The University of
Otago is refusing to respond to criticism from a top lecturer
that it neglects teaching, but many of his comments have been
backed by the union representing academics.
Associate Prof Gordon Sanderson, who at Parliament on Tuesday
night received the country's ''supreme award'' for teaching
excellence, earlier hit out at the university for placing too
much emphasis on research, saying it was ''not very
enthusiastic about teaching''.
The co-president of the Otago University branch of the
Tertiary Education Union, Associate Prof Brent Lovelock,
yesterday backed many of Prof Sanderson's comments, saying
the union would like to see the university give teaching more
''There is a perception among our TEU academic members that
teaching is perhaps given less attention for purposes of
staff promotion and that the real focus is on their research
outputs,'' Prof Lovelock said.
The union agreed the way research was funded through the
Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) had diverted attention
away from teaching at many New Zealand universities.
''We have observed a reduction in non-research staff in some
departments, in order to appoint more research active staff.
This national refocus on PBRF has led to many excellent
teachers being lost,'' he said. The union supported a more
''balanced approach'' where teaching, research and service to
the university and community were ''valued and recognised''.
''The TEU strongly supports ways of making sure that good
quality teaching is not just encouraged but is rewarded when
it is present. Promotion should recognise people, such as
Prof Sanderson, who take time and effort in their teaching.''
The union recognised the value research could bring to
teaching and that it could make teaching ''more real and
''We would like to see more use of a range of ways to assess
lecturers' teaching rather than the current strong reliance
upon standard student surveys.
''We believe that lecturers who challenge their students, or
those who teach harder compulsory papers, or those who are
adopting innovative ways of teaching, must also be recognised
and rewarded through a fair system,'' he said.
A reader who commented on the online edition of yesterday's
story congratulated Prof Sanderson for speaking out and
brought up an example from the past year where the university
had laid off a ''magnificent'' teacher from the College of
Education because they did not engage in research.
An Otago University spokeswoman said the university did not
want to respond to any of Prof Sanderson's comments.
Meanwhile, the Southern District Health Board responded to
Prof Sanderson's comments it merely ''tolerated'' the School
of Medicine and did not take full advantage of it.
DHB chief executive Carole Heatly said in a short statement
the board ''highly'' valued its relationship with the School
''We recognise the university allows us to recruit and retain
staff that otherwise would not be in Dunedin and I cannot
understate how important that is to the community.''