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On March 2, the Tertiary Education Union (TEU) reported that “the tertiary education sector is failing to meet the needs of Māori staff and students.”
The claim was based on preliminary results from TEU’s State of the Sector survey, which is comprised of responses from over a thousand staff members across the tertiary sector.
Sandra Grey, TEU National President, suggested the survey was a touchstone that allowed for staff to reflect on changes to the sector.
“To see that Māori staff, more than Pākehā staff, felt student wellbeing was compromised is important.”
While staff members from VUW participated in the survey, Grey suggested the claims were more relevant for the sector as a whole.
“We are seeing some universal experiences: staff feeling more stressed, staff feeling that they’re under pressure and unable to give to their students as much as they want to.”
Rawinia Higgins, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Māori) at VUW, said “there is a lot of support for things Māori across the university.”
“In terms of student provisions, we have targeted programs for Māori and Pasifika that Student Academic Services provide, and there are other things like the marae.”
VUW’s Strategic Plan, implemented in 2014, includes mātauranga Māori, te reo Māori, and Te Tiriti o Waitangi as core values.
It also states an objective to “enrol 1000 Māori students over and above the current number” as part of an endeavour “to increase enrolments of talented students currently denied access to university study by their social, cultural, or financial circumstances.”
In response to Māori participation and completion rates remaining below those of the total population, the government’s Tertiary Education Strategy 2014–2019 states: “By 2030 30% of New Zealanders will be Māori or Pasifika, and as such it is essential that tertiary education improves its delivery to these groups.”
Grey suggested that while there may be a greater inclusion of targets with government and university strategy documents, this does not necessarily translate into better results for Māori staff and students.
“In some places student support is getting better, but in many places it’s going backwards, which is not a good thing given both our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a nation, and government directives around Māori student achievement.”
Higgins suggested that VUW could do more. “We’re still a long way off from growing our Māori staff capacity, particularly our Māori academic staff.”
“The provisions we are providing might not be viewed by some of our community as going far enough. The Provost [Wendy Larner] and I have agreed to have a look at the provisions we do have, as I’m not totally convinced they’re all coordinated in a good way.”
“It is a good timely reminder that we can’t be complacent.”