Tāmaki Innovation Campus

Research into academic success

PhD student Erena Wikaire
Erena Wikaire has recently completed her masters degree and is about to embark on a PhD.

Māori and Pacific students’ experiences within the education system have a particular resonance for Erena Wikaire, who has just completed a Master of Public Health at Tāmaki Campus.

Erena has seen many of her Māori and Pacific friends and whānau struggle through the education system; meeting multiple barriers that ultimately make them feel like they want to quit.

The ongoing nature of these barriers for younger generations motivated Erena to contribute to creating change through her master’s thesis: exploring predictors of academic success for Māori and Pacific compared to non-Māori non-Pacific students in the FMHS Bachelor of Health Sciences, Nursing and Pharmacy programmes.

The Kaupapa Māori research approach analysed the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (FMHS) student cohorts by ethnic grouping, to explore and compare predictors of academic success. Fundamentally, this analysis showed that FMHS programmes produce inequities in academic outcomes between Māori and Pacific, and non-Māori non-Pacific student groupings. Many causal factors have been highlighted in relevant literature that focus on the individual student at the pre-tertiary, admission and first year bachelor stage, however little quantitative analysis has been carried out to investigate such factors further.

The research found that Māori and Pacific student cohorts are fundamentally different and and face different challenges, when compared to non-Māori non-Pacific students.

Secondly, the research concluded that controlling for common explanations for inequities, for example socio-economic status and entry pathway, did not fully explain the inequities in academic outcomes between Māori/Pacific and non-Māori non-Pacific students. This highlighted a need to explore unexplained and unmeasured institutional, rather than individual, factors that provide differential teaching and learning experiences for students of different ethnic groupings.

The research was located within Te Kupenga Hauora Māori (TKHM), with Dr Elana Curtis as principal investigator and supervisor, along with Dr Donna Cormack and an advisory group that included academic and administrative staff within FMHS.

Erena found value in being able to study and be located within a Māori research environment alongside supervision and leadership from expert Māori academics, and welcomed the ability to conduct research in health using Kaupapa Māori methodology.

“The Tuākana programme also provided a valuable writing retreat opportunity. Tāmaki project staff were supportive of the project, but unfortunately during my study, there was no Māori and Pacific specific space at Tāmaki. I am excited that a new space for Māori and Pacific students is now available.

“The project has allowed me to develop professionally in terms of exposure to Kaupapa Māori methodology, development of quantitative research knowledge and skills, networking with the wider project team, and knowledge development in Māori and Pacific health workforce development.”

The results will be used to provide FMHS with detailed analysis of performance against equity objectives for Māori and Pacific students. They also provide information that can inform institutional change to improve the provision of tertiary health programmes for all students.

Erena describes the process through the Master of Public Health as both challenging and rewarding. Balancing work and study commitments provided additional challenges and she is appreciative of support from MAPAS and TKHM staff. She is now about to start her PhD project, looking at Māori participation in traditional Māori health practices in 2016.