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The Spike [: or, Victoria University College Review 1957]


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"A University is a corporation or society which devotes itself to a search after knowledge for the sake of its intrinsic value."

Bruce Truscott"—Red Brick University

During the coming session of Parliament, legislation will be enacted which will change the name of Victoria University College to "The Victoria University of Wellington." The change of title, even though it will not directly bring any new powers or functions, is a significant one. It implies a growing-up, a recognition that, poorly equipped with buildings and amenities though she is, the College possesses the qualities and ideals which entitle her to take her place among the Universities of the world.

But to many people, including a large number of the students at "Vic.," there will be no significance whatsoever in the new title, simply because they lack understanding of what is implied by the word "university." We have all heard the appellation "glorified night school" used to describe Victoria, and this phrase accurately describes what the College has meant to thousands of part-timers (though not all), who have panted up the hill at five o'clock in the evening and rushed down it again an hour or so later. To many full-timers as well, Victoria has been merely a school"—a little different perhaps from the schools they have left, because attendance at the class room has been more or less optional and life has pleasantly drifted by in the warm, smoky atmosphere of the Caf and the Common Rooms, but still basically a school where exams must be sat at the end of the year.

There is a danger that the new University will turn into a superior secondary school if such an attitude becomes dominant. It is not easy for the small group of people who impart the university character to Victoria to maintain their ideals in an intellectual climate which is not so much hostile to them as apathetic. Yet it is essential that these people keep their faith and strive even more vigorously to inspire their fellows with the love of research and the desire for that liberal education, which, in the words of Newman, forms a habit of mind lasting through life, "of which the attributes are freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation and wisdom." It is to these people and these ideals that this issue of The Spike is dedicated.


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The Reform of the University of New Zealand

At Its 1956 Meeting the Senate of the University of New Zealand resolved to promote legislation with the object of changing the titles of the constituent Colleges from "University College" to "University" in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Otago, since its foundation, has been The University of Otago. This year's Parliamentary session should see the passage of the legislation, with the resulting disappearance of Victoria University College and the emergence of The Victoria University of Wellington. But at the same time Senate resolved that the change of title should not of itself involve any changes in the powers and functions of the existing university institutions.

What then is the purpose of the change of name? In the first place it is the recognition of the fact that the Constituent Colleges have attained full University status. In the second, it represents a further step in the devolution, by the University of New Zealand, of its powers upon the Colleges themselves. It marks the fact that the reform of the University of New Zealand is, in academic matters, to all intents accomplished.

The University of New Zealand was originally established as an examining University, with a charter which empowered it to grant degrees as an inducement to those who wanted to study in the Colony. The University of Otago, already established, became affiliated to this institution, and the University Colleges, as they were founded, became affiliated in their turn. In the early days the system was adequate for its purpose, but as the Colleges grew so did their dissatisfaction with a system of control, in academic matters, imposed on them from above. This dissatisfaction led to a Royal Commission in 1925, and consequent legislation in 1926 which was intended to create a single unified University of New Zealand, of which the Colleges were an integral part, Constituent Colleges, and not merely affiliated institutions. The Colleges were at the same time granted considerable powers. Professorial Boards could, through the Academic Board, make recommendations on any matter affecting the University, and in particular could specify courses of study and the subject matter and content of examinations. The Academic Board could, in the first instance, only recommend to the Senate, but the latter body had the right to delegate certain of its powers relating to academic matters.

Over the years there has been a sedate and gradual delegation of these powers, and, since 1954, the process has been carried still further. By regulations approved in 1955 Senate has delegated to College Councils its powers to prescribe courses of study; and to the recently established Curriculum Committee its powers to approve such courses. The Curriculum Committee itself is composed mainly of representatives of the Colleges.

In fact, then, the Colleges are free to draw up their own courses, conduct their own examinations, carry on their own teaching and promote their own research. These are the functions of a University, and with Senate's act of abdication page 3 in 1955 the Colleges have become autonomous institutions. Hence the change of title.

