Research reveals what helps and hinders Māori university success

New research from the University of Otago reveals that Māori graduates describe whānau support as the top factor that helped them to complete their qualifications, while family responsibilities and commitments made completion of their studies more difficult.

The findings are from the Graduate Longitudinal Study New Zealand (GLSNZ), an ongoing project that investigates the employment, health and social outcomes of more than 8700 graduates from all eight New Zealand universities.

As part of the online survey conducted in 2011 when the study participants were in their final year of study, researchers asked participants what they found helpful or challenging to the completion of their qualifications.

The new research, published in AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples, focuses on the responses of more than 600 Māori participants.

 lead author and NCLR co-Director, Dr Reremoana (Moana) Theodore says, “Māori higher education success is of national importance; it is a government priority that Māori succeed at higher levels in tertiary education.

Māori graduates are crucial for the social and economic wellbeing of Māori whānau and communities. Describing their experiences can provide a blueprint for future success by building an evidence base around factors that promote higher educational achievement for Māori.”

The study found that families provided graduates with practical (e.g. accommodation) and emotional support. Graduates were also motivated by their desire to build a better life for their children and their families.

In addition to family support, Māori graduates described other external (e.g. financial), institutional (e.g. academic support), and personal (e.g. determination) helping factors.

Relationships between students and staff who were knowledgeable, approachable, and respectful, and who fostered warm and welcoming environments, were key. Māori graduates also described the importance of support services and support staff including Māori-led support programmes, networks, student associations, admission schemes and tutorials.

Approximately one third of the Māori graduates were parents.

Hindering factors include balancing multiple obligations including caregiving, study, and work placed Māori students and their families under considerable pressure. Other hindering factors included personal factors (such as being underprepared for university study), health issues, and financial pressures. Institutional factors, such as the need to provide better support (e.g. improved course advice) and increase the amount of culturally-appropriate and relevant curricula, were also identified.

“To support Māori to succeed at higher levels in tertiary education, ongoing work is required to reduce and remove existing barriers to their university completion,” says Dr Theodore. “In particular, the need to work with whānau to support student participation and achievement is important.”