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NZVCC News Bulletin



NZVCC News Bulletin    Vol. 7  No. 22       4 December 2007



Lead item …


Open entry – an ideal


Some protagonists in the current debate over limiting access to university courses are using the term open entry to describe the status quo.  The concept of open entry to universities is linked to the ideals of equal opportunity stated by Peter Fraser, Minister of Education, in 1939.  It was an objective for education at all levels, including university education.  The reality of the concept depended then, as it does now, on whether governments can meet the demand for university education.  In fact, access to specific courses, in particular expensive courses which lead on to professional careers, such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science, has been restricted, as has access to an increasing number of courses at most universities.  Limitations on entry to a wide range of courses beyond first year have been standard in most universities for many years with entry generally based on previous academic performance.  It is in this context, and the introduced of the current Government’s policy of three-year investment plans, that claims about threats to “open entry” need to be viewed.

Students numbers in universities were last capped as recently as 1998 with universities carrying large numbers of unfunded students and receiving declining funding per student in real terms.  An unintended consequence of the demand-driven system introduced at that time was the proliferation of sub-degree courses of dubious quality and little strategic relevance.  With quality and relevance foremost in the current reforms, Government is now grafting a capped system on to the back of demand-driven system, based on 2006 student numbers.  Unanticipated growth at some universities this year has highlighted the difficulties of such an approach.

Yesterday, the University of Auckland senate recommended to the university council a detailed proposal to manage student numbers from 2009.  In a media statement, the university said the proposed policy was a precautionary measure and was necessary because of the new government policy of funding agreed numbers rather than unrestricted growth.  From 2009, the university would have to manage admission to meet agreed numbers in the faculties of arts, education and science, in first-year law, and in the school of theology where entry was still unrestricted and would remain so for 2008.  Adjusting to the Government’s new funding regime was expected to have little effect on numbers admitted to those faculties.

Interviewed on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report today, University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said the institution would have to carry 200 unfunded students in 2008 at a cost of around $2 million in resources.  He understood another university would have around 700 unfunded students next year at a potential cost of about $7 million, or about 70 academic and general staff positions. The risk from the uncertainty around student numbers was not having sufficient resources to teach and support them on a proper basis.

Universities’ position on mining degree misrepresented

The NZVCC has moved to clarify its position over a proposed mining industry degree based on unit standards.  Responding to an Industry Training Federation statement that universities were out of touch on industry degrees, the Committee’s Executive Director Lindsay Taiaroa pointed out that the issue was not about the mining industry or industrial qualifications, rather the integrity of degree standards in this country.  The  NZ Qualifications Authority now had to decide whether it was prepared to register degrees on the National Qualifications Framework which neither met the statutory requirements for a bachelor’s degree nor had a provider with accreditation and approval to deliver them. “The issues are complex as NZQA realizes and at this stage the universities, along with other interested bodies, are being consulted on their views.”  The university system remained responsive to industry needs and a wide range of current university degrees were relevant to industrial employers.  For many years the University of Otago and later the University of Auckland offered degrees in mining which were eventually discarded because of lack of student demand and employer interest.  Mr Taiaroa  said no other tertiary education provider had been allowed to offer a publicly-funded degree based on unit standards so it was difficult to see why an industry training organisation should be exempted.

Claude McCarthy Fellowships for 2008 announced

The Public Trust has announced that 17 Claude McCarthy Fellowships have been awarded for 2008, worth a total of $76,400.  Administered by the NZVCC, the fellowship scheme is funded from a bequest by the late Claude McCarthy to enable New Zealand graduates to “undertake original work or research in literature, science or medicine”.  The 2008 recipients will undertake a variety of research including new stop-smoking intervention treatments, divorce in New Zealand from 1898-1959, information seeking behaviours in Maori secondary school students, and the role of pine plantation invertebrates in native bird diet in New Zealand.  

Six of the 2008 Claude McCarthy Fellowships went to University of Otago students or staff (Kathleen Gavigan, Jennifer Germano, Sebastian Suggate, Daniel Thomas, Karen Tustin, Marni Yamaguchi),  four to Massey (Associate Professor Diane Brunton, Kathryn Hay, Spencer Lilley, Joanna Peace), three to Victoria (Hayley Brown, Marina Harvie, Shahzad Khan) and  two to the University of Auckland (Christopher Bullen, Annalisa Swan), while Canterbury  (Juliane Wilcke) and Lincoln (Shannon Davis) had one each.  The Claude McCarthy Fellowship is one of more than 400 charitable trusts managed by the Public Trust.

University staff recognised at science awards


The Rutherford Medal – the premier award at the recent science honours function in Dunedin – was presented to Professor Richard Faull FRSNZ of the University of Auckland for his groundbreaking work in understanding the human brain.  The Liley Medal, a Health Research Council award for research that has made an outstanding contribution to health and medical science, went to Professor Innes Asher – also from the University of Auckland – for her work on the role of environmental factors in asthma and allergies.  Biocatalyst’s Dr John Kernohan took the Thomson Medal for outstanding and inspirational leadership in the management of science.  Under his management UniServices, the commercial arm of Auckland University, had grown to a point where it accounted for about 10% of that institution’s total revenue. 


Dr Bryan Walpert of Massey University won the Royal Society of NZ Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing (fiction).  The NZ Association of Scientists Research Medal for outstanding research by a young scientist went to Dr Kathryn McGrath of Victoria University while the McKenzie Award for educational research was awarded to the late Professor Roy Nash of Massey University.  Andrew Brodie and Eric Ainscough, also from Massey, won the Institute of Chemistry’s Academic Research Prize.  Waikato University’s Professor Ernie Kalnins FRSNZ took the Mathematical Society Research Award for excellence in mathematical research.  The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee’s Three Rs Award for excellence in the humane use of animals in research, teaching and testing went to Canterbury University’s Professor Rob Hughes with Otago University’s Associate Professor Kevin Gould winning the Roger Slack Award for an outstanding contribution to the study of plant biology.




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