Commerce at Otago 1912–1987: a personal perspective
Cowan, T K
In 1988 we can look back on 76 years of teaching in Commerce subjects at the University of Otago. What had begun in 1912 as a modest University contribution to the provision of educational courses in accountancy subjects had developed by 1987 into one of the largest faculties of the University, covering in its teaching and research a range of business - related subjects that are now recognised as being of particular relevance to our changing New Zealand economy. A 75th anniversary provides (albeit a year late!) an opportunity to review the way we have come, and hopefully, to project a future built on the foundation that has been laid. This brief history is designed to contribute towards that review. For almost fifty years the Faculty was concerned mainly with the provision of high quality but low cost educational courses for students whose primary objective was the Accountancy Professional qualification. The high quality came from the involvement as part-time teachers of able professional accountants and lawyers, as well as the University's full time teachers in economics. The low cost was due to a combination of low remuneration to part-time teachers and the virtual absence of extra costs in accommodating classes and part-time staff members. During this long period, responsible part-time teachers gave faithful service in providing courses which changed little year by year. The pass rates achieved by students were consistently well above the average for New Zealand. But there are no exciting events to record, and there was little change to affect the ongoing operation of the Faculty, which seems to have functioned quite well for its first 40 years without any formal meetings! That is bad news for the historian, and also perhaps for the reader of the first part of this history. By way of contrast the last 25-30 years comprise a period of radical change and exciting developments. Thanks to the contributions in ideas, enthusiasm, and personal effort of many people, the Commerce Faculty evolved from a stable, largely out-of-hours facility for the education of future accountants to a mainly full-time, vigorous and innovative School of Business Studies with developed courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels covering a range of business-related disciplines. What had been a tolerated adjunct to the University has become one of its most important faculties. This history has been written from a personal perspective. I participated in the pre-development era, first as a part-time student during the years 1933-9 and then as a part-time teacher in 1940 and from 1946-1960. I was deeply involved in the years of development and change as the first full-time teacher (1960), as Head of Department (to 1981), and as Dean of the Faculty during the critical years 1960-1975.Hopefully the insights from personal involvement will outweigh any bias in the interpretation of events. I am indebted to several people for their assistance with preparing this history; but the reviewing of my years of involvement with the Faculty as a teacher and administrator makes it clear that my principal debt is to my wife who gave tremendous support through the exciting and stressful years of development of the Faculty.
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: commerce; University of Otago; School of Business; Otago University; History
Research Type: Book