1. Introduction

A key priority of the Goverment’s Tertiary Education Strategy 2010–2015 is increasing the number of Māori students enjoying success at higher levels of study with a core focus on the need for the tertiary sector to lift its performance for Māori learners. This priority responds to continuing disparities in educational outcomes for Māori learners relative to non-Māori/non-Pasifika students, particularly at higher levels.

This is an important focus as while Māori have increased participation in tertiary education in recent years, the rates of participation in higher study and success show inequities between Māori and non-Māori.

In 2011, of those students aged 24 years and under, 15% of Māori participated in tertiary education at Level 4 and higher, compared with 23% of Europeans (Ministry of Education, 2012). Māori are less likely to hold a bachelors degree or higher qualification than Europeans and people in the ‘Other’ ethnic group, with 8.1% of Māori with a bachelors degree or higher qualification in 2010 (MOE, 2011).

Similarly for the 17% of Māori enrolled in industry training in 2010, enrolments have been heavily weighted to Levels 1–3 – approximately 72% (MOE, 2012).

New performance targets for tertiary education
​organisations in 2013

In 2013, the TEC sought to drive higher levels of achievement for Māori through Investment Plan performance commitments made by tertiary education organisations (TEOs) across the sector. ‘Stretch targets’ were developed to focus TEOs on addressing parity of participation and achievement.

The TEC’s focus for participation is for the proportion of equivalent fulltime students/trainees to be at least on par with the proportion of Māori and Pasifika within the relevant population/workforce at both lower and higher levels of study, and therefore overall.

For achievement, the TEC will expect all providers to reach parity of completion rates for Māori and Pasifika with learners of ‘Other’ ethnicities enrolled with the provider at both lower and higher levels of study, and therefore overall.

Literature review and indicators

The TEC commissioned this literature review and the development of draft indicators resulting from the literature to inform and guide an understanding of what TEOs can be doing to raise performance for Māori learners.

The project was governed, managed and contributed to by the Principal Advisor and Senior Advisor, Māori, the TEC Tertiary Education Strategy Priorities, and by the Principal Advisor and Senior Advisor, the TEC Evidence and Analysis. A senior advisory representative from the Tertiary Education Group, MOE, also contributed to the project. This ensured that the review aligned with the TEC’s business needs, and also contributed strong and diverse insights to the project including kaupapa Māori research and Māori learner-centred approaches.

These key elements are identified as fundamental and therefore, presumably, are necessary to foster successful Māori learner participation, retention and course and qualification completion.

It is intended that the literature review and resulting indicators will be used to inform both the TEC and TEOs of what works for Māori learners in tertiary settings and what TEOs need to do (or not do) to better serve Māori learners and communities.

1.2 Scope of the literature review

The literature review has focused on identifying common barriers, enablers and opportunities to Māori successfully transitioning into tertiary education and doing well once engaged in the tertiary education environment. In particular, the literature search was focused on the key areas of Māori learners’ transitions into tertiary education, their participation, retention, and progression to higher levels of study.

The scope of literature searched included research and evaluation reports, theses, journals and articles, as well as initiatives developed and successfully implemented in tertiary settings to improve Māori learners’ experiences. While a small body of recent international literature has been reviewed, the core focus has been on New Zealand literature relevant to Māori. To ensure currency the review focused on literature produced within the last five years.

While the literature summarises key barriers experienced by Māori learners (particularly in the literature about secondary school to tertiary transitions), recent literature moves away from a deficit model of viewing Māori under-achievement in the circumstances or shortcomings of the students, to focus instead on how TEOs can improve their provision for Māori learners (Earle, 2008).

This has resulted in a body of literature which is focused on key structural elements that TEOs need to provide to enable learning environments that are responsive and relevant to Māori learners. These key elements are identified as fundamental and therefore, presumably, are necessary to foster successful Māori learner participation, retention, and course and qualification completion (although the literature is not positioned within these individual parameters).

This focus aligns well with the specific strategic priorities of the TEC, and the wider education sector in the belief that it is time to address the structural elements connected to disparities in outcomes and to accept a key premise that it is “the system failing Māori students, not that Māori students are failing the system” (Human Rights Commission, 2012, p.28).

Hence, although it is recognised that the actions of others will impact on Māori learners' experiences relevant to tertiary education (for example, secondary school experiences, personal circumstances, advice and support from parents and whānau), the role of TEOs has been the central focus of the literature reviewed.

This focus is also shaped by a driving presumption that TEOs are committed to their responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi and to ensuring the equitable participation and success of Māori learners.

1.3 ApproachTop

Most of the literature reviewed was identified and provided by the MOE library. In addition, a significant proportion of supplementary literature was provided by an advisory member to the project.

“Listening to the learner voice can have important implications for producing positive outcomes related to approaches to learning, quality improvements and sustainable organisational change.” (Tahau-Hodges, 2010, p.58)

The literature was read, analysed and re-read to elicit key emergent themes. Significant weight was given to literature articulating Māori learner experiences from the perspective of Māori learners themselves and from the perspective of tertiary education providers. This was identified as an important focus, particularly as:

listening to the learner voice can have important implications for producing positive outcomes related to approaches to learning, quality improvements and sustainable organisational change (Tahau-Hodges, 2010, p.58).

Little focus was given to literature that was purely theoretical or ideological and not based on actual Māori learner experiences within tertiary settings.

Because the literature is largely focused on qualitative research and learner and provider experiences of what works or does not work for Māori learners in tertiary settings, commonly the research is not linked to quantitative data sets pertaining to completion, retention or progression statistics.

Rather, the synthesis and cross-analysis of the multiple studies reviewed has revealed a robust body of information that identifies key themes strongly and consistently present.

1.4 Structure of the literature reviewTop

This report is structured as follows:

1.5 Limitations of the literatureTop

The literature review has provided strong insights regarding key structural elements and processes identified as important to enable Māori learners to do well in tertiary education. However, there is little research or discussion in the literature around the definition of ‘success’ and desired outcomes for Māori in tertiary education.

In practical terms, it is noted that the presence, absence or appearance of these key elements and processes will differ across TEOs in New Zealand, including in terms of different institutional size, organisational kaupapa, number of Māori enrolments, programme focus, and government performance requirements.

Nevertheless, the findings appear well able to be applied across the diverse tertiary sector. Moreover, although the literature is weighted by a focus on university experiences, the common themes that have emerged come together from research situated in diverse tertiary settings.

Most studies simply describe the initiative rather than examining the impact it has had.

Where the literature has identified actual initiatives implemented by TEOs to promote better educational experiences and outcomes for Māori learners, these have been included where relevant in this report. It was intended to identify and summarise such initiatives that have worked well. However, most studies simply describe the initiative rather than examin the impact it has had. This is one limitation of the literature.

It is also recognised that there is likely to be numerous other initiatives implemented and established across TEOs focused on enhancing Māori success which are not referred to in this review. This is because they have not been identified in the recent literature, and not because they have been ignored or are not seen as important or relevant.

Other limitations of the literature review include: