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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 14, No. 10. August 9, 1951

For Students Commercial and Ambitious . . . — Universities and Industry

page 8

For Students Commercial and Ambitious . . .

Universities and Industry

At the 1950 Manufacturers' Convention in Christchurch the Rector of Canterbury University College, Dr. H. R. Hulme, M.A., Ph.D., Sc.D. (Cantab.) gave an address, the text of which was published in "The New Zealand Manufacturer" for February. The address was particularly well received by those present, and because the subject is of particular interest to VUC students, many of whom are employed in, or have a future in, commerce and industry, we are glad to be able to publish a summary here.

The speaker has not been long in New Zealand, and most of the talk was based on his English experience. He quoted from a paper delivered at an English university conference by Lieutenant-General Sir Ronald Weeks, a director of Vickers-Armstrong, and chairman of the National Council on Education for Industry and Commerce, who believed: "That a very great deal of hard work and concentrated thought must be devoted to enlarging understanding (both among universities and leaders of industries and commerce), of the relationship between their respective spheres of activity, and of the importance of developing this relationship in every possible way to ensure the best result."

Dr. Hulme also shared the views of Dr. Raven (a visitor to this country last year) who suggested that the university should enter into increasingly close relationship with political, industrial, technological and vocational bodies, in order to continue to play its part in the world. "It is our plain duty," Dr. Raven said, "to give of our best for human welfare, and at the same time to safeguard academic freedom and the maintenance of primary and disinterested research."

English Conclusions

The English conference reached several conclusions. What applied overseas did not necessarily apply to New Zealand, but it was always useful to know what schemes had been successful overseas. First, no one doubted that there was a place for the university graduate in industry. This not only meant those technically qualified in science or engineering, but the demand also included graduates in any subject for management positions. The policy of many of the larger distributive firms, and big city stores, was to secure the best trained minds it could get hold of. It was not so much the knowledge acquired at the university, but the training in the habits of concentration, of clear thinking, and of impartial analysis of situations which was the worthwhile thing. Apart from appointments to technical jobs, the subject of the degree was not considered to be of great importance.

VUCs budding (and blossomed) B.Com's must take to heart a further quote from General Weeks: "It is doubtful whether those who have taken university courses in the field of commerce by part-time study have added to their capacity for holding responsible office, except in purely technical 'expertise.' Employers in England had given little recognition to such men in choosing applicants for higher training or importance.

The well-trained mind with the right sort of personality was more important, even for technical jobs, than crammed examination lore, in Dr. Holme's view. In technical jobs the knowledge gained was important in the first six or seven years, but from that time onwards technical knowledge diminished in importance until twenty years after graduation as many as 75 per cent, were no longer dependent on it. Eventually personal qualities became paramount, and influenced further advancement in a great industrial concern studied in England.

Dr. Hulme went on to quote General Weeks again; we [unclear: rsrlnt] the quote in full:

"The weight of the evidence as to the attitude of the majority of employers today in considering the type of men required for posts of responsibility suggests that the qualities most required are not mere academic brilliance or attainment alone, but rather in addition the powers of leadership, judgment, quickness of decision and the ability to see a job through to its finish, and that the type of man who has been able to benefit fully from a university education is often more likely to possess a combination of these qualities than is the younger entrant to industry or commerce recruited straight from school."

But he adds, "the immature graduate, who has used his university life as a medium for self-indulgence, and who has concentrated solely on social and sporting pursuits to the exclusion of intellectual study and discipline, will soon be found wanting in the performance of those rigorous everyday tasks, involving hard and concentrated thought, which make up much of the life of those who hold responsible positions in progressive industry and commerce today. Equally the over-studious graduate will fall, the one who has merely used the university as a medium for communicating factual Information, and has taken no part in the activities of those multitudinous democratic institutions which play such an important part in true university life."

