Universities under pressure to keep wages low

The Tertiary Education Union reports today that some universities are under great pressure to keep the wages and salaries of university staff as low as possible.

The government’s document Expectations for Pay and Employment Conditions in the State Sector seems to be placing pressure on many tertiary-education institutions to depress wages rather than face explaining higher wage bills to the state services commissioner. The document, which covers all employment negotiations in the state sector, calls for fiscally sustainable outcomes and the avoidance of flow-on implications across the public sector.

There is some ambiguity about the extent to which tertiary-education institutions, which have traditionally stood at arm’s length from the rest of the state sector, are affected by the expectations. Nevertheless, the Tertiary Education Union’s national secretary, Sharn Riggs, says there is increasing anecdotal evidence of concern among tertiary-education workers that institutions may adjust their negotiating position because of the requirement to consult with the commission.

Students of course will still have to pay considerable amounts for thier education and universities will be under even greater pressure to breach the 5% fee maxima cap over the coming years. Meanwhile the government is looking to further reduce its contribution to what is undoubtably a public good, as well as private benefit.

Among the expectations placed upon the state sector are a requirement to consult the commission before implementing conditions that will result in increased costs of employment; another to try to target any recruitment and retention issues that arise without fuelling wage inflation and with regard to potential flow-on implications; and an instruction to avoid backdating terms of settlement.
If an agency wishes to pursue a course of action which could be seen to be at odds with these expectations, it may need approval from its governing ministers of state services and finance. Ms Riggs says that it is important the CEOs and vice-chancellors continue to bargain in good faith with their employees, despite the restrictions placed on them by the government’s expectations.

University staff have already gone through some very difficult times over the last few years, with staff being lost as courses are cut to maximise the profit incentive. Those cuts have resulted in core humanities, politics and other courses being cut or severely restricted with the focus shifted to business and computing. Universities risk losing some of thier core functions in research and as leaders in critical analysis.

“Tertiary education is one area where business is up rather than down. Our members are doing more work and accommodating more students. They won’t look favourably on employment negotiations that roll back pay or conditions because of the economic environment,” Ms Riggs said. “Lower wages will not solve our economic crisis, the solution will come from more skills training and education, which our members can provide and for which they should be fairly rewarded.”

So right at the time when teritary education will be a key means of managing unemployment, so as to keep building the capability and expertise of people as jobs become scarce, univeristies will be under even greater pressure to cuts costs and ultimately staff to save money.

National is pursuing its plan to cut government spending but in those areas we most need certainty and consistency inorder to ride out the recession.

49 thoughts on “Universities under pressure to keep wages low

  1. Strings,
    Yes, the micro needs substantially more work, its mearly an idea ive been toying with over the last few days, that was the first time i had written it down :P .

    Yes, the 12,000 was mearly an example, how much it would need to be would depend on the subsidy rate of courses in general. My reasoning for the different lengths was that since the full time military are full time the length should be decreased to incentivise over the territorial option, the main purpose, as with most bonding schemes, being to get them established and glued into the feild :P I imagine the full time would mostly be taken up by those seeking officer training.
    My reasoning for the civilian bonding being longer is that the other two options require substantial time investment and have the risk of going to war, though it be small.

    Admittedly I got the idea mostly off the swedish and german systems of conscription (having had many nordic flatmates whom have served in their armies). I frame it in this fashion though as I do not beleive that compulsary military service is politically plyable. However I agree there would be some benefits. The main purpose of the territorials under the bondign schemme would be a ready supply of disastor releif as well as a mechanism of allowing education to be easily accesed regardless of financial background but still with associated costs.

    If I didint make this clear, I apply this to vocational, university and ‘technology’. If an individual finds themselves still unable to pursue such after the trainign the chances are that they still would have benefited. Although I beleive that after the training most would be able to pursue such education as many of the skills that allow one to excel in teritary e.g. dedication, self control, endurance, etc are an important part of military training.

    And of course for U.E different levels would suit different levels of study, eg if acheive is one point, merit is 2, and exalance is 3 then you may require different total scores for different institutions. But that is also what the one semester entry thing is all about; with a universal allowance too, to even outthe playing feild alittle.

  2. Sapient
    An interesting set of concepts, which I agree with in macro and would tinker with in micro.

    For instance, assign a value to a year of participation in the TA, (say for a starting point, $15,000) and reduce the loan by that amount, as well as the year’s interest, for a calendar year of full participation.

    Do the same with the regular army bonding, though because the ‘soldier’ (or sailor or ‘flier’) is paid a “normal” wage, halve the credit (i.e. in this case from $15k to $7.5k plus interest).

    I have a more aggressive approach than you to entry qualification. Though I would accept your approach for a new NCEA standard for entry to Tertiary Education, I think you are being too restrictive in making it a U.E. standard, as there other levels might be more appropriate for Polytechnics and kiore1’s concept of a “School of Technology” (my term) to sit alongside medical, dentistry, law and accounting schools (clearly not at the same Masters and Doctorate post-grad level). If a secondary education graduate does not achieve the standard for entry to their tertiary education of choice I would suggest they be given an extra year of secondary education, at their cost and subject to the same bonding as tertiary study, in which to achieve the necessary standards. If they do not do so, they go get a job suitable for their ability.

