Hon Bill English BCom Otago, BA(Hons) Well
Deputy Prime Minister
What are some of your favourite memories of Victoria University?
I went into a small English Literature Honours class straight from a sheep farm in Dipton, Southland, so it was quite a culture change. My classmates challenged everything I thought, and my lecturers were people who liked to corrupt young minds and stir their brains—which is something I’m very grateful for.
Have you kept any connections with Victoria?
I keep in touch with some of my lecturers and fellow students, and in my official capacity I have encouraged an active connection between the government machine and public policy specialists at Victoria. We have used Victoria staff to run and participate in policy processes, and I also like to talk to academics as part of my own policy development process—they are interesting, motivated people, often with a different perspective from public servants.
What is a major challenge of your current role?
As well as getting on top of the Government’s finances, a major focus of my role is improving public services—particularly for vulnerable people. When government does its job well and intervenes effectively, it enables vulnerable people to increase their resilience and social mobility, and it helps them make positive changes to their lives.
We are aiming for government services that deliver a reduction in the indicators of social stress by focusing strongly on the most vulnerable—so one of the challenges is to have services that adapt to individual and family needs. And if we are successful at that, it will reduce demand for more intensive services in the future.
My time at Victoria gave me a toolkit to understand better how public sector institutions operate, what assumptions they are built on and how they can be changed.