But the four separate universities will still have their existence within the framework of the University of New Zealand. Although the administrative machinery has undergone steady modification through the years, and although the role of the University of New Zealand has changed from a controlling to a co-ordinating one, it has been for a long time clear that students, graduates and staff have owed no allegiance to the central body. The Colleges have never become members of the corporate body that was envisaged by the 1926 legislation, but have continued to emphasis their independent existence.

With this in mind Senate is investigating further the twin questions of the continued devolution of powers to the Colleges and the nature of central or co-ordinating bodies that will carry on some of the important functions that are at present the concern of the University of New Zealand. Present thinking is in the direction of a federation of universities, each a separate, autonomous, degree-granting institution. Experience both in New Zealand and overseas has shown that there are certain activities which can be performed more effectively by a central body on behalf of the Colleges than by the Colleges themselves, and that there is need for some form of co-ordination of the activities of the Colleges in order to maintain standards and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. Some such central body will be needed, for instance, to discover the financial needs of the entire University system and to advise the Government of these needs. This is the task of the present University Grants Committee, and is clearly one which is better carried out by a single body. Similarly the University has a responsibility to maintain a supply of people trained in a number of professional fields. The siting and development of special schools is a matter that affects the country as a whole, and can best be determined within a broad framework of academic policy, which in is turn can only be decided by the combined universities.

These and other considerations will influence the future development from the University of New Zealand to the Central Council of a Federation of Universities. Such a development must come gradually and the final form must be the outcome of experience gained by both the Colleges and the University. While analogies can be drawn with systems of university administration and control in other parts of the world, the system that will finally emerge will be New Zealand's own, based on the particular needs of our universities and of the country itself.

In the twenties the reform of the University of New Zealand was a burning issue and the source of much bitter conflict between the Colleges and the central body. Thirty years later there is co-operation and a logical and steady progress towards complete local autonomy. In the foreseeable future the University of New Zealand will have been reformed out of existence, but it is from this body that there will emerge the new organisation, more suited to the needs of the Universities and of the country.

S. G. C Ulliford

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Accommodation and Population

The Recent Government announcement as to the Student Union Building and the visible progress of the Science Building make the present time opportune for a survey of what has so far been accomplished in the expansion and development of the College site and buildings, and what is proposed for the future.

The Site

The nucleus of the College site is what has been described as "six vertical acres." These six acres (actually 6 acres, 1 rood, 35 perches) were acquired in 1902 after protracted and complicated negotiations with the City Council, the Wellington College Governors, the hospital trustees and the Government, and they constitute the northern portion of the present main site. It is on these original six acres that the College's permanent teaching and administrative buildings have so far been placed.

Shortly after World War II the whole question of the College site was examined very fully by the College Council. It was apparent that the original six acres would be much too restricted for the future needs of the College. Negotiations were entered into with the Government and the City Council and as a result thirteen acres to the immediate south of the six acres were in 1949 vested in the College. A considerable part of these thirteen acres possessed the quality of vertically in even greater degree than the original six acres. Fortunately between 1902 and 1949 there had been a marked improvement in earthmoving devices and that improvement has continued.

Since 1949 several small areas have been acquired. In 1951 the land and house at 20 Kelburn Parade was purchased with the aid of a Government grant. In 1955 two small areas of land, which adjoined the Catholic cemetery and which had been occupied by the College for nearly fifty years without formal title, were by Act of Parliament vested in the College. 48 Kelburn Parade was, in 1956, acquired by the Government for the College. In the same year arrangements were made with the City Council whereby the area of city land on which the Geology and Geography huts are situated will be made available to the College for tennis courts when the huts are removed.

Existing Completed Buildings

The present buildings (excluding the Science Building and the Te Aro Gymnasium, which are still under construction) comprise the main Arts, Science and Library Building, the Biology Building, the Administration Building, the Little Theatre Building, two steel huts on Kelburn Parade, a small wooden hut on Kelburn Parade, six steel huts (the Geography and Geology huts) on city land near Kelburn Park, the old Gymnasium, houses at 20 and 48 Kelburn Parade, and the caretaker's cottage.