    With regard to an initial full-time and payed year of basic military training being required prior to commencement of study – something tells me that the ones who do not qualify for tertiary study are the ones who would most benefit from this, and it’s possible that the country might benefit from such ‘national service’ quite substantially too. I would therefore make this MANDATORY as a learning experience for all who leave secondary education without having a guaranteed place in tertiary education, and make the first (additional to current requirement) year of tertiary study a ‘general’ year that includes 2 days a week in a ‘national service’ format but also develops self-learning, writing, researching and time management skills in students so their formal qualification work is more productive and graduation standards can be raised to equal the top decile of the OECD standards – which I have a VERY STRONG gut feel we do not do now.

    Your thoughts ladies & gents?

  3. And of course bonding schemes shouldint be in years but in the proportion of fees a standard individual would incur.
    Eg if your course a standard course costs 30,000 per year and it was a 2.5 time length return including years during study, then it would be 12000 per year paid off. however if your course cost more then it would take longer to pay off at that rate and if it cost less it woudl take shorter. In this way we could change the levels of subsidiy for courses we want to produce more or less graduates in. :P

  4. Should a bonded individual choose to leave the territorials they will hav to pay the portion of fees remaining given the time served

    Oh and for that I did not mean up front, i ment as a normal student loan.
    Additionally, beign territorials they wouldint be sent off to timor, etc unless they desired or consented to such, though we would need a way to stop them from all leaving if it look like a war was on the horizon :P

  5. Well, for the sake of debate how about I say this:
    Reduce the level of subsidisation of teritary education.
    Reduce the Military Bonding scheme from twice length of study plus two years to one point five times length of study plus two years. Fractional pay rate to represent costs incurred.
    Create a new Military bonding scheme with a length twice that of study plus two years. The bonded act as territorials and are given basic training and a heavy emphasis on civil defence and disaster releif. The bonded are required to maintain minimum fitness levels and to attend a paid training review once or twice a year. Should a bonded individual choose to leave the territorials they will hav to pay the portion of fees remaining given the time served. time may be reduced by paying off fees. Should an individual fail to meet fitness requirements for reasons other that new physical disability then individual will be discharged until such point as physical standards are met, should standards not be regained within two years the remainign cost of study will be born by the bonded. There will be no pay for territorials whilst bonded save the reviews and initial training. Following ceasation of bonding the territorials may continue to serve and receive full territorial pay should the higher physical standards be met.
    In both military bonding schemes an initial full-time and payed year of basic training shall be required prior to commencement of study.
    Introduce a civilian bonding scheme equal to two point five times length of study conditional on working in new zealand and at a pay rate above the lower quartile for a given profession. Again, time may be shortened by paying back part of the loan.
    Not living in new zealand for a period greater than two years will result in the remaining loan being charged to the individual, with interest, where living within new zealand is defined as residing here for more than six months of a year.

    Increase U.E. standards and modify the NCEA system so that a merit is worth more than a acheivement, so instead of needing so many marks in different subjects in different years you need a average mark of say merit for entry in to university.
    Since most disadvantaged students will merge with non-disadvantaged students after a short period of study those whom do not acheive the new U.E. standard will be required to fulfil a one semester comprehensive course in basic matters fo the desired feild of study (like those without U.E. in desired feilds are required to in many uni’s anyway) and acheive a mark of atleast B or above the mean for entry to that course of study.

    Make a C mark satisfactory for using a paper for a prerequisate but a B mark sufficent for crediting a paper towards ones degree.

    Thats all that comes to mind for now :P

    Kiore,
    Whilst I agree with you, most engeeners I have had the pleasure of interacting with show much more understanding and knowledge of physics, etc than those whom specialise in the degrees. Though Clinical Psychology certainly belongs in that third teir rather than at university.

  6. Sapient, kjuv & kiore1, thank you – it’s nice to have it confirmed that there are things we can agree on.

    Personally, I would be very saddened if it were true that discussion on this subject faded away on the Frog-blog. It is, at least, a place where there are people with direct experience of the topic and whose contribution to the debate on where to from here adds significant value.

    I believe a complete overhaul of the tertiary education system, a transformation (caterpillar to butterfly) rather than extension (tadpole to frog) is needed if New Zealand is to have the minds and skills to contribute to meeting the challenges humanity faces in its dealings with its environment. At some time, the Green Party must take on a general policy area that is not going to generate heated ideological debate, and that can contribute quickly to a better overall New Zealand; perhaps this is such a policy area.

  7. Strings:

    Just a ‘thank you’ for such an informative and thoughtful outline of the status (actual or desired) of tertiary education. There is no disagreement on my part. The sad fact is that we seem to be moving away from the treasured ideal of encouraging the most talented in society to freely and deeply reflect on the various aspects of the apparent chaos that is the modern society.

  8. Strings

    A thoughtful analysis of tertiary education and one I cannot find much to disagree with on. I do however think you could add another category, the university of technology. This would teach subjects that require both a theoretical and practical component, are largely vocational, but do require a reasonable level of academic achievement. Engineering would come in here.

