Hui Taumata 2005: Māori in tertiary education: a picture of the trends

Publication Details

This analysis of trends in Māori in tertiary education was commissioned for Hui Taumata 2005.

Author(s): Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis and Reporting, Ministry of Education

Date Published: January 2005

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In response to a request from the Steering Committee for the Hui Taumata 2005, the Ministry of Education has prepared this report looking at recent trends for Māori in tertiary education. There have been substantial changes for Māori in tertiary education since the last Hui Taumata in 1984, and over the last five years in particular. This report looks at this period of rapid change in detail, and - where information held by the Ministry allows - looks back over the last twenty years.

Summary of findings

This contribution focuses on Māori student participation and achievement, as well as Māori research and researchers within the tertiary education system.

The last four years have seen a significant turn around in Māori participation in tertiary education. Māori were under-represented at all levels in tertiary education until 1999. Since 2002, Māori have moved to having the highest participation rate of any ethnic group in New Zealand.

New information on retention, completion and progression rates shows that Māori students at certificate level are achieving qualifications and moving to further study at higher rates than non-Māori. While there has been growth in Māori participation at degree level and above, the growth has been much slower. Māori participation rates at these higher levels of tertiary education are still lower than those of non-Māori. Māori students also have lower retention and completion rates at these levels.

There has been continued growth in the number of Māori participating in industry training, including Modern Apprenticeships. However, Māori trainees are more likely to be training at lower levels than non-Māori.

The number of people, Māori and non-Māori, participating in Youth Training and Training Opportunities has been decreasing, while participation in Skill Enhancement has been steady. While there has been a decline in the proportion of trainees achieving credits through these targeted training programmes, there has been an increase in other positive outcomes – both in employment and further education and training.

The 2003 Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF) quality evaluation process showed Māori Knowledge and Development is a developing field with a high proportion of new and emerging researchers who have yet to build up a portfolio of published and recognised outputs. However, there was also a strong group of nationally recognised Māori researchers and nationally recognised researchers working in the area of Māori Knowledge and Development.

Moving from school to tertiary

The move from school to tertiary is better for those who leave school with NCEA Level 2 or higher. The proportion of Māori school leavers with qualifications at this level or higher continues to be below that of all students. The proportion for Māori increased from 39 percent in 2002 to 46 percent in 2003, while the proportion for all students increased from 64 to 68 percent.

Māori school leavers with no qualifications dropped from 35 percent in 2002 to 30 percent in 2003, while the proportion of all school leavers with no qualifications dropped from 18 to 15 percent.

Figure 1: Proportion of Māori and all school leavers by level of qualification 1998-2003
Proportion of Māori and all school leavers by level of qualification 1998-2003 graph

32 percent of 2002 Māori school leavers were enrolled in tertiary courses as at 31 July 2003, a drop of 5 percent on the previous year and similar to Māori who left school in 2000. This decrease was similar for other groups and may reflect more students moving directly to employment, given the stronger labour market. This conclusion is supported by the drop in youth unemployment rates over this period and by the fact that the decline is in students moving into certificate level courses.

Māori who left school in 2002 and were enrolled in tertiary education in the following year were mostly enrolled at certificate level. The proportion of Māori school leavers enrolled in degree level was significantly lower than for all students.

Figure 2: Percentage of Māori and all students leaving school each year who were enrolled in tertiary education as at 31 July the following year by level of tertiary study 2000-2002 school leaving years
Level of Tertiary Study 2000 School Leavers 2001 School Leavers 2002 School Leavers
Māori Students All Students Māori Students All Students Māori Students All Students
Degree 8% 24% 9% 24% 9% 23%
Diploma 5% 6% 6% 6% 6% 6%
Certificate 19% 18% 22% 19% 16% 14%

Rising participation in tertiary education

Enrolments by Māori in tertiary education have risen steadily over more than a decade. In each year since 1992, enrolments at public tertiary institutions by Māori have grown faster than all enrolments.

Figure 3: Enrolments by Māori as a percentage of all enrolments at public tertiary institutions 31 July 2002-2003

The proportion of the Māori population participating in formal tertiary education has risen significantly since 1998. In 1998, the Māori participation rate was 7.4 percent, less than the rate for all students (8.6 percent). By 2003, the Māori participation rate had increased to 20.2 percent, compared with 13.4 percent for all students.

Figure 4: Age standardised participation rates in formal tertiary education for Māori and all students 1994-2003

The Māori participation rate at degree level still lags behind the rate for all students, although the gap is starting to close. In 2003, the Māori participation rate at degree level was 3.2 percent, compared with 4.1 percent for all students.

