Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Degrees in everything at Unitec

How many more universities should New Zealand have? And who should decide? Auckland's Unitec wants to be awarded university status, but according to an expert panel appointed to assess their merits as a university, they don't apparently have any. Application refused.

Sione Palu argues here that UNITEC doesn't deserve university status, but neither does it need it. Good reading.


  1. PC, what would be the typical libertarian viewpoint on titles of distinction such as "University" or "Lawyer" or "Doctor"? Is it the role of government to regulate these titles? Should it be done by independent bodies that hold a copyright on the names? Or should it just be a free-for-all with buyer-beware?

  2. It might surprise you, Blair, :-) but personally I'm not sure whether or not governments should regulate the use of the title 'university,' which is why I thought it was worth debating here.

    And I confess I'm not sure whether there even ~is~ a "typical libertarian viewpoint on titles of distinction," except that it is decidedly not the government's job to protect privilege by regulating the use of titles like 'Architect'--which is why I favoured the protection only of the words "Registered Architect" in the recent revision of the Architects Act, and made a submission arguing for that. (Stephen Franks incidentally made some very good comments on this which you can find in Hansard.)

    I do know that it ~is~ government's legitimate job to protect against fraud. In this matter then, that might perhaps mean that if someone considered a Doctor not to be so, or a University not to be one, then that person might be able to take an action against the doctor or university arguing that the standard is not met by which one may use that title. The onus of proof should perhaps be on the person seeking to prove fraud.

    If several such cases were taken in this manner, then as long as the definition of fraud was clear and objective, over time precedents could become established that clearly and objectively determine what a Doctor or a University or a Lawyer looks like, and therefore what criteria need to be met before one is entitled to lay claim to such a title.

    That's my thoughts, but I'm happy to hear other ones. :-)

  3. Random comment from the fringe:

    In the USA (where I did my masters in Comp Sci) computer science depts historically came about two ways: either they evolved out of Electrical Engineering Depts (eg, MIT), or the evolved out of Maths Depts (eg, Harvard, a couple of miles down the road).

    A) So they're either graduating people with a BEng (Comp Sci) or a BSc or BA (Comp Sci). These days that's largely irrelevant to what they teach, except that hard-core hardware types are more likely to be in engineering dept.

    B) Some US States have regulations that any job containing the title "Engineer" may only be held by a registered engineer, ie someone who's got a BEng.

    C) Three or four years ago there was a fashion of calling programmers "software engineers".

    A+B+C) Well, you can guess the rest.

    In Texas one of the big engineering schools (Texas A&M?) sought a court order preventing anyone hiring a "sofware engineer" unless they'd graduated BEng (Comp Sci).

    Thank god none of the US architecture schools started teaching comp sci - otherwise 'software architects' and 'IT systems architects' would have been in big trouble.

  4. "I favoured the protection only of the words "Registered Architect" in the recent revision of the Architects Act, and made a submission arguing for that"

    Well bwahahaha! I love it. I disapproved of the term "Chartered Accountant" and they threatened to take my certificate away. It was rotting under the house anyway so I told them to shove it.

    What a laugh. I will be dining out on this for a while.

  5. Ah, can anyone tell me what that was about?

  6. Just to make it clear if it wasn't already: I favoured the protection only of the words "Registered Architect" in order to leave free the word 'Architect' for whoever had the right to pick it up.

    A "Registered Architect" then would only be someone who chose to have the acclamation of the Boys Club, and wanted to shout about it, while an Architect would be someone who sold their skills in the open market without the protection of the Club.

    Sadly, that argument, while unanimously accepted by the Select Committee, was successfully opposed at great expense by the Boys Club, who can now cause anyone who uses the title "Architect" to receive a $10,000 fine and a criminal conviction should they not be a member of said club.

    It's a fine thing this democracy.

  7. Good thing Christopher Wren and the other great amatuers are nolonger practising then.

    Hey anyway, the market has always been irrepressibleable in matters such as these. Examples abound. It's like a Donald Duck cartoon. Every time the Barrons push human endevour under one part of the rug it just pops up out of another place they'd never contemplated. Close that loop hole and another is found, and another. Poor Donald.

    Eg In the back of the newspapers the word "versatile" features in the adult classifieds. Some rubber stamp puritanical desk jockey thought they could ban the concept by banning the term for which this is a euphamism.
    Didn't work did it?

    The market sets its own standards, always has and always will. Donald Duck sketches show DD confronted by natural law personified. He always tried to beat it and always gets mighty pissed off and always fails. Always has and always will!

  8. You support insider trading, price gouging, Joe Public losing all his money because regulation is bad - yet you WANT TO BELONG TO THE REGISTERED ARCHITECTS UNION - the state is good when it suits you. Chartered Accountants is a union, as is Registered Architects - so don't try your sophistry with me.

    You make me sick.


    Ah, no. I don't. Just the reverse. Which was precisely the point of my submissin to the Architects Bill, which you can find here: http://www.organonarchitecture.co.nz/Not_PC/2003.10.31%20submission%20to%20Architect's%20Bill.htm


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