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5 Questions with Prof. Dixon of The University of Auckland

Prof. Jenny Dixon, Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Engagement) of the University of Auckland, in conversations with BrainGain magazine.
BY Skendha Singh |   15-11-2016

Prof. Jenny Dixon, Vice-Chancellor (Strategic Engagement) of the University of Auckland, shared her perspective on what makes studying at the university a rewarding experience. She also gave advice on how students can succeed academically, and make a smooth cultural transition .

Edited excerpts from her conversation with BrainGain magazine are below.
  1. New Zealand and the University of Auckland have both been vocal about enrolling more international students. How does Auckland balance the quantity of student intake with the quality?

    We have high entry standards and that tends to work very strongly as a means of assisting quality. We look for quality rather than quantity.

    Although we are growing, our growth is nothing like what is taking place in Australia. They have a high percentage of international students in their student body. We’re just growing quietly because we’re focusing on quality.
     
  2. Do you have any tips for international students who are freshers, or will be joining university soon?

    For someone just coming, it’s always good to try and get to New Zealand a little bit early. We have very good orientation programs for all students. They need to take part in all of them. There’s also support for students on campus – classes and courses on all sorts of things. My advice would be just go for it! Take advantage of everything that comes up because it will help you immensely.

    It’s important for international students to understand course expectations. At the beginning of each class, at the beginning of each year, lecturers hand out course outlines. They explain how the course is going to work. It’s very important they come to class, engage in labs or tutorials. You’ll find there’s a whole program of assessment so you’re going to meet deadlines And I think one of the other important pieces of advice is, if you’re struggling with an assignment, don’t hesitate to get help. There’s a lot of help available. But don’t leave it for later.

    And that’s why, as soon as you get here, find out what’s going on. Find out where the library is. Go on a library tour. Make sure you know how it works. Get yourself set up on the internet. And then start to engage with student life because that helps with your overall adjustment.
     
  3. How would you describe student life at the University?

    Well, I must say we have a wonderful international office. They’re my dream team. They’re incredibly focused and energetic, and work hard to support international students.

    We have over 200 clubs on campus, so we encourage international students to join all sorts of activities. International students tend to have their own little groups. So, Chinese students have their student association, Indian students have theirs. Nonetheless, we always also encourage them to get to know New Zealand students. That really helps their adjustment to living in New Zealand and being at the University of Auckland.

    We’re very welcoming to international students. We see them as very important to the life of the university because, as you’ll appreciate, New Zealand students go abroad. And we want to produce citizens who are able to work alongside people from other cultures because we think it’s very important.

    Auckland is a great place to be because we’re one of the most multi-ethnic cities in the world. Immigration has been taking place and we have a wonderful array of people here. International students are very much part of that.

     
  4. Studies abroad are a huge commitment, financial and otherwise. Especially post-doctoral studies. In what ways does the University support PhD students?

    One of the things I’d like to stress about PhD is that international students pay the same fees as domestic students. The tuition fee is maybe around 6000-7000 NZD, although fees need to be set for next year, but it is in that ballpark. And, if they were paying international fees, it would be around 30,000 NZD. This is a huge help for international students. It’s like a scholarship. And it’s a distinctive feature of our PhD education.
    Another thing that we are keen on is helping students to do an internship during their PhD. Now, we haven’t got a great funding stream to help them, but we are looking closely at [how to] increase that. And regulations allow international students paying domestic fees to go abroad. They can go out of the country for the duration of their enrollment. It really expands their prospects!
     
  5. International students often gravitate to STEM and business courses in the expectation that these degrees will give them a job. What are your thoughts on that?

    Well, they will!

    But, I think that people sometimes don’t appreciate that doing Humanities, or subjects other than STEM, does open up job opportunities. Think about the rapidly changing world of work that lies ahead, or that increasingly, so much of what we do is online. We can see a lot of tasks across the world becoming automated. What is going to count is people’s ability to be creative, to think critically, to analyse problems and come up with solutions. And that is something you learn in the Humanities.

    So, we find that many of our students do joint degrees. For example, students doing Law will often do Arts, they’ll do Law and Science or another combination. And increasingly, that’s where I think students will go, because those students will think, “I also want to draw on my other skills and talents. And if I can do another degree in the Humanities, it will make me quite a well-rounded graduate. And enhance my employment prospects.”

    So, that’s something that students should also think about.


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