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SDG 4 - Quality Education

14 November 2023

Learn how UC is committed to contributing to SDG 4 - Quality Education, to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.


Researchers elected as Royal Society Fellows

Five UC researchers and a graduate have been elected to the Academy of the Royal Society. Professor Jennifer Adams, Professor Brendon Bradley, Professor Bronwyn Hayward, Professor Brett Robinson and Professor Te Maire Tau were announced as Fellows, and internationally renowned UC graduate, economist Professor David Teece was elected as a Honorary Fellow. Physics and Astronomy Professor Adams is New Zealand's lead scientist in the IceCube collaboration. Earthquake Engineer Professor Bradley has made significant contributions in several areas of earthquake science and engineering. Political Science and International Relations Professor Hayward is an internationally recognised researcher at the intersection of climate change, sustainability and youth studies. Professor Robinson has made leading contributions to the understanding of fluxes of the chemical elements in the soil - water - plant continuum.  Professor Tau (Ngāi Tahu) is a leading tribal historian who has dedicated himself to the re-discovery, protection and translation of Ngāi Tahu histories and knowledge. Professor Teece is a global science leader in his field of economics and business. His new paradigm for understanding market firms introduced the role of ‘dynamic capabilities’ in driving entrepreneurial innovation and commercial success, turning the neoclassical conceptualisation of the firm on its head.

Weaving sport and community into teaching

Dr Phillip Borell was awarded a 2023 Teaching Medal, UC’s highest award for teaching excellence. He had never planned on being a career academic but researching and becoming a lecturer in the School of Māori and Indigenous Studies and within the Bachelor of Sport Coaching, has been an opportunity to integrate all of his interests, including sport, community, family and culture. Dr Borell is currently developing a new, tailor-made Māori sporting practices paper that will be part of a te ao Māori-focused major for the Bachelor of Sport degree being introduced from 2025. His goal is to encourage critical thinking and develop students’ ability to engage with Māori perspectives. Dr Borell is strong on community engagement and theory being backed by practical experience and often invites key contacts into the classroom to talk to students about their real-world experiences.

Law students secure prestigious internship

Rā Neilsford-Jones and Emily Speirs are heading to Washington DC for prestigious internships in the US Congress as part of the NZUS Council Mike Moore Internship Programme. The programme provides students the opportunity to gain beneficial work experience as they engage with the US political system, build invaluable connections, and develop a deeper understanding of international relations. Emily is studying towards a double degree in Arts and Law, and will be interning for Darrell Issa, a senior member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committees. Rā is studying towards a double degree in Law and Science and is interested in anything related to kaupapa Māori. Rā will be interning for the longest-standing native American congressman, Tom Cole.

Awards given to UC teachers and mentors

Improving access for diverse learners was a common theme among the 2023 winners of our annual Teaching Awards. Stand-out UC teachers are nominated for the teaching awards by their students and fellow academics. The Outstanding Teaching and Learning Transformation Award was given to ENGME!, a peer mentoring programme that has made a positive impact for more than 6000 students since its launch 6 years ago. The Teaching Excellence Award winners were presented to Teena Henderson, Lecturer in Te Reo Māori, and to Dr Toni Collins, Senior Lecturer in Law who embeds bicultural competence in her teaching, including legal language and Māori perspectives on Natural Resources Law. Lisa Davies was awarded the Hapori Community of Practice Award, for her support in the Master of Māori and Indigenous Leadership degree.

Innovation Medal for children’s literacy approach

UC researchers were honoured for an innovative approach to literacy that has so far helped more than 45,000 Kiwi children learn to read and write. Since its introduction in 2020, the Better Start Literacy Approach has been adopted in more than 850 schools, nearly half of all New Zealand state primary schools. UC’s 2023 Innovation Medal was awarded to the research group in recognition of the transformative impact of their work and their success in using evidence-based research to boost children’s skills in reading, writing and oral language. Professor Gillon said the UC award is great recognition of the group’s efforts: “We feel very proud of the level of scale that the Better Start Literacy Approach has reached across the country.”

High school students wade into biodiversity

Hillmorton High School teacher Sharnae Ladkin was impressed with the results after she used the UC’s biodiversity box with her students on a recent Wainui Biology camp. The biodiversity box is one of the ways we support local schools and the community in biodiversity activities and other science outreach work. The box is free and provides equipment that schools don’t typically have to give teachers the opportunity to conduct hands-on monitoring activities in their local waterways that would otherwise be impossible. The resources also allow school students to be real scientists for a day and investigate their own waterways in the same way our research scientists do.

Growing the diversity of local and national talent

Jointly led by UC and Lincoln University, Children’s University |Te Mātāpuna Mātātahi aims to raise young people’s aspirations for higher education and encourage lifelong learning. In 2022, among the many experiences on offer, UC Professor Donald Matheson worked with undergraduate students to run four sessions for school students aged 7–11 years aimed at developing their critical media skills. Children’s University was on campus on 8 September 2022 for a session on geological sciences with UC academic staff. UC also engaged with thousands of secondary school students from Aotearoa New Zealand. Our Māori and Pacific staff visited 35+ schools throughout the country to engage over 600 Māori and Pacific students.

