“Tauranga University Enrolls First 99 Students, 4 Years Ahead Of Schedule” – Proposed Headline for BOP Times, Fri 26 July 2013

Dear universe, I would like the following headline appear in the Bay of Plenty Times on Fri 26 July 2013: “Tauranga University Enrolls First 99 Students, 4 Years Ahead Of Schedule”.



Not impossible.

I’m going to tell you how.

Artists impression of future campus. Source: BOP Times article

You can probably think of at least 5 reasons why a university here would be great for Tauranga?

5 Reasons Why A University Would Be Great For Tauranga

  1. It would keep school leavers around instead of sending them off to Hamilton, Auckland, Dunedin, Wellington or overseas
  2. Once the students finish uni, they’d be looking for jobs, or even better, creating their own jobs here
  3. Having smart young people around is good for the city
  4. University research can be turned into business opportunities and startups
  5. Uni students are cheap (or free) labour for startups. Lot’s of startups are good for a city (confession: this is my secret agenda)

Lot’s of people and groups complain about the lack of a university in the media, and there is lots of blaming going on for who’s fault it is for not getting started already.

It’s easy to forget the 3 biggest reasons that it hasn’t been built yet:

3 Reasons Why Tauranga Still Doesn’t Have A University

  1. Universities are really really expensive to build (something like $200 Million for the first building)
  2. Universities take a really really long time to build (something like 4 years). They are huge. They need lots of buildings and lots of land. Actually, you never stop adding on to them
  3. There is no university vacuum, because the Bay of Plenty Polytech & Waikato University partnership works quite well there isn’t a hurry to fix this problem

Did you know there has been just ONE new university in New Zealand built since 1965?

5 out of 8 were built between 1869 – 1897. That’s 140 to 116 years ago.

List of NZ University’s And When They Were Built

Year Established University Location Full Time Students
1869 University of Otago Dunedin 19,179
1873 University of Canterbury Christchurch 15,624
1878 Lincoln University Lincoln 2,668
1883 University of Auckland CBD, Auckland 31,688
1897 Victoria University of Wellington Wellington 17,785
1927 Massey University Palmerston North 19,424
1964 University of Waikato Hamilton 10,606
2000 Auckland University of Technology CBD, Auckland 17,821

3 Options Left

There are just 3 options to choose from:

  1. Ask each and every man, woman and child in Tauranga to contribute $2,000 each so we can build a couple of university buildings
  2. Just forget about it. Write off the idea as too hard. Quitting is a valid decision. Don’t be embarrassed.
    • So let’s just work with what we have. My question for the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership is this “What do you need?”
  3. Put a virtual university together

What is a Virtual University?

Is it true that, today, if you choose a subject to master, that within 3 months from now, you could be the most knowledgeable person in your city (or country, or in the world) on that subject, and that all you need is internet access?

I think it is true.

Have a look at Khan Academy for example.

Via Khan Academy you can learn about Math, Science, Economics, Computer Science and Humanities for free via a database of over 4000 videos.

In fact, there are schools without text books or teachers who just use these videos to teach children (and adults).

You don’t even need a classroom actually. Just a computer in a hole in a wall will do.

Watch this TED Talk by Sugata Mitra who shows how he enabled illiterate children in a remote village teach themselves Biology and English in 3 months with a single computer in a wall.

So the ice has been broken.

Do we really need huge buildings and desks and chairs and schedules and lecturers and tutors and fees and loans to pay for it all?

Sometimes we do.

But sometimes we don’t.

Imagine if we had both!

Imagine if people could choose!

In fact, we don’t have to imagine, because those are our choices already.

But sitting at home watching video after video is lonely.

Wouldn’t it be great if all the people in your area who were about to watch that video or learn that topic could come together and watch it together, and explain it to teach each other, and argue about it together?

Do you think you’d learn the content better if you could do that?

All we need is a courtyard in the middle of town that can hold about 100 people.

Tauranga’s got one. It’s called Red Square. (Which we could rename “TED Square” after TED.com).

Turn up there at lunchtime with your lunch and with your smart phone or tablet or laptop.

(Free high-speed WiFi would be handy too but 3G data is getting cheaper, so that will do for now.)

Choose a Khan video or TED video or any other YouTube video you want to watch and tweet your intention using the hashtag #RedSquareVideo and start a 2 minute countdown.

People can subscribe to be notified when that hashtag is used and they would have 2 minutes to come and join you.

They can load the video themselves (or cosy up next to you to watch it), and when it’s done you can have a chat about it so that knowledge really sinks in.

Or, if they want to watch another video, that can do so and others could join them.

The first day for this is 12noon Thursday 18 April 2013.

Join me in Red Square (1 Spring St, Tauranga)?

Imagine if 5 people turned up every day to do this.

And then 10.

And then 50.

And then 99.

That’s the goal: For 99 people to turn up on the 99th day after the start on 18 April 2013.

And this will be the headline on the Bay of Plenty Times website on Fri 26 July 2013 (99 days later): “Tauranga University Enrolls First 99 Students, 4 Years Ahead Of Schedule”.

Will you be one of them?

2 Replies to ““Tauranga University Enrolls First 99 Students, 4 Years Ahead Of Schedule” – Proposed Headline for BOP Times, Fri 26 July 2013”

  1. To give a history to the building of universities, between the 1960’s and 1980’s, New Zealand’s economy started to stagnate which resulted in overspending and a high unemployment rate. By the mid 80s, “Rogernomics” kicked in to reduce spending on social programmes such as education. Up until this time, tertiary education was fully funded by the government, meaning student numbers were restricted to a low level and only elite students were accepted. Because of this, only a small number of Universities was needed to fill the need in New Zealand. In the late 1990s, this system was restructured into a competitive business environment as tertiary education was opened up by applying fees to students – so the government funding could be spread across more students as they would have to pay a portion themselves. This meant that more people from a range of socio-economic backgrounds could now get tertiary education.

    It was about this time, late 1990s, that the University of Waikato opened a branch in Tauranga, or Tauranga University College (TUC) as it was known, and started teaching some of their programmes in Tauranga. Their intention was to use the increase in student numbers to open a full university in Tauranga, as a stand-alone university; which would then bring more students to the region and enhance the local economy. In the early 2000s, when AUT became a University, government policy was that they would not fund any new Universities, and that the current seven (plus the new AUT) would still be sufficient to service all students in New Zealand. It was around this time TUC reverted back to the Waikato name of University of Waikato at Tauranga.

    During the lifetime of TUC, and later UoWT, it was always the intention of Waikato to build a campus in Tauranga to service the region, allow for a growth in course offerings, and to enable students to get the ‘student lifestyle’ most young people want. This never eventuated as the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) wouldn’t allow any more funding for developing a new university; but they would provide funding towards a partnership deal between UoWT and the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic; and so late 2000s a purpose-built office block was built for both institutions use on the Polytechnic grounds at Windermere.

    Due to the government policy of not funding a full stand-alone university in Tauranga, it’s highly unlikely that this is going to happen any time in the near future, which is unfortunate for the region and means that most of our young people will leave and take their skills and knowledge with them, often not to return.

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