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Scholarships unlock self-belief in students

27 June 2023

Building self-belief and providing pathways for young future leaders is key to the University of Canterbury’s unique, new scholarship opportunity.


Te Kakau a Māui scholars Fane Ngauamo, Finn Gray-Swann and Samantha Bergin have finished their first semester at the University of Canterbury.

As the first cohort of Te Kakau a Māui scholarship recipients approach the end of their first semester at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC), it’s clear that the scholarships are making a difference.

Samantha Bergin (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Maru) wasn’t sure if she would fit the requirements and was hesitant to apply, “When I was first told about Te Kakau a Māui scholarship, I had the whole imposter syndrome going on.” 

Just as well she applied, because she became one of the first 150 recipients of the scholarship which was launched to celebrate the University’s 150th year. This programme aims to inspire students who are committed to creating positive change in the world and who may not have previously considered university as an option, by covering their undergraduate course fees.


“I rang my mum crying when I found out and my family was so happy — my mum was telling everyone!” Bergin says. “Prior to getting the scholarship, I never really thought about Law, but having the opportunity to relieve that financial stress meant that I can actually pursue what I want.”

While Fane Ngauamo had always had tertiary education in mind as a goal, navigating the financial costs was something she knew would be a struggle. However, she almost didn’t apply because she believed there was no chance of being selected. “I had to put my fears out of the way and think about my future, and where I wanted to go.”

Now studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce, she says the scholarship gives her a really good balance between studies and the things that make her happy. “It still allows me to get connected with my culture and my community. I can still be involved in my extra commitments, like religious, family and sporting commitments, without having any financial barriers.

“I’m the first of my immediate family to seek a higher level of education. It gives me hope for the future, knowing that I can work towards a better life for myself and my aiga [family].” 

As for Forestry Science student Finn Gray-Swann, he had never believed he would be capable of getting a scholarship but decided to go for it anyway. “I was really happy there was a scholarship that acknowledged skills that weren’t just academic, so I thought I’d give it a go.”

And when he found out he was a recipient? “It was wild, everyone freaked out at home. 

“It feels really good that people have seen the skills that I have. It gives me so much confidence for my degree, just to show the world what I can actually do and it’s nice to have UC backing me.”

UC is committed to making tertiary education equitable and accessible — a founding philosophy of the University and the ethos behind Te Kakau a Māui programme which continues in 2024 with another 150 life-changing scholarships offered to eligible South Island students. Successful applicants will be able to access a range of support to ensure they thrive and succeed in their studies at UC.

Find out more about the scholarships and how to apply here

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