  9. Strings,
    As much as I would love to debate this I dont really see any points there that I disagree with strongly enough to bother debating them. Besides, I think this thread is more or less dead.
    There are afew ideas I would like to table but they are not yet sufficently formulated to do so.

  10. AS Plato is credited with saying – too many entrants to our advanced studies structure do not have the basic skill of writing cohesive, well structured and punctuated prose.

    However, the main arguments developing here seem to me to be threefold, i.e.
    1. What is the role of a university in today’s society?
    2. What is the role of a polytechnic (or Institute of Technology as some of them like to be called these days,) in today’s society?
    3. WHO should be entitled to free (or heavily subsidised education) at either.

    I will suggest answers but expect them to be debated enthusiastically.

    1. Universities.

    A University has traditionally been a place where the sum of human knowledge is extended, explored and transmitted to others on scales that make sense to those with funds to subsidise those activities. I see no reason why any aspect of this tradition falls down in today’s society, and would encourage its pursuit full on. The real question for today is really around who has the funds to subsidise the activities.

    A visit to some old Universities, (lets take Cambridge and – to stay geographically consistent – Harvard,) will show that there are demonstrated academic achievement constraints on entry to both. However, where there are financial constraints on otherwise acceptable applicants, these constraints can be, and are, easily removed.

    Harvard has exceptionally high SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) requirements, and so limits its intake to academically exceptional students; except, when an applicant is the child of an alumni with significant donor behaviour, in which case the SAT requirement may be waved (informally of course). Harvard’s Alumni do not fund many “athletic” scholarships, but they do fund significant numbers of academic scholarships to make sure gifted but poor students can develop their intellects without financial hardship. This results in a university with an exceptionally strong academic reputation, as well as one that generates leaders in the fields it chooses to pursue through its research and teaching. These leaders may not be high earners – intellect is highly valued in Harvard and Egyptology (at Masters and Doctorate level study) is as valued as Medicine at the University – though not in the world of financial reward. Those who achieve high financial as well as intellectual reward are EXPECTED to contribute to the perpetuation of THEIR Alma Mata, and do so in vast numbers of dollars.

    The University of Cambridge also has high academic standards for entry, contending for the academic cream of the annual British academic crop with Oxford and limiting its intake to those with appropriate scores in the GCSE Advanced and Scholarship examinations. (Like Harvard, there are ways and means by which less academically gifted students may end up in a Cambridge College, establishing a “feast” fund, the interest income on which pays for a dinner for the entire college, including four courses and wines, in perpetuity, might just do it – but there is no guarantee – paying for a new chapel, total renovation of an existing edifice or even endowing a perpetual chair, are other explorable avenues for the parent of a less gifted but socially adequate student.) Just like Harvard, there are bursary funds available for exceptional students of meagre means and an infrastructure of support for them.

    The purpose of these universities existence, however, is not to generate jobs for academics and administrators, but to perpetuate a constant search for excellence and adventure in intellectual and academic advancement. New ZEaland Universities could do much worse than adopt this as their singular goal.

    2. Polytechnics/Institutes of Technology

    Multiple Technical Applications (Poly Technic s) – a wonderful concept that over the years has become lost in the desires of many to rule and/or govern an ever expanding domain. As far as I can ascertain, the original purpose of a polytechnical college was to bring together from the original trades-schools development and transfer of a theoretical understanding and underpinning, of the practical skills of trades-people (i.e. those who practiced a set of skills recognised and certified by the Companies and Guilds of the City of London). This role was expanded over the years to embrace ‘trades’ that have not formed city companies or guilds but which instead formed ‘colleges’ that governed their standards of practice, e.g. the Royal College of Nurses.

    In more recent times, Polytechnics in New Zealand have expanded into the realm of granting degrees, and some ‘colleges’ have extended their reach to the point of requiring a degree prior to being licenced by them to practice, as opposed to the more traditional ‘apprenticeship’ approach to learning. This has led to confusion between the role of University and Polytechnic, and even caused competition between them for students of the same subjects, a condition far from desirable in a society as small as ours. One almost catastrophic effect of this approach to qualification has been the number of people who study a subject academically, to gain the appropriate degree, and subsequently find that the practical application of that learning is, for whatever reason, repulsive to them and so find themselves looking for a career for which their tertiary learning provides no foundation. Again, nursing is a very simple example of this, where the academic study of how to treat acute constipation, projectile vomiting and bed-sores is very different to the experience of actually undertaking that treatment. Many is the nurse, male and female, who on their first experience of being the recipient of a substantial ejaculation of blood or vomit on their person decide to change careers immediately.

    The idea that a polytechnical college provides an underpinning of statutory and theoretical learning for those skills which are vital to our functioning as a society, in combination with on-the-job development of practical skills under the guidance of a mentor, is one that has significant value to New Zealand, and one that should be supported and subsidised by us for our own benefit. The idea that polytechnics should compete with universities for students of purely academic or intellect based subjects should be anathema to us.