Future Learning & Development Think Tank

Using immersive digital worlds for education has been around for a while now. UC’s Future Learning & Development Think Tank hosted one of its regular opportunities for students and staff to learn about what UC is doing in this space right now. Speakers showcased the work they are doing in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Simulated Reality, Mixed Reality and Extended Reality, and opened up the discussion on what the future may hold for teaching and learning.

UC Master’s student to become Rhodes Scholar

Elliott Hughes will be studying for a Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics. Elliott is currently studying for a Master of Mathematical Sciences in Mathematics and Statistics, having previously completed a BA in Mathematics and Statistics at UC. Ironically, he hasn’t always loved maths, however he credits UC with sparking his love of the subject. “At the end of high school, I took part in the STAR programme at UC… and this really smoothed the transition to university study and helped me get off the right foot,” Elliott says. Elliott is particularly focused on “the urgent need to find the right combination of political will, economic investment and technological development to halt climate change and eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels”.

New scholarships to help tackle sustainability issues

NZ$1.5M was allocated for new scholarships that will help PhD students to tackle sustainability issues. The scholarships are for 14 emerging researchers to pursue projects in areas as diverse as health, early childhood education, indigenous youth leadership, food security, green design, gender, ecosystems, peace and justice, community, carbon capture in oceans, equity, and transport. “We are preparing our students to help solve the challenges of a future world that is likely to be warmer and more uncertain. These scholarships strengthen that commitment and will progress important research across areas of environmental, social and economic sustainability,” says Professor Jan Evans-Freeman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Sustainability.

New Sustainability Undergraduate Degree

Our new undergraduate qualification was launched, the Bachelor of Social and Environmental Sustainability, with the first intake of students in early 2022. The degree prepares students to understand the ethical, social, business and environmental justice issues that impact sustainability decision-making. The degree is informed by and supports mātauranga Māori - Māori and Indigenous knowledge systems - based in an ethos that respects land, water, and relationships with Tangata Tiriti (people of the Treaty, such as non-indigenous New Zealanders). UC Professor Bronwyn Hayward, lead creator of the new degree, worked with colleagues from Arts, Business, Science, Law, and Aotahi School of Māori & Indigenous Studies to co-design the qualification. “I’m excited about this degree because it is an opportunity for students who want to make a difference, from their local community to the world stage, to create a more just, fair and creative future,” says Professor Hayward.

Online course a volcanic international winner

In our first year offering massive open online courses (MOOCs), we won an international prize for an exceptional volcanic course. UC Geologists Professor Ben Kennedy and Dr Jonathan Davidson won the 2021 edX Prize for Exceptional Contributions in Online Teaching and Learning for the course ‘Exploring Volcanoes and Their Hazards: Iceland and New Zealand’. Informed by 10 years of research into virtual field trips and field education, the course was designed to deliver an immersive and fun virtual science experience focussed on volcanic landscapes. By integrating an emphasis on Māori knowledge, the course also enables learners to empathise with and understand different perspectives. Many top-ranked universities around the world are part of the edX education, reaching a global community of over 40 million learners.

Engineering the future

With an interest in sustainable engineering Stefano choose a master’s project with a focus on preservation of our ocean ecosystems. He says studying at UC taught him the fundamentals of creating engineering products: “I’ve learnt skills that allow me to join companies designing hydro power stations, jet engines, mountain bike parts, prosthetics, and rocket ships.” Stefano now works as a Development Engineer with Christchurch based company Ossis Limited, who design and develop printed titanium hip implants. “It is really rewarding to work in a position where I am helping someone to walk again or to improve their quality of life. Also, to be working for a company that is pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology,” says Stefano.

Tupuānuku wins Student Accommodation excellence award

Tupuānuku Hall of Residence received the 2021 Asia-Pacific Student Accommodation Award (APSAA) for excellence in Facility Development or Management. The award recognises the Hall’s innovation as a new generation facility, which celebrates UC’s bicultural values and vision, and strong focus on student wellbeing. The Hall for first-year students opened in February 2021 and has an embedded bicultural approach that puts Māori language, design, and culture at its core. Accommodating 484 residents and 20 residential advisors, the building is six levels, with each floor featuring its own large common areas, small study spaces, kitchenettes, and gender-neutral common bathrooms. Amid the 2021 challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic it achieved 98.4 per cent occupancy.

Science, Māori and Indigenous Knowledge

Our integrated multi-disciplinary course, MAOR172, between Aotahi: School of Māori and Indigenous Studies and Faculty of Science, provides an understanding of Māori and indigenous peoples’ knowledge in such fields as astronomy, physics, conservation biology, aquaculture, resource management and health sciences. The course provides unique perspectives in indigenous knowledge, western science and their overlap. It also provides an essential background in cultural awareness and its relationship with today’s New Zealand scientific community.

