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April 29, 2013 | by  | in News |
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As Victoria celebrates being announced the top-ranked research university in New Zealand, data shows Victoria students are less likely than students from other universities to be taught by the researchers who earned this ranking.

As reported in the last issue of Salient, Victoria gained the top ranking in the main measure of the Performance Based Research Fund’s (PBRF) six-yearly quality evaluation—a significant improvement on fourth place in 2006. This means Victoria has the highest quality of research across all New Zealand universities, a measure determined by evaluating the value of staff ’s academic publications.

The University ranked sixth among New Zealand universities in providing PBRF-eligible staff to students. Victoria has one PBRF-eligible staff member for every 26 students, compared to 1:20 at Auckland and 1:16 at Otago.

Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Charles Daugherty has put this down to the different types of courses Victoria offers compared to other universities.

“In general, courses that attract more Government funding (such as Medicine and Agriculture) allow a higher staff-to-student ratio. Victoria has among the lowest proportion of its students in these high-cost areas,” he told Salient.

“In terms of access, our staff-student ratios in different disciplines are similar to every other university for the subjects we offer.”

NZUSA Executive Director Dr Alistair Shaw believes students may suffer from the requirements the PBRF places on academic staff, and emphasises the actual staff-student ratios over PBRF-eligible staff-student ratios; something Victoria has traditionally been behind on.

“The greatest impact on Vic students may be in the ramifications of how VUW approached the PBRF exercise. Forcibly retired staff (brought back as contract teachers) and/or casualised staff who can’t get full-year contracts, and those facing demanding publishing requirements may not be able to focus as well on their teaching,” said Shaw.

The PBRF scheme has come under fire as historically, universities have attempted to rort the system in order to gain higher rankings and more funding. The Tertiary Education Commission said no significant gaming of the system had been picked up in the most recent evaluation.

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