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  • rmacculloch

I would've failed Grant Robertson's BA (Hons) thesis. Why? It has no thesis & is just a summary of his political hobby-horse during his student days

Over the years as a working academic, you grade many assignments, dissertations, theses, you name it. On that note, I have just looked over Former Finance Minister & incoming Vice Chancellor of Otago University Grant Robertson's BA (hons) "thesis" & can't work out why it was passed. There is no "thesis" in the thesis - no argument or theory put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved using evidence. Instead it reads like a rambling discourse about the restructuring of the NZ Universities Student Association, which Robertson personally witnessed. It contains only six "secondary source" reference articles, one of which is the high-brow "North and South" magazine. At one point he says, "Bidge Smith returned to be President in 1987, and she was followed by Andrew Little, from Victoria University who also served two years in 1988 and 1989". Who cares?


What is odd about the thesis is that there's not a shred of discussion as to what was the best structure for the Student's Association. Isn't the highest form of politics to achieve a better world, one where social welfare is highest? However what emerges from Robertson's thesis is that in his world there is no "best" form of organization - its always about the politics. His view seems to be that organizations change simply because rival politicians may run on a "change" platform - whether it is a good change or a bad change is beside the point - whether the change occurs simply boils down to the "political experience" of the rival factions - in this case "student politicians". The following line in his abstract no doubt gives an insight into the workings of Robertson's mind, "The restructuring process shows the vulnerability of the organization to those with an agenda for change". That thought may have never left him - he probably believes Labour was voted out last year, 30 years after he wrote his "thesis", not due to anything that he had done wrong in terms of governing as Finance Minister - but simply because National ran on a "change" platform that appealed to voters. Such a view is depressing to me - it assumes voters are dumb and get suckered by slogans from experienced political operators - whereas the world I prefer to live in assumes that most people are not suckers and vote for leaders who they believe can genuinely improve their rights, their freedoms and their living standards.


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