DEANZ Foundation

This second part of the DEANZ history documents the events leading up to the foundation of the Distance Education Association of New Zealand.

The previous part of the DEANZ history demonstrated that people in New Zealand, especially those living in rural areas, developed respect for correspondence and distance education because of the quality of the service given by each of the major providers.

The late 1970’s saw a revival of interest in rural education. In 1976 there was a meeting held about secondary school distance education in South Australia. In 1983 The National Centre for Research in Rural Education (University of Western Australia. 1980-84) in Perth held a conference on distance education with that State’s Education Department. As in 1976, the 1983 meeting included representative from all of Australia’s States and New Zealand. Various recommendations arose concerning uses of technology and of staff development in distance education. In general, the school sector sought to personalize tuition for students. An additional outcome involved the re-activation of the Australasian Association of Distance Education Principals. Technologically, the West Australian broadcaster, Golden West Network, began to use an Australian domestic satellite to reach remote and isolated students in two-way communications (ASPESA, 1983).

One reason for the growing interest in rural and distance education involved the design and development of a national satellite system in Australia. In addition the national Australian Satellite Users Group published a magazine “Satuser” (Higgins, 1980). This magazine highlighted the potential uses of satellite communications for both education and local government in remote areas. A national group, the Isolated Children’s’ Parents Association held its 10th annual conference in Bourke (NSW) to discuss these issues (ICPA. 1980).

The Association persuaded the then Federal Minister for Communications (Hon. I. Sinclair), to ensure appropriate transponders were added to the satellite specifications. Experience using satellite for educational purposes arose from the use of the United States’ Peacesat satellite operating from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, serving the Pacific communities.(Peacesat, 1980). Educational transmissions in the Pacific region could be accessed even as far away as Western Australia in the 1980s until the satellite was decommissioned (Higgins, 1985).

The establishment of the National Centre for Research in Rural Education raised an undisclosed but significant issue for both Australia and New Zealand, namely that of serving indigenous communities via distance education. Most educational provision at that time and still today is not aimed at indigenous populations. The inaugural Director of the National Centre for Rural Education (himself having Inuit origins) and the Board of Management (dominated by pastoralists and grazier interests) could not agree about educational provision to Aboriginal people. Similarly, the Correspondence School in New Zealand at the time did not cater for Māori students learning at marae. Nevertheless, the educational climate favoured a better form of provision, using non-internet satellite and land-based communications technologies. Although US based universities used a network protocol in the 1980’s, the internet as it is understood today did not come into being until the mid 1990’s, some 15 years after educators sought to use technology systems to enhance rural and distance education.

Specifically in New Zealand, the spread of distance education activity across the sectors of schools, technical and university education meant that each sector developed different ways of communicating between those within each sector. For example, the university sector with its focus on research and journals for publications and conferences is different from the others. The technical sector usually controlled either by Ministry of Education or of Employment, had different drivers to meet employer or business needs. The school sector, notably the Correspondence School, had no funds for travel or for research even for the school principals or senior managers.

New Zealand’s response to the revived interest in distance education was to plan an inaugural conference to traverse the topic ‘Distance learning what is wanted?’ (Hansen, 1985). This theme aimed itself at students studying through distance education. As a result of this gathering, Michael Childs of the Correspondence School moved a motion to create a distance education association of New Zealand at the conference. Its intentions were to co-ordinate and organize distance education activities; publish a newsletter; and, form a communications network of those involved in community and distance education. The meeting agreed that it would create a constitution and interim executive to be established.

Executive members included;

  •  Michael Childs, Correspondence School,
  • Judy Southworth, Correspondence School,
  • Dave Nicholl, Technical Correspondence School,
  • Donald Bewley, Massey University,
  • Janet Williams, Extramural students, Massey University,
  • Maureen Williams Extramural students, Massey University,
  • Atholl Forrest, Advanced Studies for Teachers Unit,
  • Peter McMechan, University of Otago Extension Studies,
  • Jens Hansen REAP, Hokitika,
  • Beverley Elder, Waiariki Community College, and
  • Heather Mulholland, Trade Union Postal Education service.

The meeting agreed that it would create a constitution and interim executive (ASPESA, 1984).

By the end of September 1984 the draft constitution had been created by the interim executive committee. This draft followed very closely that of similar incorporated associations but the members did not seek incorporation itself, although this draft contains a crucial financial winding up clause that was required for incorporation (Renton, 1991).