The British system was summarised by Dr. Hulme thus: "Graduates are going into industry and commerce in considerable numbers, and a university education, besides providing the necessary technical knowledge for certain jobs, should in all cases aim at training its students in clear thinking and concentration, and should give them opportunity to develop in other directions besides the purely academic."

In New Zealand

The United States, in contrast, had courses in business administration (some merely secretarial courses, but the better ones aiming at providing a training for professional leadership).

How could these developments be applied in New Zealand? What should be the relationship between the university and industry, and what should industry do to help the university, whose task was wider than the mere service of industry?

The unit of industry in New Zealand was far smaller, and often it was necessary for the manager to be a jack-of-all-trades with down to earth practical experience in his own industry. These smaller firms could not afford to employ technical research staff, much less personnel officers and other specialists. By the establishment of co-operative research associations such as have been working in England for many years, New Zealand industrialists could help to overcome their handicap of small size. But these associations should not be dominated by day-to-day service and solving of current problems of members. A proportion of time must be spent on fundamental research with only a long range application to industry.

Staff and human relations were of greatest importance, and Dr. Hulme suggested that there was a place in New Zealand for the industrial consultant, with room for a good deal of research as well.

Dr. Hulme defined the basic job of the university as one of education—in the broadest sense of the word—of its students. "Can a man who wishes to go into industry or commerce get any real and lasting benefit from a university education, or is it largely a waste of his time? Certainly we can train school teachers, engineers, medicals, etc., but I think it is a crucial test of the value of university education that a man who has taken a degree should be able to do his job better whatever that Job is. The speaker felt that too many sought merely a rubber stamp "B.A." or "B.S.c" through acquiring a number of facts for use in examinations, and missed the important things the university could give: "a training in concentration, in thoroughness, unswerving loyalty to facts however unpleasant, and an ability to think straight and impartially as is humanly possible."

The practice of the New Zealand Public Service in grading commencing salaries according to the degree obtained contrasted with English practice. It looked as if the examination result was the only thing that mattered in this country, whereas three large English firms had this to say:
(A)"Other things being equal, preference is given to the honours man, but main considerations are the individual qualities of drive, personality, integrity and leadership."
(B)"A little more importance is attached to an honours than a pass degree, but the main thing is individual quality rather than academic distinction."
(C)"The university graduate may have read any subject, this part of his education being regarded as the medium through which the mind is broadened, the man at the same time acquiring new knowledge and experience in thinking for himself. It is sometimes found that a first-class degree has been obtained at the expense of . . . other university activities, and one with a less good degree may possess a greater measure of personality, etc., which will be valuable in industry."

Disease and Remedy

There were two main reasons why graduates were not given all-round training. First, there was an attempt to combine the university with a higher technological college, and secondly, the budget was hopelessly inadequate for either part of this double job. Dr. Hulme distinguished the task of a higher technological college as turning out men competent and highly trained in a particular field, such as refrigeration engineering. The university, on the other hand should give engineers a broad view of their profession and its relation to other professions, and develop their ability to think for themselves rather than teach them "know-how."

Dr. Hulme thought there was a need for at least one college of higher technological training in New Zealand, to avoid this combination of courses at present taught in the university. The smallness of the budget was the most cramping disability of all New Zealand's expenditure per student was only one third of that in Great Britain. The quality of young men and women was second to none; Professor [unclear: Condiffe] (ex C.U.C. now with the University of California) said it was a scandal that in a rich country like New Zealand tile university salaries should be the lowest in the Commonwealth.

Finally, Dr. Hulme discussed the possibility of establishing a school of business administration on American lines. It should be a graduate school—the university should not teach secretarial courses, but should teach from the broadest possible view, in order to comply with Professor Whitehead's test "If the subject lends itself to disinterested thinking; if generalisations can be extracted from it, if it can be advanced by research; if, in brief, it breeds ideas in the mind, then the subject is appropriate for a university." Because only one school could be afforded, it should be set up at Victoria alongside the School of Public Administration.