1. Introduction

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.