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Honorary doctorate for AUT luminary

Honorary doctorate for AUT luminary

The man credited with gaining university status for AUT University is being awarded an honorary doctorate from the same institution.

Dr John Hinchcliff, CNZM, will receive the accolade at the University’s graduation ceremony at the Auckland Town Hall 2.30pm tomorrow, Wednesday March 22.

It recognises Dr Hinchcliff’s outstanding contribution to transforming the Auckland Institute of Technology (AIT) academically, structurally and legally into an accessible university of national and international repute.

He says being awarded the doctorate is an unexpected honour.

Dr Hinchcliff, Auckland City Councillor for Tamaki/Maungakiekie, joined Auckland Technical Institute (ATI) in 1984 as principal and retired 20 years later as vice chancellor of New Zealand’s newest university, AUT.

During this time Dr Hinchcliff saw the institution change substantially in name, size and vision.

In 1984 he inherited a cash-strapped ATI at a time when tertiary education was becoming more vocationally-focused. Under his leadership students and staff numbers nearly doubled and Maori gained visibility with the establishment of the Faculty of Maori Development, Te Ara Poutama, and AUT’s campus marae. AUT’s ongoing commitment to international partnerships also began, with an agreement with Shanghai College of Light Industry in 1986.

Dr Hinchcliff says when he started as principal, ATI was under the control of the education authorities and could not award degrees.

“It wasn’t until the Education Amendment Act (1989) that AIT gained autonomy. It was hugely welcomed and meant we could confer degrees. Our students were on the same footing as others who gained degrees from other institutions.”

In 1999 an international panel determined that AIT met the criteria to become a university. The NZQA agreed and AIT was awarded university status at midnight on January 1 of the new millennium – significant timing, says Dr Hinchcliff.

He acknowledges AUT University’s continuing commitment to learning that is different to the traditional universities.

“We wanted student-centred, outcome-focussed, employment-orientated learning. We engaged a practical approach, balancing acquiring theory with practical application.”

To Dr Hinchcliff, the students were always the central motivation.

“In 20 years, my greatest highlight was getting the students an education that enabled them to find meaningful futures.”

Dr Hinchcliff received his PhD from Drew University, Madison, New Jersey (US) in 1969.

In 2003, he was appointed Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM).


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