This Constitution redefined and extended the aims from those created at the initial meeting. They included activities in the interest of distance education in New Zealand such as;

  • advising and making representations on any matter relevant to distance education in New Zealand,
  • establishing liaison with related organisations in New Zealand,
  • promoting discussion about research and development in distance education,
  • disseminating the results of relevant research and identifying areas in which research and development is particularly needed,
  • establishing liaison with the international distance education community,
  • organizing regular conferences for the discussion of distance education,
  • organizing special interest seminars and workshops in distance education, and,
  •  publishing a newsletter at regular intervals and such other publications as the Association determined from time to time.

Membership was open to any person in New Zealand who had interest or involvement in distance education. Associate membership was open to non-residents interested or involved in distance education. Institutional membership was open to institutions or organisations involved in distance education. Institutional membership gave the organisations one delegate each. The Constitution allowed for a President, a Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and five other elected members or co-opted ex-officio members. The executive had to meet or teleconference at least once each year. In general it would be fair to comment that this draft constitution replicated the Ministry of Justice, or its equivalent, model. On 4 December 1984 the DEANZ interim committee conducted a teleconference to discuss the association’s future development and agreed to circulate the draft constitution for comment, and for final adoption at the proposed 1985 inaugural conference (DEANZ, 1984a),(DEANZ, 1984b).

Ormond Tate, Principal of the Correspondence School, made his views about distance education known in his notes about distance learning support systems at the ASPESA meeting of August 1984 (ASPESA, 1984). These concerns extended beyond correspondence education. He recognised that the learning systems and materials used in correspondence education were a major supplement to conventional formal education, whose use would foster providing more equal educational opportunities for all. The result could be achieved because the materials and strategies supported the curriculum of the teachers in conventional schools (Tate, 1984).

Tate argued that the distance education function would contribute substantially to the viability and scale of dual mode institutions “Any resultant increases in size may have led to an expansion of courses offered, upgrading teaching positions, attracting more able staff, and enabling more research time and grants which would lead to economies of scale.” (Tate, 1984).

Teachers in rural schools could enrol in the Correspondence School to improve their knowledge of teaching and become more versatile in other subjects. Also unqualified teachers could become qualified through distance education courses and receive in-service training.(Tate, 1984).

Tate took care to suggest that students in conventional institutions could benefit from distance education if their participation in school was hampered by health issues such as asthma, for example. Correspondence materials could be used for the education of gifted students or for special education, through carefully coordinated support programs. At the secondary level, correspondence materials could support the viability of small rural secondary education, expand the range of subject offerings, and maintain continuity of study for students who changed schools. Significantly, Tate encouraged education through the correspondence methods for prisoners, armed services personnel, children in hospitals, and young women forced to leave school because of pregnancy. It is significant that Tate identified many of the benefits using distance education methods could bring to schools and institutions more generally. Over the next 10 or 15 years many of the strategies were implemented both in New Zealand and Australia. For example the Walton and McShane “Think Tank on Research into Rural Education” demonstrated these issues (McShane, 1990). However, in common with many people working in distance education, Tate did not address the concerns held by many teachers and administrators at the time, namely, that somehow distance education was the second best option to be used if face-to-face teaching could not be undertaken.

The DEANZ committee applied successfully to the National Council for Adult Education for support to manage the 1985 conference. The organization invited the Minister of Education to attend, but he declined. The committee met on 15 March to finalize its conference arrangements. The program consisted of various themes, such as receiving services, under the general heading or conference theme of “Students: what do they want?”. The conference was opened by the local mayor. Tate referred to the issues he had raised in the previous year, but this meeting had a number of distance students present and they delivered papers outlining their experience of distance learning. He also highlighted how distance education was used in world in the wider world, citing experiences in Russia, China and in many developing countries supported by the ICDE, the Open University of the United Kingdom and UNESCO (Tate, 1985). Only New Zealand and Australia offered learning opportunities from “cradle to grave” that is from early childhood to adult education. In terms of New Zealand’s performance, he noted that the Department of Education was satisfied with the standards of performance achieved by the country’s distance education students, although officials appeared to resist the uptake of new technologies such as videotapes. Tate quoted a former Minister of Education the Hon. Peter Fraser about the government’s objective, “broadly expressed is that every person what ever his kind of academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he lived in town or country, has a right as a citizen to a free education for which he is the best fitted and to the fullest extent of his powers.”

