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University of Auckland partners with schools to boost Māori and Pacific student success

Joseph Guenzler -

Waipapa Taumata Rau (University of Auckland) is launching a new initiative aimed at boosting University Entrance pass rates and enhancing tertiary success for Māori and Pacific students.

Liletina Vaka, Associate Director of Schools and Community Engagement, announced the University's enthusiasm for a new partnership with secondary schools, aiming to equalise University Entrance rates for Māori and Pacific students by 2030.

“This would be a sector-leading approach, the first partnership of this kind domestically," she said. 

"What we learn across the next six years about improving rates for Māori and Pacific learners can and should be applied to all students – UE rates are declining across all student groups, although educational outcomes are worsening at a quicker rate for our Māori and Pacific learners."

Liletina Vaka, Associate Director of Schools and Community Engagement at Waipapa Taumata Rau. (Image: University of Auckland)


From 2020 to 2022, the University Entrance attainment for Māori and Pacific students fell from 40 to 34 per cent, in contrast to the national rate, which decreased from 53 to 50 per cent.

On April 11, twelve Auckland schools formalised a partnership with the University at a special ceremony, signing an agreement to work towards equalising the educational outcomes for Māori and Pacific students with those of non-Māori and non-Pacific students.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Māori) Associate Professor Te Kawehau Hoskins said, "retaining our students to achieve UE is critical to holding open the possibility of tertiary education."

"Success in tertiary education is an important pathway for improving the life chances of Māori and Pacific students and their communities."

"We look forward to productive forms of collaboration with our kura in the preparation, participation and success of our tauira."

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Māori) Associate Professor Te Kawehau Hoskins. (Image: University of Auckland)

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Pacific) Professor Jemaima Tiatia-Siau says the partnership will address inequities within university. Pacific students are working hard to succeed but frequently deal with a multitude of barriers.

"Working closely with high schools ensures we can increase the number of young people eligible for university and help them attain success, and that positively impacts this generation and future generations."

"Potentially this could be a gamechanger for our communities," said Professor Tiatia-Siau.

Ms Vaka identified unpreparedness stemming from inequalities as a significant obstacle for Māori and Pacific students entering tertiary education.

Despite reaching university, two primary issues hinder their success. Many have earned insufficient credits from external exams, impacting their ability to engage fully in higher education. Furthermore, choosing inappropriate prerequisite courses has restricted their options for entering preferred fields of study.

Taking a collaborative approach with secondary schools will address the needs of Māori and Pacific in laying the necessary ground work for higher education.

"Our community have a high degree of trust with institutions and as long as everything appears to be going well parents won’t feel the need to question how our national curriculum works," said Ms Vaka.

Katalina Ma, the Pathways Programme Manager overseeing the project, highlights that the key aim is ensuring Māori and Pacific secondary students achieve a 'fit for purpose' University Entrance qualification.

This goal motivated the formation of the partnership and the development of the new initiative.

She notes that aligning all involved parties included sharing data with schools, demonstrating that earning NCEA external credits through exams offers students an advantage in the university setting.

"For the general population, if you come in with more than 20 external credits, then there’s a 95 per cent chance of success in your first year of university across any programme," she said.

"Worryingly for our Pacific community, if your young person comes in having no external credits there’s a 55 per cent chance they’ll experience success in their first year.

"Our partnership with schools is about ensuring our learners, their families, and teachers are well informed and all on the same page."

The initiative will roll out over the next six years, and Ms Vaka says the new approach held great potential for current and future generations of Māori and Pacific learners.

"This UE partnership has real potential to impact our education sector, as well as our labour market, city, and society more broadly."


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