Duelling Imperatives? The Problem of Managing Equity Outcomes in a Rationalised University System

By Allen Bartley and Melinda Webber.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Faced with rising operational costs and increasingly constrained budgets, universities are struggling to reconcile competing imperatives. On one hand, they wish to rationalise limited student places in ways that enhance the institutions’ status; and on the other hand, they must contribute to the social, cultural and economic development of society by ensuring that members of marginalised and under-represented groups are provided educational and professional pathways through access to university education. This paper canvasses these tensions using as a case study the University of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest – and, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings 2008, highest-ranked – university. There is a plan to restrict growth in undergraduate student enrolments to the University of Auckland from 2010. The limited-entry plan arose as a result of new funding arrangements in which New Zealand tertiary education providers must negotiate multi-year funding cycles which would set the maximum numbers of student places funded for that cycle. However, this plan also reflects the University of Auckland’s use of the tertiary reform process to enhance its status and differentiate itself from other universities in the New Zealand system. We argue that any move by the University to cap student numbers needs to be strongly underpinned by a genuine commitment to equity, and that aspirations to standards of ‘quality’, without such a commitment to equity, will lead to outcomes where neither imperative is realised.

Keywords: Equity, Affirmative Action, Tertiary Education Funding Reform, New Zealand, Student Diversity

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp.71-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.208MB).

Dr. Allen Bartley

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

Allen Bartley is a sociologist and Senior Lecturer in the Social Work programme in the Faculty of Education at the University of Auckland. His PhD was obtained from Massey University (New Zealand), and explored the transnational aspirations of 1.5 generation East Asian New Zealanders in Auckland. Allen’s teaching experience is in sociology, social research methods and New Zealand social history, as well as the sociology of New Zealand welfare law. Allen’s key research interests focus on migration, multiculturalism and social cohesion, transnational families, and particularly the experiences of 1.5 generation migrants.

Melinda Webber

Lecturer, School of Teaching, Learning and Development, Faculty of Education, University of Auckland, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

Melinda Webber is a lecturer in the School for Teaching, Learning and Development at the Faculty of Education, University of Auckland. She has also been a primary school teacher for 7 years. She is a Maori of Te Arawa and Ngapuhi descent. Her experiences as a person of dual Maori/Pakeha (European) heritage has been the catalyst for her research interests concerned with education for Maori in the mainstream New Zealand education system. Her other research interests include issues of identity for people of mixed Maori/Pakeha descent and hybridity theory.


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