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General Knowledge? The Roles of the New Zealand University in a Knowledge Society

This thesis examines the roles of the New Zealand university in a knowledge society. Gaps in the literature of the New Zealand university in a contemporary context mean that the enquiry is informed by European and North American discussions of the educational requirements of a knowledge society. As the notions of the knowledge society and a liberal university education are both problematic and central to this enquiry, they are interrogated, in the second chapter, in some depth. A second review examines the work, recommendations and subsequent legislative outcomes of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission (TEAC) policy process of 1999 to 2003. The principles of critical theory and critical policy scholarship inform these interpretative textual analyses. The two review chapters, which follow the introductory chapter, comprise the first part of the thesis. A description of the methodological framework employed throughout the project and a report of the findings of a survey of stakeholders follow. The discussion chapter comprises the third and final part of the thesis. The thesis seeks to distinguish the notion of the knowledge society from that of the neo-liberal approach to social and economic management. I argue that the notion of the knowledge society is viable in a range of socio-economic conditions. I suggest that the educational requirements of a knowledge society are better addressed when the scope of a university education is framed by holistic individual, social, and economic determinants, rather than rigid ideological imperatives such as those characteristic of neo-liberalism. A combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies is employed. Primary data are gathered by way of a postal questionnaire. The perceptions of three cohorts of stakeholders of the New Zealand university are analysed using both statistical and interpretative tools. Data gathered through a review of the literature of the university in relation to the notion of the knowledge society in New Zealand, North America, and various European contexts are analysed using a combination of critical and interpretive approaches. The major finding to emerge from the enquiry is that stakeholders of the New Zealand university associate an effective university education with breadth of learning. The notion of a liberal university education, with its attendant beyond-vocation curriculum assumptions, is not considered anachronistic by the majority of stakeholders surveyed during this project. Public and private sector employers and university students strongly associate a liberal university education with effective preparation for participation in a knowledge-intensive environment. Year 13 secondary students are less certain. A secondary finding is that most stakeholders consider that the research activities of the university academic should continue to inform university teaching, but that the teaching role is of growing importance, and therefore worthy of greater emphasis, in the context of a knowledge society. The project is intended to provoke further discussion around the relationship between the New Zealand university and the knowledge society. To date there has been little academic consideration of this relationship. The contribution of this thesis, relative to this gap, is therefore significant.
Type of thesis
Reid, G. H. J. (2006). General Knowledge? The Roles of the New Zealand University in a Knowledge Society (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2648
The University of Waikato
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