    3. Funding
    Academic and intellectual excellence cannot be achieved in a circumstance which provides cash for a warm-body sitting in a lecture theatre or learning workshop/laboratory. The incentive is swayed from quality to quantity, and reduces rather than creates value. IN the same way, skilled artisans are not created from a purely academic base, they require development of practical skills in a real-world situation, which in turn requires an employer willing to teach and develop those skills.

    The subsidy-for-all to tertiary education results in unrealistic income expectations as well as a supply mis-match of required skills. We have young people with the practical skills and desire to become nurses, a career suffering from a significant shortage of followers, who do not believe they have the intellect or desire to undertake a three or four year course of study for a degree. There are many potential artisans of other ilk in the same situation. We also have people of low academic interest and achievement (those who do not attain the level of qualification formerly referred to as ‘bursary level’,) who take themselves to university at significant cash-cost to society through subsidies and loans; while they will thoroughly enjoy their tertiary-student life-style experience and many will scrape a passmark, they will not add to the true skill or capability base of the country through their course of study, yet will expect incomes and life-styles commensurate with that of any other ‘graduate’.

    Compare this with other, “less developed”, countries where tertiary education is viewed as a privilege to be earned, not a right to be taken up. Sri Lanka is an example of this, in that it is a country that despite significant financial challenge offers FREE university education to the intellectual cream of each year’s school graduates, and heavily (95%) subsidised education to trade/craft apprentices. They have a severely limited number of places in their universities, with the size of each course intake tightly controlled to reflect their national forecast of labour market demand, resulting in heavy rolls for pre-professional undergraduate studies (e.g. pre-medicine, pre-law, pre-accounting, etc.,) and smaller rolls for intellectual futured subjects (e.g. philosophy, art history, classics, etc.,). Perhaps the most important aspect of their approach to education of “professionals” (doctors, lawyers, architects, accountants, etc.,) is their view that such professional learnings must be done at Graduate Student, not undergraduate, level; akin to the philosophy of universities in The United States, The United Kingdom, Canada and, more recently, Melbourne University, thereby ensuring a full intellectual platform for these academic based professions. Certainly there can be no doubt that the competition for places in Sri Lankan, and other ‘developing country’ universities is intense, AND that their product is viewed as exceptionally valuable in other English speaking nations, such as our own. Indeed, it would be interesting to research the extent to which New Zealand benefits from the education system of Sri Lanka, especially as regards the import of their doctors to our health service.

    Only when we as a nation see the QUALITY of our tertiary education system graduates as the measure of its worth, and are prepared to once again fully subsidise, with appropriate skill retention strategies in place, the attainment of excellence in academic and formal trade(*) qualifications, will we see our tertiary system fulfill our society’s true and total need for leadership in the professions and trades.

    (* It must be noted that our current certification processes do not come close to being held in the esteem of the City & Guilds certification of the UK which is pursued by tens of thousands in non-UK commonwealth countries. Something which substantially depreciates the value of our societal investment in these courses of study.)

  11. >>I wrote an extensive reply to your comment last night, but it does not seem to ahve appeared

    Not to worry. I’m sure the opportunity will surface again in due course. After all, this debate has been going on at least since Plato. :)

  12. Kjuv,
    opps, I wrote an extensive reply to your comment last night, but it does not seem to ahve appeared; prehaps i pushed preview but not post :P .
    Im to lazy to write it again.

  13. And even the good teachers find it hard to give the kind of service they would like to in classes of 400 or more.

    Thought provoking post. The outsourcing-to-tutors model seems to work pretty well, and FWIW classes tend to get a hell of a lot smaller every year you progress.

  14. Sapient:

    Me thinks you want to ban the use of ‘intrinsic’ as many athiests would like to ban ”soul’ or ‘life after death’ :) . I am interested to know in what circumstances would you accept that ‘intrinsic value’ makes sense?

    Kiore1:
    Point taken. And your suggestion of ‘universities for post graduates (only)’ makes a lot of sense. I do feel that society should make a distinction between its polytechs and universities so that only a relatively small percentage end up at a university. Not really elitist per se, just a different function requiring far less takers.
    I guess a quality university should provide inspiration to its students whereas a school (and, to a lesser degree, vocational training facilities) should provide guidance to its pupils?

  15. >>When I was at university most of the teachers seemed to be a bunch of intellectual snobs who thought that students were an interruption to their work, not the purpose for it.

    Got that right! Almost all of mine were out-of-touch, conceited wa**ers. .

    There’s nothing wrong with vocational training. It’s just that it isn’t suited to universities.

  16. Kjuv,
    I do not disagree with your comment, only with your use of the word ‘intrinsic’. Education has no intrinsic value, it has value because through education people learn to learn and they obtain knowledge. The ablity to learn gains its value from the knowledge one obtains which in-turn has value because of its instrumental value and the satisfaction we feel in obtaining knowledge because evolution recognises such instrumental value; more often than not for people whom learn for the sake of learning it is because of that satisfaction rather than the immediate instrumental value that knowledge has value, it is not intrinsic.
    Once again, i feel that you know and understand all this just as well as I do, if not more, but that we differ on what we consider to be intrinsic. As to the value of education on the rounding of the individual and their use to society; certainly society makes gains as an individual learns to think and to utilise their knowledge, even if not dirrectly for the betterment of society, but i dont beleive that the idea of intrinsic value is strongly linked to such a notion, infact in your second paragraph you pretty much show why it is not intrinsic but because fo the value to society.

