Massey University, Palmerston North offers an excellent learning experience for computing related subjects, such as Computer Science. I have the privilege to have been able to study with some top quality lecturers there and later on work with MUPN CS through Landcare Research.

A letter to Massey University

To whom it may concern,

I have been told by one of my lecturers, Assoc. Prof. Jens Dietrich, that Massey University is considering shutting down the Computer Science department in Palmerston North.

I was shocked to hear this, because I have been involved with the department since my early days at university in 2002. Massey University, Palmerston North is a great campus with many attractive facilities. It is attractive for any student, because money does not come easy for many who are studying. Palmerston North is a great place to live affordable, while still having a lot of entertainment to offer for people of any age. There are lots of outdoor activities, many pubs and restaurants and a quick connection everywhere. This includes Wellington. While still being able to get to the skiing pistes in 2 hours and travelling less than 1 hour to the beach, Palmerston North makes it perfect for anyone in need of entertainment of any kind. And have I mentioned that housing and therefore rent are still much more affordable than Auckland and other big cities? As a student every dollar counts and just $10 less rent or for commuting per week can make a massive difference. I can get anywhere I need to in Palmerston North in about 10 minutes. Yes, I admit, Palmerston North has its downsides when you want to go clubbing and things like that, but given the many pubs, other entertainment facilities and gyms, one might discover there is more to life than night life.

MUPN is also great because it has a beautiful campus with lots of trees and bushes, plenty of parking and free buses. I could go on praising the location, but that is not all.

Computer Science is an emerging subject and just vitally important in this day and age. The world could not cope with demand on information services, if it was not for computers. It is an art, a passion and vitally important that New Zealand and any country develops capability in this area. Demand for good Computer Science experts is high and supply cannot keep up. Sure, there are online courses and extramural studies one can pursue. But for me as for probably many, it was very beneficial to also have the human interaction with my lecturers. A university education in any subject is not replaceable by online courses alone. It is an experience that will teach you the skills to learn concepts and then the implementation details become near trivial. Don’t get me wrong, I do online courses to teach me skills in areas that I need to know. However, the university education was accelerated learning how to get better at learning itself and lecturers specialise on teaching you with direct feedback. Also, the benefits of learning in person do not stop there. You learn to express your questions and feedback in person and learn to work together as a team, in for example the Software Engineering papers. Furthermore, with a university education you can go on to a career in spreading knowledge itself, which is invaluable as a skill. You can go on to do a PhD or go further and even become a professor and contribute to humanity in many more ways.

To give more examples rather than speaking in abstract:

Computer Science topics that are taught at Massey University, Palmerston North are of high relevance and the standard is challenging, yet rewarding and top quality. People coming out of MUPN are or have been working at big companies like Oracle on fundamental technologies such as JavaFX (e.g. Johnathan Giles). Every single Computer Science paper that I did at Massey was immensely helpful for my career. Artificial Intelligence is taught by top people like Prof. Stephen Marsland who wrote a reference book on the topic. Excellent lecturers I remember and that are still there are also Ass. Prof. Eva Heinrich, Dr. Catherin McCartin, Dr. Alexei Tretiakov, and last but not least, Dr. Giovanni Moretti.

My involvement with Computer Science at MUPN does not stop there. I have ongoing relationships with people like Dr. Giovanni Moretti and Assoc. Prof. Jens Dietrich. The Capstone Project, led by Jens Dietrich was a key to one of our most valuable hires, Tomas B. B. who still works for Landcare Research. The Capstone Project, which is Software Engineering C, has always great projects. It teaches students real world skills in working on a 12 week project to deliver a working product and a presentation. Tight time-frames and practical experience are also taught well. Working on-site, together as a team has immense benefit for future career success and managing work relationships. I know this because I have been attending a few presentations and was involved with hiring students for summer projects, who attended this class.

Assoc. Prof. Jens Dietrich has been leading this and for me personally has been one of my most influencial lecturers, back when I did the paper Algorithms and Data Structures. His clear, to the point and just simple explanations of Computer Science concepts still impress me today.

So, for economic, moral, educational and social-political reasons, I strongly believe, that keeping Computer Science in Palmerston North, is essential to not only Massey University’s but also New Zealand’s prosperity.

Kind regards,

Tim-Hinnerk Heuer