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ROB MacCULLOCH: Vice Chancellor Grant Robertson? He's not Qualified & Does not Deserve the Job. What an Awful Message to Send Kiwi Students: NZ is not a Meritocracy

Big Media are reporting that their mate, former Finance Minister Grant Robertson "will retire from Parliament next month as he becomes the vice-chancellor of his alma mater Otago University". 

What an outrage. Vice Chancellors are meant to be distinguished scholars. Meant to have a PhD. Meant to have had a lifetime of researching & teaching at the highest level. Our former Finance Minister has done none of those things. It took me 15 years to train for my job at Auckland University. It is impossible for a guy like Robertson to have a clue about what it takes to publish an academic paper, teach a great course, or attract the interest of a major business or philanthropist in one's field, without having been through that 15 year learning process. Does Otago think it is an extension of the NZ Labour Party? That the academic ideal of a search for the truth doesn't matter? That education is so politicized it's best to have a politician running it? Otago already became politicized when it got close to Labour via folks like Michael Baker supporting the Ardern-Hipkins-Robertson Covid elimination "strategy". Hang on. Robertson has said in a Press Conference he is qualified because he "had once been a student at Otago". It's a national embarrassment.

What is this game of former members of parliament getting jobs they are not qualified for? What kind of message does it send our young people studying hard at school and in tertiary institutions? It doesn't matter how much you study or how smart you are? Better to become a politician if you want the top job at a University paying $500,000? Research is a waste of time? It's who you know not what you know if you want status and to earn big bucks? If you know people in Wellington then people will employ you hoping you can use your networks there for them? We're no longer a meritocracy? The University of Otago Council should resign. The whole lot of them.

By the way, here is a small part of the CV of the Vice Chancellor of Melbourne University, the main competitor of places like Otago and Auckland in our region of the world:

Professor Duncan Maskell

Professor Maskell holds a Master of Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Cambridge. He is a research specialist in infectious diseases. Professor Maskell’s career also includes the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and Wellcome Biotech. In addition to academic & university leadership roles, Professor Maskell has enjoyed an active entrepreneurial career, co-founding four biotech companies among his accomplishments, including Arrow Therapeutics, which sold to biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, and Discuva, which sold to Summit Therapeutics.

Why should your children go and study at Otago University anymore - wouldn't they be better off going to Melbourne or Sydney where the Vice Chancellors actually have experience in research, teaching and academic leadership?


Robert MacCulloch holds the Matthew S. Abel Chair of Macroeconomics at Auckland University. Rob blogs at Down To Earth Kiwi

6,302 views135 comments


The appointment of GR is outrageous.

It in fact has all the same features as Hunter Biden being appointed to Burisma.. never had a clue then, before or since. Paid a lot of money, never went to a meeting... just a pay off scam = same-same.


There can be little doubt that the appointment of this utterly incompetent ass to VC to Otago University is an appalling choice which further highlights the almost complete loss of moral compass for this entire country. This is yet another sure sign that NZ is heading into a very dark future. Robertson's appointment is a typical 'fail upwards' kakistocracy appointment - absolutely to be expected, along with knighthoods and high office rewards for the most blatant corporate shills, as we continue our slide into a corporate-sponsored tyranny in a South Seas killing field. This ghoulish clown is right near the top of the pyramid in the great 'NZ Axe Murder Stakes' in his appalling cheerleading and support of what has…


Common Rob! You have been in academia long enough to understand what you are saying comes across as a disingenuous provocation to stir up the BHH faithfull and even coming from a Chair at another NZ uni, could come across as sour grapes. Clearly, you must know that the University of Sydney appointed Mark Scott, who has not undertaken a PhD, and was a NSW government minister before being VC just a couple of years ago, so it is not a great example to give there!

Im a NZ born senior academic working in the UK, and appointing a VC without a PhD is pretty common place. And I suspect Rob, you know this as well.... Some VCs come throug…


I was once proud to be associated with Otago Uni. Sadly, no longer the case. It was pretty biased decades ago. Now, a Broke , Woke , Joke.

How have the mighty fallen ???? ,


Robertson's appointment is a disgrace that cannot/must not be overlooked by the coalition government or the NZ public who voted for change and an end to wasteful spending.

Why would any competent organisation with a proper governance structure appoint someone on $600k+ with no qualifications or experience to a senior management position into an organisation that is in trouble? It just highlights to the public how dysfunctional that organisation has become and how weak the checks and balances are at ministerial level to allow such blatant abuse of power.

There should be a judicial enquiry into this scandalous use of public funds used to support a retiring politician who doesn't have the energy to go on in politics (in his…

Replying to

A very bad joke !!!

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