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The Spike [or Victoria University College Review 1961]

A Ramble Through the Parry Report

page 23

A Ramble Through the Parry Report

In July1959 the Minister of Education asked three men (with thirteen qualifications between them) — simply known as Sir David Hughes Parry, Dean Andrew and Dr Harman — to 'indicate ways in which the university system should be organized to ensure that the long term pattern of development is in the best interests of the nation and . . . to inquire into such matters as:

1.The role of the university in the New Zealand community.
2.The number . . . for whom university education should be provided and the standard of [entrance] attainment . . . desirable.. .
3.The maintenance, extension, and co-ordination of university education and facilities.
4.Recruitment, staffing and conditions of employment . . .
5.The financial needs.. .
6.. . . Other matters relevant.'

In six months the gentlemen concerned had a 130-page report compiled from their investigations and the submissions of 138 bodies including the Facial Eczema Advisory Committee, university groups, religious groups, and the Wellington Deerstalkers' Association.

The committee decided there are five serious problems urgently requiring attention if the universities are to produce the number of graduates New Zealand needs. These — staffing, buildings, conditions of study, university government, and finance.

Their first chapter on The Role of the University in the New Zealand Community indicates that 'the imagination of the New Zealand public has not been sufficiently aroused to the unique importance of the universities for the continuance of [our] growth and development'.

The Universities and New Zealand's Economic Development (second chapter) states that many people — including those in the university — 'do not yet fully appreciate the contribution which the universities can and must make to the future economic development of the country through both research and the training of the very large number of highly educated and imaginative men and women who will be needed in the years ahead' . . . to help improve 'the efficiency, skill and enterprise of those connected with the production and marketing of exports' . . . to intensively 'campaign to disseminate to the farmers knowledge of new ideas and techniques and their application' and to make more efficient use of land to increase exports . . . to lead in industry, business management, and government . . . to teach . . . and so on.

Chapter III (The demand for, and supply of, University Graduates) shows how the demand exceeds supply especially in the post-primary teaching field. Here figures show that there will be a shortage of 1,005 teachers in 1961, 1980 in 1962, dropping to 125 in 1967. Figures also demonstrate that the number of graduates available for employment is substantially less than the number at present required for the post-primary teaching service alone'. Recently only 40 per cent of matriculated students have graduated. In 1959 one person in 175 was a university student; the ratio expected in 1972 is 1 to 100 or 110, when the student population is expected to have risen page 24 from 13,300 to at least 27,000. Even with such a high ratio, if the graduation rate continues to be 40 per cent the situation will improve but little.

Another factor, to prevent misconceptions about high ratios — Britain has only 1 in 500 studying at university although the US has more than 1 in 100 — is that New Zealand has a high proportion of part-time students. In 1959 46 per cent were part-time, in 1957 and 1958 48 per cent, 1956 50 per cent, 1950 54 per cent. Also the British figure excludes those at colleges of advanced technology.

The cause of high failure rates is next examined. The 'toughen-up-entrance qualifications', the 'abolish-accrediting', and the 'Upper-Sixth theories about causes are generally discarded in favour of the too-great-a-transition-from-school' and 'too few-staff-to-help' theories.

The wastage of part-time study is examined in Chapter V with the inclusion of the example of a student who took 26 years to complete a Commerce degree — the average being 8f years.

. . . the evil effects of the part-time system are, indeed, open and palpable. It lowers the standard of the degree, tends to degrade the university teacher into a pass-degree coach, and reduces corporate student life to an anaemic shadow . . .'— this was written 35 years ago (1925 Royal Commission on University Education). Financial reasons for part-time study are discounted 'in this prosperous community'. Blame is laid on custom and lack of awareness of the value of 'complete immersion in university life before commencing paid employment'.

Most vital to students is chapter VI: Scholarships, Bursaries and other Financial Assistance to Students. The present situation (1959) is stated — three out of five students receive some form of assistance. Bonded bursaries and the anomaly of Junior and National Scholarhsips being smaller than post-primary bonded studentships are deplored. The report recommends:

1.The elimination of P.P.T. Studentships.
2.The increase of Junior Scholarships from 10 to 20 in number and £100 to £125.
3.The increase of National Scholarships from 35 to 50 in number and £80 to £100.
4.The increase of Higher School Certificate Bursary from £40 to £50.
5.The full payment of fees for full-time students with University Entrance qualifications. Boarding allowance for those mentioned in paragraphs 2, 3, 4, and in special cases 5, and in all cases 5 after passing three units in one year (B.A. or B.Sc. only).
6.That the above be tenable for the minimum period in which a good full-time student could finish a Bachelor's degree.
7.The encouragement of post-graduate study by
(a)Senior scholarships £200 p.a. available to a greater number of full-time Masters students.
(b)£125 for full-time Masters students with second class or better standards in final year of Bachelors' course.
8.£100 boarding allowance for all eligible.
9.Increased provision for research.
10.Establishment of loan funds for students.
11.Periodic reviewal of the system.
page 25

If the recommended system had been in operation in 1959 (and the bonding of students had been eliminated) it is estimated that the total cost to the Government and Universities would have been somewhat less than that of the scheme in operation.

The next two chapters deal with problems of under-staffing and recommend increased salaries. The problem of lack of buildings and equipment is next examined and reveals that the Universities are about five years behind schedule in their building programme. Victoria has fared best and the only recommendations are the extension of the Biology Building and the provision of a hall of residence (as for each university).

Science and Technology recommends the expansion of Science departments and the inclusion of more applied sciences and technological subjects. Crippling to research, so vital for New Zealand's progress, is the lack of time available to teachers now overloaded with teaching duties.

The next chapter suggests that professorial boards undertake studies of their objectives and programmes. Included is a review of the standard of accomplishment the Bachelors' degrees are intended to represent, and a review of the time necessary to complete a degree.

Some interesting comments are made about the new university institutions at Palmerston North and Hamilton. 'While we sympathize . . . we doubt whether enough exploration and discussion of alternative solutions to the problems was undertaken . . . we recommend that the Palmerston North development be moved onto the Massey campus and incorporated into Massey College under the aegis of Victoria University.'

The final chapters concern University administration, the change-over from four colleges of one university to four autonomous Universities, and the mode of finance.

A suggestion of the Association of University Teachers of New Zealand is that fees should be increased sharply as they are only one-quarter to one-third of those prevailing elsewhere. This they said would have 'a salutary and much needed effect on the attitude of students to their study'. Sympathizing with such objectives, Sir David Hughes Parry's committee decided otherwise.

In conclusion the report states: 'We trust that this report will serve to persuade the community that the universities, if properly staffed and equipped, have a vital part to play in the economic, social and cultural development of the country and that it will assist the universities in organizing themselves to meet the exciting challenges of serving this growing community in the years ahead.'

The over-all impression left by the report is that all is far from well in our universities. Many of the recommendations have been carried out. The New Zealand University Students' Association is at present investigating reasons for part-time study in order to present, if possible, on behalf of students, a case for the necessity of part-time study in many instances. This, to prevent the implementation of the report's recommendation that part-time bursaries be abolished. All else in the report has met with official student approval at Nzusa council.

Diana Picton