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UC welcomes growing number of Māori and Pacific students

11 March 2021

Hundreds of new Māori and Pacific students are enrolling at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) this year, in a sharp increase from 2020.


Oceana Olsen and Ezra Samy are in their first year at UC, part of a rising number of new Pacific and Māori students enrolling at the University.

The number of new-to-UC Pacific students enrolled for 2021 is 142, compared to 96 at the same time last year, a significant rise of 48%. 

Enrolments of new-to-UC Māori students is 483 this year, compared to 373 at the same time last year, an increase of 30%. These figures are for equivalent full-time students (EFTS).

Overall, including returning students, Māori EFTS enrolments are 21% above 2020 and Pacific EFTS enrolments are 15% above last year. The three most popular colleges for students who identify as Māori and/or Pacific are Arts, Business and Law, and Education, Health and Human Development.

UC first-year Bachelor of Forestry Science student Ezra Samy, 18, who is Fijian, had planned to take up an apprenticeship in aeronautical engineering at Air New Zealand until the Covid-19 pandemic forced a change in direction.

“I wasn’t planning to go to university but then the lockdown hit last year and everything changed. I realised that I wanted to go further with my studies and it’s been really great so far. I feel that where I’m heading now will open up more possibilities in the future for me to work and travel overseas.”

He is part of the Takere Success Academy, a pilot programme launched by UC this year to provide mentoring and connections for a cohort of 37 Māori and Pacific first-year students. The scholarship included a four-week live-in induction before lectures began, but will support this cohort in their entire first year of study at UC.

Samy, who was Deputy Head Boy at Shirley Boys’ High School last year, says Takere has been a huge help with settling in to university life.

“It’s definitely excited my ideas of becoming a leader and being involved in the community as much as I can be. I’ve joined a lot of clubs on campus and I’m intensely involved in my youth group.”   

First-year Fine Arts student Oceana Olsen, 17, is also part of the Takere programme and says she has felt more comfortable on campus as a result of the scholarship.

“I’ve created really good bonds with Māori and Pasifika students and with staff here,” Olsen says. “We were shown around campus so we knew where everything was and who to go to if we needed help with whānau issues or trouble with timetables.

“We were all on the same journey and we all connected with each other. If I hadn’t had Takere I wouldn’t have enjoyed UC as much as I have already.”

The former Hornby High School student has Māori (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa), Samoan, Rotuman, Fijian and Tongan heritage. Her art is themed around opposition to cultural appropriation of Māori and Pasifika art forms.

Amokapua Pākākano | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Māori, Pacific and Equity Dr Darryn Russell welcomes the increase in Māori and Pasifika students, which is part of a 7% rise in UC students overall this year.

“UC has been working hard to not only to attract and support Māori and Pacific students, but also ensure we retain them and they thrive in their study at our university.

“That requires our relationships and engagement in the community. As one example, our UC Pacific Development Team, along with our Pasifika Liaison Officer, has been connecting with Pasifika students at local secondary schools for a number of years,” Dr Russell says.

“The team clocked up more than 30 school visits last year and showcased the UCMeXL outreach programme for Pasifika high school students which has been running during term holidays for the last 10 years. Last year, extra UCMeXL academic tutoring sessions were hosted at the Ōrua Paeroa campus, with about 90 students attending each session held over 12 weeks.

“UC’s launch of the Takere Success Academy, a unique pilot programme, is to create a sense of community for a group of Māori and Pacific students in their first year at university.

“Our Pacific and Māori student enrolment figures this year show that these efforts are seeing positive results,” Dr Russell says. “Our goal is to respond to and engage with diverse learners at our university in the best way we can.”

UC also offers a UC Māori leadership programme, Paihere, and the Pacific Mentoring Programme.

This week it launched the Māori Futures Academy in partnership with Ngāi Tahu, which will provide taiohi (Māori young people) with cadetships in future-focused skills.

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