Barriers and attractors for Māori in tertiary education
Māori are under-represented across all levels of education in New Zealand. Although this trend has improved over time, a gap remains between tertiary education and Māori participation rates. One question is whether universities’ recruitment strategies are targeting Māori students effectively. The focus of this research on Māori was firstly, to identify significant issues which contribute to the weak educational outcomes (particularly regarding participation and completion) and secondly, to explore both why and how university recruitment strategies can target these issues more effectively.
A qualitative and comparative research design was developed to explore these topics. In order to provide the research context, the literature review identifies and discusses the political, socio-economic and educational trends for indigenous peoples abroad, then moves to New Zealand and Māori. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with both staff recruiters and students at the same university. The questions were directed towards canvassing their views on university recruitment strategies and their effectiveness in engaging Māori students. This method allowed for both an organisational perspective to be presented (through staff interviews) as well as the views of the recipients (students) of the strategy implementation. A process of thematic analysis was used to distil key findings from the interviews. These findings were discussed in conjunction with the literature presented and the personal experiences and prior research of the researcher.
A number of key findings emerged; worldwide, indigenous students are under-represented in higher education and this trend is reflected in New Zealand with Māori being under-represented in tertiary education. Universities are actively seeking to recruit Māori students. These reasons include legislative and moral obligations, as well as to meet aspirational targets. Parallel to universities’ desire to recruit Māori are students’ recruitment experiences. Findings revealed that there are a number of key influences in students’ decisions. The three key factors universities can use advantageously in their recruitment were: relationships, finance and support. Relationships, finance and support can form a central part of universities’ recruitment strategies and provide a foundation to help universities develop a targeted framework directed towards raising Māori representation in tertiary education. Examples of current recruitment strategies that align with these recommendations are Auckland University of Technology’s Prefect Training Programme- Māori and the Māori Liaison Service.
Not all Māori students are struggling to meet academic requirements however, this research has highlighted a number of key factors relevant to the educational experiences of Indigenous students; providing the ‘what’ and ‘why’ universities’ recruitment strategies should target these groups. What remains outstanding is how universities can provide a culturally sensitive framework for recruitment. The experiences of Māori students, as provided through their interviews, have indicated ways in which successful recruitment could be achieved. The thesis recommends the need for universities to plan and implement proactive, successfully positioned recruitment strategies in order to successfully attract Māori students.