  17. I’m teaching a degree level programme at a polytechnic, though the final year has to be taught in conjunction with a university, and I am somewhat disconcerted by some of the comments about dumping vocational training on the polytechnics and keeping universities for the elite. Most of my students could quite easily hold their own at Auckland university, but at the polytechnic they are taught both the theory and the practical side of their degree, which is why they chose a polytech not a university.

    The other thing about polytechs is the standard of teaching is much better. When I was at university most of the teachers seemed to be a bunch of intellectual snobs who thought that students were an interruption to their work, not the purpose for it. And even the good teachers find it hard to give the kind of service they would like to in classes of 400 or more.

    In my classes I know all the students by name, and I can give them personal attention; encourage the weaker students, challenge the stronger ones and generally help them to become well rounded members of society. I am not anti-intellectual or anti-university, in fact I am proud of gaining a doctorate from New Zealand’s most prestigious university. But I also know universities can be very intimidating places for a lot of people. I would encourage students to do their undergraduate degree at a polytech and their graduate degree at a university.

  18. When I am thinking of value, I am thinking not only of employment, but of general value to society. A philosopher provides benefits to society, and so while they might not necessarily get a job, nevertheless, they shouldn’t be discounted. The millions of Psychology Majors are going to find it difficult to get positions when they leave though

    So you refer to the “general value to society” specifically not on the basis of employment, but then finish by dismissing psychology majors on the basis that they will have a hard time finding employment? (incidentally i don’t think they do have a hard time – low unemployment etc, but they probably have a tricky time figuring out what they want to do, if not psychology).

  19. This is an interesting discussion. John-ston appears not to value many arts subjects (I suspect he also enjoys stirring). On the other hand, some other posters don’t value the subjects such as accounting.

    Here is my take on the whole thing. Every morning I wake up feeling immensely grateful to God for creating people whose role in life is to be accountants, book keepers etc. I realise that if such people did not exist, then I might have to do their job. Life would not be worth living if that was the case.

    OK, seriously, everyone values different things, which is just as well. To the John-ston’s of this world, contemplate this: who will be remembered 100 years in the future: the great artists, scientists and philosophers, or the accountants? To the artists, scientists and philosophers: society would not be able to provide you with the opportunity to make great discoveries and works if it were not for the John-ston’s doing the mundane jobs such as accounting.

  20. Having spent 5 years studying Arts, I’d almost argue that the important thing was that I was studying, rather than what I was actually studying. Perhaps because I didn’t have a planning degree, I was somewhat clueless on technical aspects of being a planner when I first started. However, the knowledge and the very good reading, writing & analysing skills that I established through my years of study enabled me to pick things up quickly and to trust my general intellect to make the right decisions in my job and to logically think things out. An amazingly big part of my job is to just do that: read, analyse, make some decisions and write them out – and it is incredibly valuable, even in an economic sense.

    This is where the intrinsic and real value of an arts degree coincide – that even if someone is studying something that “seems” to be a tad pointless, the skills they gain by going through the process of studying are highly valuable. Taking that same argument back to Primary School level: it’s not what you learned from all those school journals you read that mattered, it was the fact that by reading those school journals your literacy skills were greatly improved.

  21. Sapient:
    What I meant by the ‘intrinsic value of education’ is that education is undertaken for its own sake, not for a job it may land you. Just like someone may learn to play a piano simply to be able to enjoy the playing thereof and not necessarily become a concert pianist.
    Now , I am in no way suggesting that all education is intrinsic, rather that there should be an intrinsic element to education. In other words, I would suggest that the object of education, namely knowledge, should be valued for its own sake – this could well be a fundamental characteristic of humankind. Whether and how that knowledge is put to use (its instrumental value(s) ) is an entirely different question.

    The concept of the intrinsic value of education is intimately connected to the idea of a ‘well educated’ individual who is considered more likely to be an ‘across the board’ useful member of society. Of course this runs the risk of elitism, but it could have the advantage that our brightest and most inquisitive have had the opportunity to ponder with others of their ilk the big questions associated with the various disciplines.

  22. “I think pretty much every BA adds value to society. What subjects within the Arts faculty are valueless? Within my arts degree I did geography, history, politics, maths, philosophy and sociology. All had fairly significant value I think.”

    Those are only six of about hundred different fields that you could study in an Arts Degree. What value does American Studies add to New Zealand? Very little I would say; how about Women’s Studies? Again, I would say very little.

    “If you study Economics it should be under a BA degree as it isn’t a Science so it doesn’t belong their. You can add Psychology (Especially Clinical) to that list as well.”

    Turnip, Economics is typically part of Commerce or Business these days.

    “It does take a post-grad qual to get anywhere in an arts/humanities field these days, but I think that’s more because the competition for places is more fierce.”