The main Arts, Science and Library Building was started a little before 1906 and built in stages, the final stage being completed in 1923. In 1924 it was housed about thirty-three members of full-time staff. In 1955 the corresponding number page 5 was seventy-six. The building contains 75,231 sq. ft. of space (outside measurements).

The Biology Building consists of three floors. The ground and first floors were built in 1938-39. They contain laboratories, classrooms, museums, staff rooms and the incidental offices of the Departments of Zoology and Botany and also part of the Royal Society's Library. The third floor was built in 1953-54. It contains staff rooms for Arts staff and one member of the Zoology Department, classrooms, a stack-room for the Royal Society's Library, and incidental offices. The total space in this building is 29,760 sq. ft. Only a small part of the space on the third floor of this building is a net addition to the College accommodation. The greater part of this floor was merely a replacement of the space of five temporary huts which were demolished to make way for the Science Building, together with a relocating of certain activities which could no longer be carried on in the two remaining huts, because of the unavoidable noise and disturbance caused by building operations on the Science Building.

The Administration Building was built in 1937-39. It contains two floors, each of about 2289 sq. ft., and a mansard-roofed floor of about 1200 sq. ft., which was originally used as a caretaker's flat. This floor was taken over for administrative staff in 1951. The staff housed in the two lower floors (4578 sq. ft.) in 1939 was nine. The staff housed in the whole building (5778 sq. ft.) in 1955 was twenty-two.

The Little Theatre is a one-floor temporary building of wood. It was built shortly after the war to assist the College and the Training College to meet the post-war enrolment of returned servicemen. It continues to be shared between the College and the Training College. It originally contained a small hall, four class rooms, five staff rooms and incidental offices. One of the class rooms has since been divided into five staff rooms and three staff rooms have been cut off another class room. The building contains 8700 sq. ft.

The two steel huts on Kelburn Parade, and the six on city land near Kelburn Park which house the Geography and Geology Departments, are buildings of the most unsatisfactory and temporary sort. They were surplus U.S. Army equipment and were erected very shortly after the war. They have virtually reached the end of their useful life. Each is about 1,000 sq. ft. in area.

The old Gymnasium is a wooden building opened in 1909.

The other buildings are the small wooden (ex-army) hut on Kelburn Parade whose 812 sq. ft. contains three staff rooms and a store; the house at 20 Kelburn Parade (2500 sq. ft.), which contains a caretaker's flat on the ground floor and five staff studies on the top floor; the house at 48 Kelburn Parade (less than 2000 sq. ft.), where there are five staff studies on the top floor, the ground floor being used by the Training College; and the caretaker's cottage (1200 sq. ft.), situated to the east of the Biology Building.

Buildings and Other Works Under Construction

The buildings and works at present under construction comprise the Science Building and the Te Aro ground, showers, changing rooms and Rugby Gymnasium.

The Science Building comprises a basement, with windows on the west and north sides, and six floors. The total area is 89,000 sq. ft. The ground, first and page 6 second floors are for chemistry, one floor is for geology and one for geography. The greater part of the top floor will be available for general purposes. Included in this building is a large lecture theatre, to hold nearly 300 people, which is being built as a wing on the east side of the main structure of the building.

The Te Aro development consists of the enlargement of the playing field (which involved moving 33,500 cubic yards of earth), sowing the field in grass, and the erection of a block containing changing rooms for men and women, showers, lavatories and a social room; a Rugby gymnasium; suitable fencing on the south and east sides of the ground; and the cutting and re-opening of a track to facilitate access from the northern part of the College site. Substantial progress has been made with these works which it is hoped will be completed in the course of this year.

The Government has made a grant of £3,500 towards the cost of the Te Aro development; the Rugby Football Club has raised more than £7,000; the College Council and the Students' Association have assisted; and a loan towards the cost of the gymnasium has been raised by the football club from the Wellington Rugby Union.

Accommodation Position on Completion of Science Building

Certain portions of the Science Building are expected to be handed over to the College in time to be used at the beginning of the 1958 session; the balance will be handed over some time in that year. The 1959 session, therefore, will be the first for the whole of which the entire building will be fully in use.