Tate concluded his address recognizing that the formation of DEANZ would do a great deal towards improving distance education services in New Zealand. After listing distance education institutions he wrote, “ there is only one Correspondence School among thousands of conventional face-to-face classroom teaching schools. This anomalous status means that there we may be seen as different, second best, not the real thing. We are often left with the feeling that our work is not appreciated or its possibilities understood. “

1987 to 1988

During 1987 and 1988 DEANZ consolidated and extended its influence in New Zealand. But despite its best efforts, DEANZ was unable to influence the Picot Report that was responsible for dramatically changing the Department of Education and creating schools as quasi-independent bodies governed by Boards of Governors. It would be fair to comment that this report ignored the concerns of over 70,000 distance students in New Zealand. Nevertheless the DEANZ membership rose to 220 individuals and affiliated institutions. Partly as an outcome of high membership, DEANZ’ financial position improved and costs had been minimized because member institutions covered many of the administration charges associated with the organisation. DEANZ also conducted four small annual conferences through its local regions. In 1989 the base individual memberships changed little although institutional membership grew, resulting in a very healthy income and bank balance. DEANZ members’ interest grew into particular directions this time, first in the use of technology and second, in creating special qualifications and distance education.

The executive decided to employ a part time person to help with administration and organization, and at the same time encourage member institutions to designate a DEANZ liaison person. DEANZ profile rose internationally at this time with its contacts with ICDE and the newly formed Commonwealth of Learning. These liaisons and the ability of academic members to publish research papers and oversee masters and doctoral studies further enhanced DEANZ reputation (DEANZ, 1988).


One of DEANZ aims included advising and making representations about distance education. In March 1990 a delegation of senior distance educators met the then Minister of Education. The DEANZ executive consisted of:

  • Prof. T. Prebble, Massey University, DEANZ President,
  • Mr. Ormond Tate, Correspondence School,
  • Annette Mackenzie, Correspondence School
  • Mrs. Shona Butterfield, New Zealand Technical Correspondence Institute, and,
  • Mrs. K. Broadley Advanced Studies for Teachers Unit.

The purpose of the meeting was to bring distance education out the shadows and to address some issues raised by the Minister namely:

  • The government’s aim to broaden access and ensure equity through distance education and open learning;
  • How to fund continued expansion of distance education;
  • The challenge of delivering distance education with optimum efficiency or minimum cost;
  • The need to explore and exploit the potential of new communications technology in distance education; and,
  • The international dimension of distance education.

The Minister expressed interest in focusing on outcomes led services rather than input driven ones. He asked DEANZ to prepare a submission to feed into the development of a national policy on distance education. The proposed national policies should:

  • State clearly the distance education is credible and comparable and not second best or of a last resort;
  • Distance education is applicable from early childhood to university education;
  • Distance education is supplementary and complementary to face-to-face education;
  • Recognize distance education’s contribution to retraining and re-equipping people for economic change and help women and girls contribute to society; and,
  • Recognize distance education is the only practical educational option for many groups of disadvantaged New Zealanders including rural and housebound ones and performs a unique service for these equity targets (DEANZ, 1990).

The DEANZ executive recommended establishing a task force on distance education. It proposed membership for including people from the following organisations.

  • Auckland Institute of Technology.
  • Christchurch Polytechnic.
  • The New Zealand Correspondence Institute.
  • Massey University.
  • The New Zealand Technical Correspondence Institute.
  • De Loittes


This year proved to be significant for DEANZ in several respects. It conducted a conference and responded to a UNESCO request, reported on regional services and student support and, significantly, began the process of transforming its bulletin into a professional journal. Ormond Tate produced a most interesting paper on the question of efficiency and effective outcomes of education and distance education in particular (Tate, 1991). It might be surmised that these terms, originating from the world of business and economy, would eventually have a major impact on educational thinking. Tate made the point that those who try to use these terms in an educational context mean the level of outcomes divided by the cost of input. He noted it is very hard to measure outcomes, while it is easiest to measure inputs. A modern analysis might claim that inputs are to outputs as strategies are to outcomes.

Workshops at the 1991 conference produced a number of papers for the design development and implementation of distance learning materials and strategies. Executive member Andrea Mcilroy developed a proposal to transform the DEANZ bulletin into a professional journal. Early in its life it performed the function of a flier, circulating news items on papers to members. DEANZ did not have any professional research publication capacity of its own. Its members needed this outlet partly because at this time academic publication had become a very important part of University performance measures, both individually and collectively. McIlroy described the purpose of the journal including broad general articles and from time to time articles on specific themes. Production and distribution costs would be part of the subscriptions. DEANZ would find costs related for annual editorial board meetings. McIlroy suggested the following titles, New Zealand Journal of Distance Education or, Journal of Distance Learning and Teaching (Mcilroy, 1991).