    Because there are thousands of you these days. Aside from BSc, I cannot think of another degree where you cannot easily launch into paid employment without needing further formal tertiary education

    “Well I can’t give you the honest truth because I don’t know…this idea of ‘value’ is awfully hazy. We could go with employment rates (i.e. if you are employed, therefore you aren’t draining taxes by being on a benefit)? Unemployment has been very low for the past decade or so, so perhaps they are valued by someone”

    When I am thinking of value, I am thinking not only of employment, but of general value to society. A philosopher provides benefits to society, and so while they might not necessarily get a job, nevertheless, they shouldn’t be discounted. The millions of Psychology Majors are going to find it difficult to get positions when they leave though.

  23. I don’t have an issue if it adds value to society, however, tell me the honest truth, how many of those thousands of BA students are actually going to add value to society?

    Well I can’t give you the honest truth because I don’t know…this idea of ‘value’ is awfully hazy. We could go with employment rates (i.e. if you are employed, therefore you aren’t draining taxes by being on a benefit)? Unemployment has been very low for the past decade or so, so perhaps they are valued by someone ;-)

    I’ve not quite been open enough – I have a BA Hons degree, employed in fundraising for a university. The Hons was very valuable in terms of experience and skills, but not necessarily the knowledge.

  24. “Yet another concern that the Greens only raise now, for nine years you guys have been silent, only now when it is easy to score cheap political points do you express faux concern about funding.”

    We’ve been on about it for years. You just weren’t paying attention.

  25. This is just the kind of ignorant National policy that we need to fight. Now is just when we need American Studies programs.

  26. I’ve studied economics under a BA paper, so I’ll second turnip on that.

    And I’ll second kjuv & Sam B that polytech courses, especially practically-based skills that need hands-on workshop/workplace experience during training, should stay where they are, & not get migrated to degrees to improve the prestige of those who teach them*. I’d also add that a BA seems to get you only into the lowest rung of the Public Service these days, into a call-centre or similar low-responsibility work; the stuff we used to do in breaks between stints of under-grad papers. It does take a post-grad qual to get anywhere in an arts/humanities field these days, but I think that’s more because the competition for places is more fierce.

    [*Like Journalism, which used to be taught as a Poly diploma after a degree in writing had been obtained.
    Or Nursing, which used to involve extensive practical/clinical experience before graduation - so you couldn't spend 3 years getting into debt, then find out you couldn't stomach it, or the physical work was too much for you.
    There are many more examples!]

    Gerrit,
    I’ve had some good mentors in my School, who have written books academically, and it seemed like a good framework to get an academic text published.
    If I was writing a novel, perhaps I wouldn’t go back for an MA; but having said that, some of the best stuff I’ve read lately has come out of the Modern Letters post-grad school, where the finer skills of creative writing are honed amongst peers, and mentors of note.

  27. john-ston:

    “It isn’t that that amazed me, it was the fact that you, a Planner, did a BA. I suppose my response would be the same if an Economist came up and told me they had a BA.”

    Why???

    If you study Economics it should be under a BA degree as it isn’t a Science so it doesn’t belong their. You can add Psychology (Especially Clinical) to that list as well.

    Also please note that most BSC science(Physics,Biology,Geology,Chemistry,Math) degrees wil not get you a job.
    You will need a post grad degree to do something.

    The only BSC degree that will land you a Job is Comp Sci but they are usually half engineering (Software Engineering) and half theory (Maths)

    Also please most of the useful parts of philosophy are covered in Science and Maths.

    What we need are more Scientists and more Engineers that is something a society can never have enough of.

  28. I think pretty much every BA adds value to society. What subjects within the Arts faculty are valueless? Within my arts degree I did geography, history, politics, maths, philosophy and sociology. All had fairly significant value I think.

    It’s not like universities pump out zillions of “travel and tourism” graduates every year.

  29. “john-ston, I guess it amazes you that arts degrees can be in the form of humanities subjects like Geography (what I did).”

    It isn’t that that amazed me, it was the fact that you, a Planner, did a BA. I suppose my response would be the same if an Economist came up and told me they had a BA.

    “For example, the Philosophy department at Auckland Uni is one of the finest around, and helps advance knowledge and critical thinking. Yet because its graduates can’t immediately walk into economic growth creating jobs does it mean that this department is pointless and worthless? I would certainly hope not.”

    Hence my emphasis of benefit to society. A philosopher has their place in society and does add value; what my concern is that we are cranking out hundreds of students just so they can put some letters after their name instead of benefitting society as a whole, and at the same time spending millions on them.

    “I’m with BP on this one: Polytechs are for vocational training. The corollary being Polytechs should stay away from the humanities, pure sciences and research.”

    The issue is that many of these vocational fields are no longer purely vocational. To become a Chartered Accountant, for instance, you need to also pass (that is, for the Auckland Uni student) four Commercial Law papers, a Statistics paper, two Economics papers as well as a number of Accounting papers. It is no longer about numbers in columns like it used to be, an Accountant is expected to know much more.

    Many of these fields has become mixed; Commerce is a mix of the vocational and the theoretical; a Finance student, for instance, needs to know about balance sheets as well as complicated mathematics.

