Changes afoot at the University of Canterbury

By Michael Edmonds 31/05/2011

Yesterday, the Christchurch Press published an article describing changes that Vice Chancellor Rod Carr had in mind, which would be introduced at the University of Canterbury in order to increase student enrolments while preserving the quality of enrolments. These include:

  • Higher enrolment standards to stop Canterbury from becoming “the University of Last resort.”
  • $6 million dollars towards 1000 merit scholarships to attract talented students.
  • Small courses “in areas where we cannot realistically aspire to be world-class” will be discontinued.
  • “A lack of demonstrable research outputs from staff who have had the time and resources to deliver can no longer be accepted..”

It will be interesting to see how these changes are interpreted by University staff. Given that many staff have been working long hours, including 6 day weeks, to deliver classes in a variety of spaces sans quake, the last two points could be considered at the best as ill timed, at the worst a kick in the guts.

0 Responses to “Changes afoot at the University of Canterbury”

  • University of Canterbury have had 650 students withdraw this year, so retaining the students who have stayed at Canterbury in future years is considered important.

  • I find the “small courses” part particularly disturbing because it was my experience as a Canterbury student that they were already over-stringent with course sizes – a first-year history course which I took and enjoyed very much was only ever offered that one year. The story I heard was that this was because it had 80-90 students enrolled and it was decreed that all first year history courses must have at least 100 enrollments to be viable. The problems of this with a course that was being offered for the first time should be obvious.

    More than that – realistically, not every course a university ever offers is going to be the best in the world, but it might still be really important for students to get some experience/exposure to the subject, especially at a postgrad level. “World-class” is such a meaningless, weasel-word statement. I’m not surprised, but I am disappointed.

  • He hopes to attract more students by offering fewer courses and tougher entry requirements, while wanting staff to be more busy doing research? I would have thought more people meant more diversity, not less… Does VC Carr actually read his own words?
    The only positive thing in that list is more scholarships.

  • – pt 1 is because other unis are already limiting enrollment to specific courses (AK have for years) because funding is based on degree completions not bums on seats.
    – $6m/1000=$6000 each on average – only enough for 1 year’s undergrad fees which I would have thought would be offset by the cost of living away from home (presumably he’s trying to attract students from outside ChCh).
    – pt 4 is already underway in most unis because of PBRF
    – pt 3 is difficult unless it is linked to getting rid of research unproductive staff or shutting of whole departments. The danger, also, is that those teaching in their specialist areas small courses may have to teach elsewhere (decreasing quality?).

  • Mmmm, I think we may see entry requirements become a lot tighter across the board in future, once the teaching version of the PBRF kicks in. (Unfortunately I doubt that has sufficient weight to counter some of the pernicious effects that PBRF has had on attitudes to teaching in some areas.