and for advancing knowledge as part of the University's function.

Postscript. In the seventies of last century when the infant University was developing, a motto was chosen by the Senate on the motion of Hugh Carlton, the first Vice-Chancellor, and the Bishop of Christchurch. both classical scholars. The motto was "Sapere Aude", which by translation is "Dare to be wise". In our day and generation we share the responsibility with our colleagues in all the Colleges of interpreting that motto in the way which will best serve the highest ends of University scholarship for the whole of the Dominion, today and in the foreseeable future.

G. A. Currie