Challenging Stout : value conflicts in trying to reform the University of New Zealand, 1910-1914 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Management at Massey University
This study looks at the reasons why the University of New Zealand (UNZ), characterized by Beaglehole as an object of "fury, loathing and despair" (1949, p. 1) survived so long, from its founding in 1871 until its dissolution in 1961? The study takes a broad sweep to cover the depth of those reasons. A general answer to the question is that it suited local conditions in New Zealand to create and maintain a university based around a federal, non-teaching, examining model. However, there was a serious challenge to that model mounted in 1911 by the New Zealand University Reform Association (NZURA) and so this study looks in particular at the reasons why that challenge failed. There is a short answer to that question, too. It failed because the institutional authority of the UNZ, and the politicians who supported it, was easily able to drive a wedge through any attempted coalitions that might threaten to dispose of it. The reformers of 1910-14 did not want to destroy the UNZ. They wanted to change it in two respects: they wanted to give what they thought was their rightful place in university governance to professors; and they wanted to give the professors what they argued was their rightful place in teaching and examining their own students as well. However, the UNZ had sufficient confidence and authority to characterise the reformers as destructive of an institution which had served colonial New Zealand well, and which was competent enough to serve the growing Dominion even better. And furthermore, the UNZ had the adaptive capacity to absorb its critics and convert their energies to supporting its subsidiary institutions and serving a common purpose. If it is ever fair to characterize organizations as living organisms it is fair to say that the UNZ showed great vitality and adapted well to local conditions. This study looks at the stories of the UNZ and examines the general questions already suggested, and, in doing so, goes on to tackle other minor questions such as how much the structure of the UNZ owed to the British and the colonial cultures in which it was embedded, and how much the outcomes of 1910-14 owed to the resource dependency of the actors. To answer these questions the study revisits a number of narratives that touch on the UNZ. There are two written histories of the UNZ. The more readable of the two does not provide a complete history for it was published in 1937 by Beaglehole more than twenty years before the university, as he later put it, was finally given a "clump on the head" (Beaglehole in Parton, 1979, p. 253). Beaglehole had deeply committed views about what a university should be, and was strongly of the view that in many respects the UNZ did not measure up to his ideal model. His history is interesting because he was a participant observer in the UNZ and demonstrated strong sympathies towards the reformers. He was a leading figure among the academics who served the UNZ and became one of the most outstanding researchers at the youngest of its Colleges, Victoria University College (VUC). However, he did not take up his position at Victoria before featuring in one of the more outspoken incidents at Auckland University College (AUC) where the weight of power rested with the College Board in stand-offs over academic freedom. The UNZ defended neither academic freedom, nor Beaglehole over the difficulties at AUC and preferred to insist instead on the autonomy of its constituent college to takes its own course of action. Fowlds, the Chairman of the AUC Council at the time, was also a member of the Senate of UNZ so the refusal of the UNZ to act in opposition to AUC probably reflected a view of academic freedom shared by the governing bodies rather than some commitment to principles of autonomy in favour of the subsidiary institution. The bite in Beaglehole's rhetoric and his attitude to the UNZ may have been sharpened by this incident. When he later wrote his essay and mentioned feelings of loathing, fury and despair towards the UNZ he was. I feel sure, expressing his own deeply felt emotions.