DEANZ final activity for 1991 was a seminar on regional services and student support. This consisted of an overview of New Zealand’s major distance education institution services and support students. The seminars identified a commonality of issues and concerns and the willingness to be involved in cooperative ventures (DEANZ, 1991).


DEANZ conducted a joint ICDE / DEANZ conference. Despite the success of this event, the President reported that DEANZ activity had reduced, perhaps as a consequence of members’ additional workload. The meeting contemplated moving to a biennial DEANZ conference with regional meetings being conducted in alternate years. DEANZ published the first edition of the Journal of Distance Learning in 1994. Also DEANZ made its first” DEANZ Award” for an investigation into how distance education approaches could be integrated into the staff development needs of Art and Design teachers. For its international outreach, DEANZ sought the support of the Commonwealth of Learning for a New Zealand Fellowship in distance education. Despite a detailed submission there was no evidence that this proposal succeeded.


The 1995 DEANZ conference focused on the use of emerging technologies in distance education. This drew presenters from around New Zealand. The Annual General Meeting held at the conference reported the DEANZ had accumulated a considerable fund of $21,000 in its accounts. DEANZ awarded Ormond Tate a lifetime membership for his contribution to distance education. This followed his retirement from the Correspondence School. A long-term aim of DEANZ had been the establishment of a specialist qualification in distance education. A survey conducted in 1994 and reported in 1995 demonstrated that the market in New Zealand was insufficient to sustain such a specialist qualification. DEANZ recommended the exploration of options for study with existing tertiary teaching qualifications and sought to establish a database of appropriate qualifications and their providers (DEANZ, 1995).


DEANZ took a major step in 1996 by appointing a new administrator. She provided an excellent service for several years thereafter. The Association began to translate its constitution into Māori to meet its treaty obligations but there was no record of this having been finished. Meanwhile, Massey University extended its outreach service by the publication of the specialist newsletter. DEANZ appointed two members to represent distance students to produce open and distance learning unit standards for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority framework, with primary user groups being the primary and secondary schooling sectors.


The increasing presidential workload in 1997 caused the President to step down in 1998. The focus of DEANZ moved towards servicing those aspects of distance education characterized by diversity. As noted earlier DEANZ had a constitution but had not become incorporated. As a charity and being incorporated, it could better mange it taxation obligations for funds gathered at conferences. Incorporation served to protect the executive committee of the outcomes of any legal actions. In addition to being incorporated, DEANZ had to conduct meetings at regular intervals and have its accounts audited and its business reported to the relevant Ministries. As an incorporated society DEANZ became eligible to receive funds from agencies or governments.

The 1998 conference occurred in a climate of tertiary sector of job losses and fears for the future involving much more technology in teaching and learning than had been the case before. Significantly, as technology became more wide-spread in the tertiary sector the skills of distance educators moved towards the centre stage as students themselves took up new technologies. It is also notable that one of DEANZ executive members represented the organization at the Commonwealth of Learning workshop on distance education in Harare, Zimbabwe.


By the end of 1998 DEANZ voted to become incorporated for reasons given above and also sought to establish its first website and advertise for a person to fill the role of manager for that site. DEANZ also began to increase its presence on the national scene. The Teacher Registration Board sought its advice about programs of teacher preparation conducted at a distance. Attendance by DEANZ members of various Australian, Australasian and other conferences further raised the profile for example, the ICDE and the Queensland Open Learning Network conferences.

The incorporation saga concluded with final approval from the Ministry of Justice being granted in early 1999. By the end of the year the website had been completed. The Commonwealth of Learning invited DEANZ to present to the 10th anniversary of its founding. The meeting was held in Brunei Dar es Salaam in March of that year. DEANZ’s raised profile was to have a significant effect later on through the Commonwealth of Learning. Sadly, the Newsletter carried an obituary of Ormond Tate who had died that year. It might be claimed the DEANZ would not have existed without his and drive right at the start. His loss was severely felt (DEANZ, 1999).

The death of Ormond Tate and the incorporation of DEANZ marked the end of the maturation of DEANZ into a body that not only commanded respect in New Zealand, but also overseas. In particular, there were strong links forged with similar bodies in Australia and with the international body ICDE.

To be continued.


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By Andrew Higgens