Education resources destined for Tongan schools

A shipping container left our campus late 2021 full of education resources and supplies to support several new classrooms in Tonga, to be distributed by the Tongan Ministry of Education. A collaboration between EcoCARE Pacific Trust and UC, the initiative helps address shortages of educational resources in schools in Pacific Island nations. “Each year since 2006 we have sent at least one container, with the goods distributed amongst needy schools in an equitable way to enhance the Ministry’s capacity to teach,” says Dr Russell Taylor, EcoCARE Co-Founder and Research Fellow for UC’s National Centre for Research on Europe. EcoCARE and UC are also working on other projects to assist with capability building in disadvantaged nations from an ecological perspective, including establishing a mussel farm research project in Tonga; a vertical gardens prototype project for communities in Palestine; and a lift device for people with paraplegia and tetraplegia – to name a few.

Māori knowledge and traditions woven into PhD

Kiri Solomon has immense passion for her work, fostering the emotional literacy of her adult students and completed her PhD at UC in 2021. Kiri’s research was based on a journey of developing an Emotional Literacy (EL) programme for Adult Learners in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Emotional Literacy has been linked to increases in social skills, employment outcomes and overall wellbeing, however access to relevant courses is costly, and often programmes are more generic and based in an employment context. We also wanted to highlight how Mātauranga Māori was able to support this kaupapa and with help from Kaumātua Rereata Makiha we were able to thread concepts from Te Maramataka (Māori Lunar Calendar) throughout both our research generally and within the EL programme specifically that we developed alongside our Research Whānau,” Kiri says. Examiners said her PhD thesis broke new ground in content and methodology as it melded western theories of emotional literacy with indigenous mātauranga, based on the maramataka Māori, and made an important contribution to the field.

UC’s first Doctor of Education

Te Hurinui Karaka-Clarke (Te Arawa/Ngāi Tahu) received UC’s first Doctor of Education qualification in 2020. “I chose this qualification because firstly it is a new qualification, secondly it was offered part-time, thirdly I could study a kaupapa or a topic that I was actually working in already, but the most attractive thing for me was the cohort model. I know my particular learning style is collaborating with others, because it means you are accountable to your group,” says Karaka-Clarke. Along with lecturing in te reo Māori in UC’s School of Education, Karaka-Clarke leads the Hōaka Pounamu Bilingual and Immersion Teaching endorsement for Māori-language immersion school teachers.

Improving Early Literacy for Pre-Schoolers

A research project launched in 2020 involves nearly 600 pre-schoolers from Canterbury and Central Otago. The project, Better Start, is aiming to improve Kiwi kids’ early literacy development. Professor Gail Gillon, Director of the Child Well-being Research Institute at UC, leads the team. Developing early literacy skills makes it easier for children to learn to read. Children who enter school with these skills have an advantage that carries them throughout their school years and into success and prosperity in adult life. Professor Gillon (Ngāi Tahu) won UC’s 2020 Research Medal, in recognition of a sustained record of research excellence aimed at improving children’s learning success and wellbeing.

Mentoring Initiative

In 2020 a new mentoring pilot initiative for high school students from low-decile schools was delivered by UC’s Student Experience team. The initiative aims to widen secondary school students’ understanding of tertiary opportunities, and raise representation in tertiary education of studies from low-decile schools. Plans are now to offer the programme to more secondary schools and extend the programme to two terms. Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Professor Catherine Moran explains: “The role of the UC student Transition Mentor is to connect with secondary students to inspire them to achieve their academic potential and give them the confidence to enter tertiary study. Transition Mentors serve as positive role models providing encouragement, guidance and support to help these students address barriers and achieve educational and vocational success.”

Understanding Every Learner

Every learner is unique. UC’s School of Teacher Education increases student teachers’ understanding of the variety of unique characteristics that learners bring with them into school and learning settings, and provides student teachers with frameworks for understanding each learner as a whole person. Course TEPI315 addresses intercultural understandings by challenging ideas of normality, with behaviour being viewed as a medium of communication. Inclusiveness is addressed by using an abilities-based approach and tangata whenuatanga. From a practice perspective, the course looks at what teachers can do to change and adapt their practices to meet the needs of every learner.

Excellence Award in Teacher Education

Kay-Lee Jones was recognised with a prestigious Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award (Kaupapa Māori) in 2020. Kay-Lee has helped nurture a love for te ao Māori in over 2000 student teachers in UC’s School of Teacher Education. As graduates, they are now putting their understanding into practice in schools throughout Aotearoa, normalising Māori language and culture in everyday education. “To me as an educator teaching the next generation of kaiako (teachers), excellence means tamariki (children) to walk confidently in both Māori and Pākehā worlds,” she says.

Computer Science without a computer

The CS Unplugged programme is about capturing the learner’s imagination and addressing common misconceptions about what it means to be a computer scientist. As the name suggests, the programme engages the learner in activities that don’t depend on computers. CS Unplugged is the idea of UC’s computer science academic Professor Tim Bell. CS Unplugged offers young students a collection of free teaching material not dependent on computers, making activities available to those who aren’t able to or don’t want to work  with computers.

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