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April 27, 2015 | by  | in News |
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More than just numbers

The number of Māori and Pasifika students enrolling at Victoria is rising annually, but there are still issues around the retention and admission of students.

The changes made to University Entrance standards last year have seen a dramatic drop in the number of students admitted to university, with only 58.3 per cent of year 13 students gaining the required credits.

Most worryingly, this drop was significantly larger among Māori and Pasifika students, with only one-third achieving UE under the changes.

Pem Bird, spokesperson for iwi education authority Nga Kura a Iwi o Aotearoa, has publicly disagreed with the UE changes, which saw Māori pass rates drop by approximately 20 per cent between 2013 and 2014. Bird told Radio New Zealand that universities had “shot themselves in the foot” by failing to properly consider what lifting UE standards would mean for secondary school educators and students.

Ngāi Tauira Māori Students’ Association co-president Geneveine Wilson said the association was also opposed to the standards.

“Tauira [students] are struggling to meet these requirements which can be off-putting for an individual, especially for those who have taken Te Reo Māori and Te Reo Rangatira as NCEA subjects.”

Massey University Associate Professor Jill Bevan-Brown has claimed that, according to her research, secondary schools are overlooking the “unique genius” of Māori students in favour of achievement figures, thus presenting a skewed view of Māori success rates.

Providing support for Māori and Pasifika students is a multifaceted and complicated beast and concern remains not so much with statistics, but the structural obstacles that prevent tauira from transitioning from high school to university. As Deputy Vice Chancellor (Māori) Professor Piri Sciascia told Salient, achievement rates for Māori “notably improve after first year” and University figures show Maori retention after first-year improved in 2015.

Pasifika Students’ Council Academic Officer Kieran Meredith said the key focus for his council was ensuring long term retention and degree completion amongst Pasifika students.

VUWSA President Rick Zwaan insisted that his organisation “strongly advocates for any initiatives [that] reduce the barriers to tertiary education” but said he was pleased with the rising rate of Māori enrolments and returning students at Victoria.

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