It's a debate as old as the Epic of Gilgamesh (look it up, engineering students*): are exact sciences harder than humanities?

A University of Canterbury engineering lecturer seems to think so and has sparked an online debate when the teaching slides surfaced on social media this week.

"If engineering was easy, they'd call it arts instead," the lecturer's slide claimed.

Luke Goode, associate professor in media and communication at the University of Auckland, tweeted the image on Wednesday, adding: "Dear Canterbury Uni NZ Arts colleagues: apparently this is how your Engineering colleagues think it's appropriate to talk about you and your students to their new students."

Advertisement

Goode followed up with a tweet where he says he understands this is probably just intended as "harmless banter" but it's still a telling sign of "an ideological war on critical thinking coupled with the anti-intellectualism that infects this country".

"Does this lecturer seriously imagine he or she would find an Arts degree any easier than I would find an Engineering degree? How about encouraging your new students to behave like adults by setting an example?" Goode added.

A University of Canterbury spokesperson said in a statement that the lecture slide had been taken out of context.

"An Engineering lecturer made a light-hearted comment in an introductory lecture, intending to reinforce the point that the students would have to work hard.

He followed up with a comment to the effect that, personally, he'd have found an Arts degree hard. He also stated that: life is hard, engineering is harder," the statement said.

UC Arts Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Jonathan Le Cocq and UC Engineering Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Evans-Freeman released a joint statement in response to the circulating tweet.

"We have reviewed this part of the lecture, and it is clear that the slide was intended to be humorous, and the lecturer follows it by stating that he would personally have found an Arts degree too difficult."

"Nonetheless, taken out of context, it fosters a misconception about the value of our disciplines and the relationship between them that in no way reflects the views of the College of Engineering, and which it apologises for and wishes to correct."

Advertisement

The College of Engineering regrets any misperceptions created.

Twitter was divided on the matter.

* See, stings a bit, doesn't it?