When is a university not actually a university?
Perhaps when you call it an indigenous university, but to be really sure you aren’t deceiving anybody, you throw in a hyphen and call it an indigenous-university.
Alf bristles at this misuse of the hyphen and is tempted to lodge an official complaint about the serious debasing of his taonga, which – of course – is the wonderful English language.
But the temptation is a fleeting one. Whereas we are supposed to take great care to protect the taonga of our indigenous people, few people would pay any attention if Alf was to grumble about a mischief being done by anyone to his culture and cultural treasures.
Anyway, it seems action is already being taken on the matter of the indigenous-university with a hyphen. Or rather, action is being considered.
A complaint against Whakatane-based Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi may be taken to the Serious Fraud Office.
Last month Awanuiarangi was accused of breaking the law and deceiving its students by calling itself a university.
Ngapuhi leader David Rankin raised concerns over the wananga using the words “indigenous university” when it wasn’t a university.
He wrote two letters to Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce expressing his concern and wasn’t satisfied with the response.
“If there’s no clear rectification of this matter by the end of July, I’ll pursue it through the Serious Fraud Office,” Mr Rankin said.
Dunno what writing to Steven Joyce was calculated to achieve.
He’s a splendid fellow, like all of Alf’s parliamentary colleagues in the National team.
But putting him in charge of tertiary education was somewhat akin to creating a Minister of Children’s Affairs portfolio and giving the job to Minnie Dean.
Steven – let’s face it – does not seem too keen on that old-fashioned thing called “scholarship”, which once upon a time was associated with deeply learned studies of Latin, Greek and what-have-you, and was associated with an arts degree and libraries full of dusty old books.
Nowadays we have professors of banking and tourism, and all sorts of things that don’t much seem to belong in a proper university.
Presumably this is intended to produce people to promote, finance and operate conference centres, casinos and similar natural attractions, and no doubt somewhere there are universities with courses run by a Professor of Deep Sea Mining, too.
Accordingly Alf would not put any money on Steven getting too excited about what constitutes a university.
But Rankin seems oblivious to Steven’s indifference.
Mr Rankin told Mr Joyce on May 11 he believed the Education Act had been breached, as an educational institution had called itself a university when it was not recognised as such.
“This issue is of concern, as I said, to our Maori students who are being misled into enrolling at an institution which calls itself a university, but is not.”
The Minister’s reply is not recorded.
But the chief executive of Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Professor Graham Smith, says the outfit has received legal advice and is comfortable with the term indigenous-university.
“The term was all in lower case and hyphened so it makes a whole new word.”
Oh – and there’s another strong point in favour of the professor calling his learning establishment whatever he bloody well likes, because he is an indigenous person and hence should be accorded special treatment.
Dr Smith said that interestingly, universities could call themselves whare wananga if they wanted to.
Awanuiarangi was doing the same thing with good reason. Dr Smith said they had relationships with universities and indigenous people overseas and it was easier to define yourself as an indigenous-university than a whare wananga. He said Awanuiarangi was a whare wananga.
“That’s what we are. We don’t want to be a university.”
This, of course, makes things as clear as a bucket of Rotorua’s thermal mud.
One more thing: Awanuiarangi runs courses from certificate to doctorate level and has campuses in Whakatane, Auckland, Rotorua and Whangarei.
In fact, you can come away with a PhD in Māori Studies, Indigenous Studies, Environment Studies and Education.
Doctoral Degrees are the highest supervised degree offered by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi. The PhD is awarded for a thesis that demonstrates a candidate’s ability to carry out independent research and analysis at an advanced level of study in a particular discipline and/or field.
Graduates no doubt come out well equipped to think deeply and profoundly about what should be the next burning issue requiring the attention of the Waitangi Tribunal.