Competition or Cooperation?

I read an interesting blog post today about supposed “healthy competition” between universities (see link above).

Now I want you to ponder this. Should universities be in competition with each other?
What marks the difference between “healthy” and “unhealthy” competition?

This is something that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) has been focusing on over the past few years and trying to stamp out. Universities and other tertiary providers should not be in competition with one and other but should rather be working together. At the end of the day cooperation benefits everyone far greater then competition.

Think about this. With cooperation in research people can move forward on ideas faster. How many different universities need to invent the wheel? Cooperation in research also allows for more open, honest and transparent findings and less allegations of faking results because rather then being the first to do something, as a team you are the best at doing it and therefore you have the best result. Competition does not drive improvements in research but rather forces researchers to work harder and rush things often making mistakes rather then actually doing something beneficial.

So how does this apply to undergraduate and postgraduate taught classes? Well the reality is this, in New Zealand you are forced to pay for your education. Therefore the education that you receive should be the highest possible quality education and you should get value for money. Money aka your fees should not be wasted on competition between universities such as advertising that trades off one university against another and neither should it be spent on anything other then the provision of your courses. Universities should not set up courses to compete with each other and steal students off one an other but should rather be introducing courses to meet the need of the market – something the TEC is trying to implement through its investment plans.

So is any form of competition healthy? No. Competition should not be permitted between universities. There are only 8 universities in New Zealand we are a small country and the majority of our funding to our universities comes from the government and at the end of the day they are all owned by the crown so in a round-a-bout way you only end up competing with yourself. Cooperation not Competition!

Media Spin and Politics

What happened in Whangamata yesterday was terrible but the way the media spins stuff to make it political just angers me.

“Until they raise the driving and drinking age this is going to continue on in New Zealand,”

The reality is this. The driver of the vehicle was 22. Not 15. Not 18. But 22. 8 years older then the minimum driving age. The problem is not a driving age problem. It is not a drinking age problem either. It is a attitude problem.

To solve the problem we should make it very clear. Drink and Drive once loose your car for 6 months. Do it twice and you loose your license for 2 years and your car is sold. Make it tough. Super tough. But don’t go blaming age. This is not an age problem.

Unpredictable Volcanoes

Well it appears that Ruapehu is heating up again. The irony of todays press release is only last week they said it was back to normal:

April 23 – GNS scientists have continued to monitor the activity at Ruapehu since the moderate-sized eruption on September 25 2007. No further eruptions have occurred, but an increase in gas output and the internal temperature of the volcano are indications of elevated unrest. It is unclear if this is a sign of further eruptions in the near future. The Alert Level remains at Level 1.

April 28 – Volcanic activity at Ruapehu is back to normal after the eruption on 25 September. This means that the risks to people who wish to climb up to Crater Lake are also back to normal.

May 2 – Increased volcanic activity at Mt Ruapehu has prompted a warning to climbers from the Conservation Department – though scientists can’t say whether an eruption is coming.

In a period of two weeks there are three different stories coming from the mountain. Who to believe?