SDG 4 - Quality Education

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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.