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August 19, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Good Intentions, Increased Retention

Efforts towards retaining Māori and Pasifika students have been paying off, with decreasing dropout rates meaning Māori and Pasifika students’ retention rates are still catching up with those of other ethnicities.

This rises to 22 per cent of Māori undergraduate students and 24 per cent of Pasifika undergraduate students. However, the nationwide average for tertiary-institution dropouts of Māori students is 25 per cent, slightly higher than the Victoria retention rates; showing that Victoria is doing slightly better than other universities in Māori-student retention. The national average retention rate for Pasifika students is 76 per cent, the same as Victoria.

Retention rates for NZ European undergraduate students are high relative to other ethnicities, with 85 per cent returning to study at Victoria in 2012. Middle Eastern, Latin American and African students and students in the ‘other’ category had retention rates of 81 and 80 per cent respectively.

2012’s 78-per-cent retention rate for Māori students was a slight dip from the 79-per-cent retained in 2011, but an increase on 2010’s retention rate of 75 per cent. Pasifika retention rates are also on the rise, having increased from 69 per cent in 2010 and 2011 to this year’s result of 76 per cent.

Overall, 16 per cent—roughly one in six—of all undergraduate students did not return to study at Victoria in 2012.

Director of Student Academic Services Pam Thorburn said that there was an upward trend in Māori and Pasifika student-retention rates at Victoria.

“The Pasifika Student Success Plan and the University’s Retention Plan, which includes Aro Taumata actions for Māori Student Retention, are being actively implemented and have contributed to an upward trend in Māori- and Pasifika-student pass rates in the period between 2010 and 2012,” Thorburn told Salient.

Victoria has two key senior leadership roles for Māori and Pasifika: Pro Vice-Chancellor (Māori) and Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika). The Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) role is the first of its kind in New Zealand, and is currently held by the Honourable Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. Professor Piri Sciascia is the current Pro Vice-Chancellor (Māori).

“These leaders work with the University’s Senior Management Team to engage students and staff in a community approach to enhance Māori and Pasifika students’ experience at Victoria and their retention and achievement rates,” said Thorburn.

The University has also introduced more inclusive teaching practices, Māori- and Pasifika-student support programmes like Te Pūtahi Atawhai, Māori and Pasifika Learning Advisors, faculty-based Equity Coordinators, faculty-based support programmes, orientation programmes, study groups, and exam-preparation wananga to support achievement. Several new learning spaces for Māori and Pasifika students have also been developed over the past few years.

VUWSA President Rory McCourt told Salient the long-term increases in Māori and Pasifika retention rates show the hard work of Victoria staff and student groups is paying off, noting VUWSA works “everyday” to support initiatives like the Pasifika Students’ Success Plan, the Retention Plan and leaders like Laban.

“VUWSA works closely with Ngāi Tauira and the Pasifika Students’ Council to raise the concerns of Māori and Pasifika students with the University, and ensure all our programmes, courses and services are meeting the needs of these students,” said McCourt.

Salient contacted Ngāi Tauira and the Pasifika Students’ Council for comment, but neither had replied at the time of publication.

Similar trends emerged in students studying Master’s and Doctorate degrees, where 84 per cent of NZ European students, 83 per cent of Māori students and 76 per cent of Pasifika students returned to Victoria. While the Pasifika postgraduate retention rate dipped 11 percentage points from 2011, the relatively small number of students means a few individuals can create large percentage shifts by dropping out. Just one in ten Middle Eastern, Latin American and African Master’s and Doctorate students drop out; the highest retention rate for any degree or ethnicity.

As previously reported in Salient, Victoria has a higher-than-average proportion of NZ European students with, four out of five students compared to the national average for tertiary institutions, 3.5 out of five.

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