    The other problem is that of image. An Accountant that studied at a polytech has far less opportunity of getting a job; all you would be doing is exporting the Accounting jobs overseas where the students studied at a University.

    “The good thing about the BA is that it is such a versatile degree – as it happens there is a lot more out there that needs doing than just engineering, medicine and law, shockingly.”

    I don’t have an issue if it adds value to society, however, tell me the honest truth, how many of those thousands of BA students are actually going to add value to society?

  30. Kjuv,
    i would respectfully disagree that education is an example of intrinsic value; it is of value to society, even if it is anthropology, in that it grants people skills. In relation to true uni subjects it teaches them how to think, question, and aquire knowledge; skills which allow for the advancement of society and as such hold value to one desiring said advancement.
    Accounting has no place at uni, but it is also one of the biggest earners.
    At my uni i think the only departments which make a profit are business studies, engeneering, and psychology. We should gut the BBS because its a polytech subject. We have far far too many psychology students, most of which are of far sub-par inteligence (I say this being a psychology student) whom will complete their degree and then do nothing with it, going through with a “C’s get degrees” attitude. we produce far too many sociologists and anthropologists, while they both contribute to society as subjects, its rather logarithmic. That and i doubt the average intelect of anthropologists surpasses 70, esspecially the Solanites. We should increase funding to engeneering, etc to encourage students to pursue this path.
    Im doing a BSC subject under a BA framework mearly because it offers me more access to papers in sociology, anthropology, economics, politics, and philosophy which i consider to be far more useful for my degree than chemistry, atleast for where my intersts lie. BA doesint always mean its useless, unlike BBS :P

  31. john-ston, I guess it amazes you that arts degrees can be in the form of humanities subjects like Geography (what I did).

    This is a pretty fundamental debate about what a university should do, and I think we deserve to be a little worried about how in recent years so much emphasis is being put on them cranking out economic growth rather than a balance between this and the traditional job of a university to advance knowledge.

    For example, the Philosophy department at Auckland Uni is one of the finest around, and helps advance knowledge and critical thinking. Yet because its graduates can’t immediately walk into economic growth creating jobs does it mean that this department is pointless and worthless? I would certainly hope not.

  32. There is much confusion on just what is the prime function of a university. Not so long ago a university was a place to gain ‘higher education’ which involved the critical study of intellectual and scientific thinking. The study was not directly related to any particular subsequent vocation. It was more ‘education for its own sake’ (That ‘intrinsic value’ idea again, Sapient :) )

    Sure, there were associated faculties that were clearly vocation orientated towards the professions (eg Law, Medicine and the like). But even these disciplines were studied in more or less the same critical manner as the Arts and Sciences.

    The thought was that society needs a place for critical reflection by at least some of its brightest. Hence the subsidy. Of course nowadays with the emphasis being on qualifying for jobs in the world of commerce, many would agree with john-ston’s rather short sighted attack on intellectual learning. However, I believe that there has never been a greater need for no strings attached, freely given constructive criticism.

    I’m with BP on this one: Polytechs are for vocational training. The corollary being Polytechs should stay away from the humanities, pure sciences and research.

  33. Universities do seem a bit pointless these days. They don’t seem to do much teaching of critical thinking or reasoning and I hadn’t noticed that the reading and writing skills of BA holders are up to much. We seem to be either paying people to get BAs so they can do jobs that used to be done by people with high school educations, or for people to get business-related or computing degrees so they can make themselves and their companies lots of money.

    There’s exceptions in the sciences, engineering and the rare person who studies humanities and doesn’t just end up repeating the same old rubbish with the latest jargon, but is this small return really worth the investment? We could save heaps by closing them all down and buying technical skills from overseas.

    And it was a really stupid move to shift vocational training from polytechs to universities.

  34. I have a BA, so naturally I disagree with Jon-ston. Study of any subject at university level is about research and analysis. Does society no longer need these skills?

    Vocational training is for Polytechs.

  35. Interesting comment on staff salaries though…I know general staff at Uni Auckland are getting the rate of inflation (then whatever performance bonuses/pay rises they may be eligible for), but the thing with restricting salaries of academics is that there is a lot of competition for high performing ones worldwide – they can be a very mobile bunch.

  36. BAs are not worthless. At the bare minimum, students learn (or should learn) writing, reading and analysis skills far in excess of what is required at high school, and those are all valid skills for any number of jobs in the world. The knowledge you learn while studying is will not always be immediately useful, but often can be. The good thing about the BA is that it is such a versatile degree – as it happens there is a lot more out there that needs doing than just engineering, medicine and law, shockingly.

    “C’s get degrees” is for the idiots who think that nobody will want to see their grade transcripts, and that nobody will want to see samples of their work. They will still probably get jobs in times of low unemployment, but will struggle otherwise.

  37. “University staff have already gone through some very difficult times over the last few years, with staff being lost as courses are cut to maximise the profit incentive. Those cuts have resulted in core humanities, politics and other courses being cut or severely restricted with the focus shifted to business and computing. Universities risk losing some of thier core functions in research and as leaders in critical analysis.”