The effect of the building in helping the College to meet present overcrowding will be very much smaller than one might at first sight have thought. Much of the accommodation can be used for those departments only for which it is specifically designed. Thus a chemistry laboratory, when not in use for chemistry classes, is of no use for the general arts classes. This applies to nearly all of the basement, the three chemistry floors, and much of the geology and geography accommodation. These parts of the building contain reasonable provision for the expansion of student numbers in these departments; but this will not help the general college outside of these departments.

Furthermore, some part of the space in the Science Building is merely in replacement of space which is now at the end of its useful life and which will not be available for other purposes after the Science Building is completed.

The estimation of the precise net gain produced by the Science Building for the general purposes of the college, exclusive of the departments of Chemistry, Geology and Geography, involves some elements which cannot easily be quantified. but I am satisfied that it is not understating the position to put this gain at somewhat less than one-third of the gross space of the building, i.e., somewhat less than 30,000 sq. ft. Perhaps 28.000 sq. ft. may be taken as a reasonably approximate figure.

At present the College departments, other than those being specially provided for in the Science Building, occupy approximately 110,800 sq. ft., which is used most intensively. Some measure of this intensity of use is afforded by a comparison page 7 between figures which were taken out in 1955 in relation to the accommodation for all departments as it was in 1939 and 1955. These figures were as follows:

Graph showing changes in university accommodation from 1939 to 1955

The accommodation in this present year is something under 1,000 sq. ft. (top floor of 48 Kelburn Parade) greater than in 1955. The student role will almost certainly stabilise at 2,450 and the number of staff has appreciably increased since 1955.

Some Factors Affecting Accommodation Needs to 1965

Expected future enrolments for the years from 1958 to 1965, taken from a table prepared in 1955 by the Education Department, are as follows:

Graph showing expected future enrolments and from 1958 to 1965

On the assumption that the present theoretical staff-student ratio continues to be accepted, these figures mean that by the 1965 session (which is now less than eight years away) the full-time academic staff on the Arts and General side of the College (i.e., including the two special schools) will have increased from 88 in 1955 to 210 (i.e., an increase of 138 per cent.). Clearly also administrative, technical, library, clerical and maintenance services will need to be very much expanded.

The foregoing table and figures highlight the need for further arts and library accommodation. An increase in library accommodation is especially urgent. There are 180 seats in the library. Whatever may be the proper proportion of seats to student enrolment it is clear that 180 seats to nearly 2500 students is fantastically too low. Moreover, it takes several years to design and build a major building. In the meantime the position becomes increasingly serious as each year goes by. In no more than two and a half years (i.e., at the beginning of the 1960 session) there will be nearly 3,000 students to share our 180 library seats. The lack of library accommodation could well be a factor in compelling the College to limit enrolments on the Arts side.

Projected Buildings

There are two projected buildings, the Student Union Building for which Government approval has now been obtained, and an Arts and Library Building in respect of which an approach was first made to the Government towards the end of page 8 1955. The proposal for this building was supported "wholeheartedly" by the University Grants Committee, which requested that the Government should provide finance for sketch plans. No decision on this request has yet been announced by the Government.

The Student Union Building is to be built on the old gymnasium site and part of the tennis courts. It will be of about 43,000 sq. ft. and will contain the facilities usual in such a building, namely, a cafeteria, common rooms, little theatre, games room, gymnasium, committee rooms, and Students' Association offices. It is hoped that work on this building will start before the end of this year.

The proposed Arts and Library Building is to contain principally the College Library and staff and class rooms for non-science departments. It is envisaged that it should be a building of a size comparable with the Science Building. It is to be situated near the present Little Theatre.

Longer Range Developments

It seems likely that further building developments after the Arts and Library Building is completed will take place in the vicinity of the area now occupied by the Kelburn Bowling Club. The club has a lease for this area for a term expiring in 1969. It is proposed at some time in the future to reduce the level at this part of the grounds to approximately that of Kelburn Parade just south of the bus shelter. With modern earthmoving machinery this should not be a difficult operation, and space would thereby be produced for further buildings.

J. Williams

Sketch of two people working at desk with bookcase in back ground