Uni tackling the wrong issues

I was pretty amazed to hear the news that Otago Uni has become one of the major sponsors of the Otago Highlanders rugby team.

Universities should be focusing on student achievement and investing in good quality public education and research, not on corporate sponsorship.

The Super 15 rugby competition is a corporate competition. It’s inappropriate for public universities to be spending public and student money on sponsorship in that way, especially when it has nothing to do with the academic focus of the university.

It paints a bit of a sad picture about the state of tertiary education in New Zealand. Universities are underfunded and they’re being forced to make marketing decisions like this to help raise their profile and boost their enrolment numbers.

Meanwhile, university fees at Otago are going up year on year. It’s the students and graduates that are feeling the brunt of this.

Our tertiary sector needs to well-resourced and focused producing high quality research and on the needs of students, not on rugby.

13 Comments Posted

  1. Universities have always marketed themselves, just it now has the professionalism you would expect from an organization of substance and quality. You have (shirley!) seen the UMIST video from the 1970s…

    There is also another dimension. NZ Universities are (for better or worse) not only competing against each other, but they compete on the global stage, both for foreign students hoping they come here, but also to persuade Kiwi students to go to uni here rather than overseas.

    And there is yet another dimension, which is that not only are universities places where research and teaching takes place, they are places where kids become adults, summed up brilliantly by Otago’s “take your place in the world” slogan. Different unis offer different flavours of this most important experience.

    On a local note, CPIT (a/k/a Christchurch Poly) had some telly adverts last year (Version 1, Version 2) and I know these videos (to use the meme term) grind the gears of a lot of folks at CPIT; these videos were conceived, acted, directed, shot, edited and post produced entirely by staff and students at CPIT, not some posh advertising agency, yet nowhere do they mention that fact. (See behind the scenes: here

  2. Sam
    How would a student know where they wanted to go if the Universities didn’t tell them what is on offer, which they do through marketing?

    You can’t have it both ways mate!

  3. “either students have choice of institution, and thus institutions are competing for students, or we have an allocation system where students are told where they are going”

    False dichotomy – students should be able to go where they want without universities engaging in competitions at taxpayers’ expense. If a university can’t attract students, so be it. Either it gets its act together to teach things students want, and can’t get elsewhere, or closes down. It shouldn’t survive as a result of a clever marketing campaign or raising its profile due to sponsorship.

  4. Universities are (as Dave Stringer correctly notes) in competition for students. For domestic students there are a number of universities that a student may choose to attend, and every university wants the student to choose that university. So all universities market themselves in a way to try and differentiate themselves from every other institution.

    Giving students free choice of tertiary institution is not without risk, as University of Canterbury (UC) has discovered. Because of the earthquakes, many students chose not to attend UC, and there was a time when UC hitting the wall was a distinct possibility. Now, recovery looks possible.

    So, either students have choice of institution, and thus institutions are competing for students, or we have an allocation system where students are told where they are going (perhaps by geography?), and thus there is no need for the universities to worry, they’ll get their “fair share” of students.

    Is that a model we really want to adopt?

  5. Seems like “educational” institutions are in an increasing struggle to be solely that these days.
    Primary and secondary schools are surrogate parents and social workers,
    secondary schools continue same though perhaps to a lesser degree given the morphing into marketing strategists to capture future students etc,etc. Should we be so surprised that “higher” education embraces sponsorships not that I agree with it.

    Much of this arising from successive governments who appear to view children and youth as little more than fodder for experimentation -ideological and otherwise, with a parallel waste of already constrained income. Perhaps a generalised view but I trust some will get my drift.

  6. “How on earth can anyone view one of our (incredibly) large number of tertiary education institutions as a monopoly?”

    Because they are all largely funded by the taxpayer. Competing for students with each other is another expensive absurdity. It’s a bit like different branches of the same chain store fighting it out for customers.

  7. How on earth can anyone view one of our (incredibly) large number of tertiary education institutions as a monopoly? They compete for bums on seats more aggressively than AirNZ and Qantas!

  8. University sponsorship of anything is a waste and unnecessary for any natural monopoly. Moreover propping up the stadium is economically daft too. In case anyone is interested no sports stadium constructed anywhere since 1980 has ever made a profit. The suggestion that a monopoly provider of education who, by any international comparison (using PPP) is spending progressively less on each student is clearly supporting a waste of scarce resource for no measurable benefit.

  9. be interesting to see if they gt a commission on Scarfies’ ticket sales as a reciprocal sponsorship, if they do it might end up being a net win to the Uni.

  10. This is unvelievable and reeks of the old boys network propping up the white elephant stadium, which has failed financially dropping the Council and Rugby Union in the muck, by grabbing any Govt money they can at the expense of students. A disgraceful example of the neo lib “business model” public institutions run themselves on now. I’m gobsmacked.

  11. I’m a bit surprised to hear this – I wasn’t able to get all the funding needed for my PhD project (and it’s not an expensive one) because “budgets are tightening”. Student fees are increasing, student resources are decreasing, where is this money coming from?

  12. And while we think of games like “professional” rugby as business – but which some of us regard as mindless entertainment for the masses – we find that the average Kiwi exercises very little, and in many places local clubs have died.
    The question is whether the University’s “investment” gives any real return, in money or otherwise? I doubt it.

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