Some Consequences of University Funding Policies on Doctoral Research in New Zealand: What Happens When the Governmental Tail Wags the Disciplinary Dog?
This paper draws upon the results of a wider university-based study exploring the postgraduate research experience at one New Zealand university. Over two consecutive years we canvassed the PhD student population enrolled at the University of Canterbury and the academic staff responsible for their supervision regarding their views on the postgraduate student experience. Particular focus was given to exploring perspectives on the research environment in which students gain their doctoral qualifications. A number of distinct and significant differences were identified with respect to the characteristics of the academic environment in which students are enculturated into their discipline-specific research practices. These differences are being used as a basis for discussing the potential role of research cultures to facilitate or impede progress in the context of current university funding. Changes to New Zealand's higher education funding, effective from 2003, shifted support from a model based on enrolments to a criteria-based one focused on research productivity and performance. New goals emphasise more timely completion of graduate programmes and an output focus on peer-reviewed publication. We suggest that the research practices within some disciplinary environments, such as those typically found in engineering and sciences, are more compatible with the current funding model than others, such as the traditional arts/humanities model. In addition, we discuss the implication of this policy shift for the potential well-being of the breadth of New Zealand's postgraduate student community and academic research structures.
Keywords: Research Cultures, Doctoral Research, Postgraduate Education, Higher Eduacation Funding, New Zealand
Kaylene A. Sampson
Researcher, University Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Canterbury
Dr. Keith V. Comer
Senior Lecturer, University Centre for Teaching and Learning, University of Canterbury