    Yet another concern that the Greens only raise now, for nine years you guys have been silent, only now when it is easy to score cheap political points do you express faux concern about funding.

  38. katie,

    Why do you need to go to university to learn to write a book?

    Surely it is a subject better taught at a polytech?

    Question is not how much “free” education you can get now, it is how much tax paying you will be able to contribute to the “free” education of yuor daughter or grand daughters, after you are qualified.

    Your “free” education is being paid for by todays tax payers and as such the recipients of that “free” education should be looking at getting into a tax paying status to provide the”free” education for their offspring.

    Hope the proceeds of your book sales will cover your daughter/granddaughters “free” tertiary education.

  39. Currently, I’m having the long hard think about whether to take up an invitation to submit an MA thesis proposal, due to the scarcity of resources in the FHSS at VUW.

    There have been serious staff-cuts across several smaller Arts schools, and the Faculty as a whole is struggling while serious investment is going into new buildings for the Science Faculty (don’t get me wrong, that’s long overdue!) & the consequential costs of the big upgrades at Rutherford House for the Commerce Faculty.
    Hostels for International students have been heavy on the balance sheet, as well, for VUW – all of this infrastucture cost has been ‘balanced’ by asking the academic staff to do more, with less; and in some cases, just to do less – cuts to Schools of Education and Gender & Women’s Studies mean that less course choices are available to existing students, and some majors have vanished completely.

    The ‘core business’ of a University has been so redefined by the VC’s Committee in the past 5 years as to be unrecognisable to someone who thought they knew what a state-funded tertiary education providor might be reasonably expected to accomplish. ‘Managing throughput’ is more important than ‘teaching quality courses'; ‘counting publications’ is more important than evaluating the content of the published work.
    I’m severely disillusioned, and I’ve been campaigning for more equitable access to tertiary education provision since 1999.

    I’m still tempted to do it, ‘cos I’d like to write the book that will come out of the research …. a textbook on radical feminist political activity in NZ, to be used for teaching the next wave of students. ;-)

    [go on, flame away ...]

  40. daddyO, That incomplete quote has a different flavour when used in it’s entirety.
    What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
    Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Act III

    The quote could equally be directed at BA students who know the cost to themselves in tertiary fees but not of the cost to society under the social contract and who cannot provide anything other than the vaguest notion of the value to society, ie they cynicly expect society to support their ‘education’.

    It’s a pretty good quote for summing up modern political debate. Cynicism from all sides denying any value in opposing arguments.

  41. John-ston,

    I normally don’t agree with your views, but on this subject I reckon you are spot on.

    I agree with you that a return to the “old days where University wasn’t necessarily a place where everyone went, and there were decent expectations of the students” would be a good thing. There shouldn’t necessarily be places for everyone, entry should be restricted and based on meeting certain academic standards.

    Universities should also (in my opinion) return to teaching the subjects they traditionally taught. Applied subjects such as accounting would be better taught in institutions modelled along the lines of polytechs.

  42. “Hey john-ston be nice, I have a BA (and an MA for that matter) ”

    I thought you would have had a BPlan or something like that.

  43. “john-ston sounds like he wants our universitys to be like factorys turning out people with non-thinking degrees in number crunching.

    Sounds like a person who knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing …………….

    He should stick to what he knows …….. collums with numbers in them.”

    daddyO, our Universities are already factories, but they are churning out people with “Bugger All Degrees” and a C average at that. Not all employers are like Sir Bob Jones, and these people will probably provide little benefit to society.

    I don’t mind having the odd Arts student, but it is a problem when you have thousands of them invading (in my case) Auckland Uni each year, and knowing that these people will generally not provide a benefit to society, while sucking the taxpayer of millions of dollars per annum.

    In fact, I would be quite keen for some restoration to the old days where University wasn’t necessarily a place where everyone went, and there were decent expectations of the students.

    I must add that I generally do not stick to columns with numbers in them, it is just that like many of the posters here, I am a taxpayer too, and I would like to see our money used to the betterment of society.

  44. john-ston sounds like he wants our universitys to be like factorys turning out people with non-thinking degrees in number crunching.

    Sounds like a person who knows the cost of everything but the value of nothing …………….

    He should stick to what he knows …….. collums with numbers in them.

  45. “Students of course will still have to pay considerable amounts for thier education and universities will be under even greater pressure to breach the 5% fee maxima cap over the coming years.”

    As a tertiary student myself, I don’t mind too much having to pay a little more for my education. I chose to get into tertiary education because it gave me the opportunity to maximise my income beyond what I could get as someone stacking shelves, or some other unskilled or semi-skilled job. Even if I did pay interest on my student loan, it is far less than what I could earn as a CA (which is what my plan is eventually).

    “Those cuts have resulted in core humanities, politics and other courses being cut or severely restricted with the focus shifted to business and computing.”

    Please tell me froggy, why should the taxpayer be paying $20,000 per student per annum for these sort of degrees or majors? How much would it benefit the average taxpayer having someone with an Arts Degree floating around? Indeed, even most non Arts students acknowledge that Arts Degrees are useless, and give it the nickname “Bugger All Degree”

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