Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Kerre Woodham: Do we need to rethink the whole university model?

There used to be ivory towers of academic learning, elitist, only a few could enter.

Now they’re businesses that live or die based on the number of bums they can get on lecture hall seats - and yet they still seem to be lost in the past and unable to forge away into the future.

Universities around the country are facing the reality of having to lay off staff and cut classes. It's the loss of international students that's made a big dent in university revenue, with student numbers yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, despite the border reopening last year.

Young Kiwis are also opting not to go to university; jobs are readily available.

They don't want to run up a huge student debt. Some of them see a university degree as irrelevant - by the time they've got the degree, the learning will be out of date.

And so AUT, Victoria and Otago universities have announced staff layoffs at each of their campuses - more than 200 at each of the universities. And the Government is poised to announce a rescue package for the tertiary education sector. I wonder if that is just good money after bad?

Are universities what they used to be as a young person growing up?

It was aspirational to think of going to university. I did my journalism degree. It was only one year at the Polytech, but I always in the back of my mind, wanted a degree. I didn't feel fully educated until I had one.

I wonder if universities hold the same cachet today for young learners.

There was much talk from Helen Clark of the Knowledge Economy. More New Zealanders, more young New Zealanders, becoming more educated.

But again, I wonder if the universities have delivered?

If one in three students fails to finish their degree, who are they delivering to?

Clearly, young people decide university is not for them and they are left with the student loan that still has to be paid off and nothing to show for it. Universities themselves can't seem to attract enough people to fund themselves.

So what is the taxpayer getting out of it? Do we have to rethink the whole university model, instead of coming up with rescue packages that are just going to prop up a system that seems to be failing.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB


Robert Arthur said...

Too many perons are conned into tertiary education far beyond their ability or interest. It is sad to see dim youngsters unliley to ever have much earning ability lumberd with a huge debt.
I wondr what cuts were proposed in maori studies and other hobby courses.

Anonymous said...

Yes we do. We can chuck out the woke numpties and start again. After they answer the question, "Where did we go wrong?"

Anonymous said...

The Knowledge Economy ( at any stage, in any era ) needs very clever minds.

The NZ transformation process ( aka Maorification) needs simple, gullible minds.

Peter Young said...

If "one in three fail to finish" and the taxpayer picks up the first year of the degree cost, what does that perhaps suggest to you?

And of those that come out with a degree, how many of those impress employers that they are just the kind of intelligent, savvy, well trained individuals that they seek to employ?

Do ponder that; and what these universities are actually teaching, and how well free-speech and thought pervades their campuses, and how their international standings are now in free fall.

Is it like the rest of the NZ education system, being a case of reaping what one sows?

Anonymous said...

perhaps the model proposed by a few American unis recently might be worth trying - unis make it free for students who are willing to pay back a per cent of their salary above a cutoff number for a pre-determined number of months. the uni makes a calculated gamble based on the student's capability, the potential value of the degree, the prospective job market, etc. somewhat similar to how insurers use actuarial science to price risk. this moves the risk away from taxpayers and gets shared by the student & uni (without a direct cost to student). of course this means gender studies would have to be paid for by bank of mom and dad, which might be a fair deal.