SINCE OUR LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN SERIES HAS A VERY LIMITED LIFESPAN WE JUMPED ALL THE WAY TO THE FRONT OF THE WISHLIST AND HIT UP VICE-CHANCELLOR NEIL QUIGLEY AN HOUR AFTER THE PRIME MINISTERS ANNOUNCEMENT. IT WASN’T THE FACE TO FACE, SAFELY DISTANCED MEETING SHE WANTED BUT SHE DID GET TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS. SHE ALSO GOT A PHOTO OF THE VICE-CHANCELLORS DOG.
NEXUS Do you think the University were quick enough in its response to Covid-19?
QUIGLEY We did not anticipate the full impact of COVID-19 until it became clear what the public health response on New Zealand was going to involve. But, we had an advantage in that with a significant cohort of potential students in China at the time that the border was closed to foreign nationals, we had started to ramp up for online delivery, and started to consider the impact of COVID-19, before we had to do that for our students on the Hamilton and Tauranga campuses.
NEXUS What are some of the challenges you faced in making decisions?
QUIGLEY We have never had to close the University in the middle of a semester before: so having to do so was totally outside the experience of every member of the Executive team. And because the situation was evolving very quickly, we were forced to make decisions in a vacuum of information in many cases. Some students perhaps imagined that we received advance information from the government about decisions that were being made, but in fact we were watching the Prime Minister’s press conferences to find out what was happening just like everyone else in New Zealand.
NEXUS Was there much push back from staff to online learning?
QUIGLEY Some staff were quite unprepared to move to online teaching, not having contemplated doing so before. But everyone understood that we had no choice, and with the teams in CeTTL and ITS providing assistance, and some staff who were already experts in online teaching to consult with, everyone managed to get their classes online. For some staff and for some classes I know it was a rather shaky start, but everyone put in a huge amount of effort to make it work.
NEXUS Has the University had to make any employment cuts during lockdown that would impact students education?
QUIGLEY No, as of this time all staff who were employed before the lockdown are still employed.
NEXUS What does alert 2 look like for the students of Waikato University?
QUIGLEY We will be opening the campus again, have students returning to the halls, and be implementing a sophisticated scheme using QR codes to allow contact tracing of people who were in different parts of the campus at different times. There will be a series of communications about the opening of the campus over the next few days.
NEXUS With the University having moved online for Covid will this permanently alter online education delivery or do you see lecturers going back to not recording things ?
QUIGLEY We think the move to all lectures being recorded should be permanent.
NEXUS The government recently announced its student support package which angered a number of students who felt it didn’t do enough, what were your views?
QUIGLEY We have done our best to make more money available to our University student hardship scheme, but I do not want to comment on the government’s support package for students.
NEXUS NZUSA has been advocating for a Universal Student Income of $250 per week. Is that something you think we will see from this government?
QUIGLEY Please ask Minister Hipkins.
NEXUS Will the University be providing extra mental health services when they return to help deal with raised levels of student anxiety?
QUIGLEY Yes, we have increased the resourcing in this area.
NEXUS Now that a return to some level or normalcy at least seems on the horizon what will the University be doing for those who graduated last month?
QUIGLEY We still cannot have large gatherings of people, and as you may have noticed today for events of this type the advice of the Prime Minister today was still “don’t make any plans”. Graduations take a lot of organising, and require long lead times, so I am not sure if will be possible to do anything for those who graduated by the time that we have the freedom to do so.
NEXUS What might be some of the long term impacts on the University with the borders remaining closed and fewer international students?
QUIGLEY The University derives around $50 million per annum from international student tuition fees, and it seems unlikely that the government will be prepared to fund the shortfall in revenue across the tertiary sector if we do not have international students. So if the borders remain closed for any length of time there is no doubt that the University of Waikato will have to change almost every aspect of its current operations. We hope it will not come to that.
NEXUS What changes are we likely to see in the Halls of residence for the short term?
QUIGLEY The main change will be that our hall managers and residential assistants will look much more stressed as they try to manage social distancing and limit large scale social activities.
NEXUS What are your thoughts around the recent announcement By Auckland University around raising everyone’s grade?
QUIGLEY You will have seen that today we sent an email to all students, signed by Kyla and me. We do not plan to follow the Auckland model, in part because our transition to online teaching has been more successful and in part because we think we can find more sophisticated ways of addressing any grade disadvantages for students arising from this trimester.
NEXUS What insights did you gain about the way you work from home?
QUIGLEY Everyone is on Zoom meetings all the time, which means that when I want to talk to someone I have not been able to wander into their office but have to set up a Zoom meeting. The days go by very quickly, and the weekends don’t feel as different from the week days as they used to (just a few less Zoom meetings on the weekends).
NEXUS What have you missed on or off campus?
QUIGLEY People – there are some things that Zoom can’t replicate. And my walk down to get a coffee and an update on the University gossip from Stacy.