Figure 5: Age standardised participation rates in formal tertiary education for Māori and all students in level 1-3 certificates and bachelors 1994-2003

From 1998 to 2003, the number of Māori women students increased threefold. In 2003, almost two in three Māori students were women (64 percent).

Over the same period the number of Māori students aged 25 and over more than tripled, while the number of Māori students under 25 doubled. The most significant growth in the last three years has been in Māori students aged 40 and over.

Most of the growth in Māori student numbers since 1998 has been at certificate level and is due to Māori entering tertiary education for the first time with few or no school qualifications. By 2003, 70 percent of Māori tertiary students were studying solely at certificate level, compared with 45 percent of non-Māori students.

From 1999 to 2002 there was a large increase in the number of Māori aged over 25 with no school qualifications entering formal tertiary education for the first time. Over the six years from 1998 to 2003, around 30,600 of these Māori students entered tertiary education.

Figure 6: Māori with no school qualifications aged over 25 in formal tertiary education for the first time by age group 1998-2003

Until 2001, most of this certificate growth was in level 1-3 certificates, which are equivalent to senior secondary school. In 2002 and 2003, there has been a significant growth in Māori students studying for level 4 certificates. There was a similar growth at this level for non-Māori students.

Figure 7: Māori students in formal tertiary education by sub-sector 1998-2003

In the period since 1999, there has been huge growth in the number of Māori students attending public wānanga, with the result that from 2002, more Māori have been enrolled at wānanga than in any other sub-sector. The wānanga have tapped a source of people who had previously not engaged with tertiary education.

In 2003, while the growth in the number of Māori students at wānanga was beginning to level off, growth of enrolments by Māori at polytechnics was increasing. Over the period since 1998, the number of Māori students attending universities and colleges of education has remained fairly steady.

Subject choices in tertiary education

In 2003, two thirds of the enrolments by Māori women enrolled in level 1-3 certificates were in mixed field courses, management and commerce and society and culture. By comparison with non-Māori women in the same level of qualifications, Māori women were over-represented in mixed field subjects and under-represented in society and culture subjects.

In 2003, 70 percent of the enrolments by Māori men enrolled in level 1-3 certificates were across five fields of study – mixed field programmes, society and culture, engineering, management and commerce and agriculture and environment. By comparison with non-Māori men in the same level of qualifications, Māori men were over-represented in mixed field subjects and under-represented in engineering.

The pattern of subject choice is different at the bachelors degree level. In 2003, over 70 percent of the enrolments by Māori women enrolled in bachelors degrees were in society and culture, education and health. By comparison with non-Māori women in the same level of qualifications, Māori women were over-represented in society and culture subjects and under-represented in management and sciences.

While society and culture was also a common area of study for Māori men studying at the bachelors level, management and commerce, education and creative arts were also common. In comparison with non-Māori men in the same level of qualifications, Māori men were over-represented in society and culture and education and under-represented in management and commerce, sciences, information technology and engineering.

Increased completion of tertiary qualifications

In 2003, nearly 26,000 Māori students completed a qualification through formal tertiary education. The number of Māori students completing qualifications increased by around two and a half times between 1998 and 2003. The level at which there has been the largest increase in the number of qualifications completed by Māori has been certificates. There has been moderate growth in the number of qualifications completed at higher levels, with the exception of masters degree completions, which have stayed static. The number of doctorates completed each year by Māori increased more than fourfold between 1998 and 2003.

Figure 8: Number of qualifications completed by Māori students 1998-2003

Māori students who started study at a public tertiary provider in 1999 had slightly higher rates of retention and completion overall than non-Māori. However, both retention and completion rates for Māori students were:

  • higher than for non-Māori in qualifications below degree level, especially for certificates, and
  • lower than for non-Māori in bachelors degrees, postgraduate certificates and diplomas, honour degrees and masters degrees.
Figure 9: Five year retention and completion rates for domestic students starting a qualification in 1999 at a public provider by qualification level
  • Cert=Certificate.
  • Bach= Bachelor.
  • Dip= Diploma.
  • Postgrad= Postgratuate
  • Qualification Level Started in 1999 Level 1-3 Cert Level 4 Cert Level 5-6 Dip Level 7 Bach Level 8 Honours/ Postgrad Cert/Dip Level 9 Masters Level 10 Doctorate Total
    Retention Rates
    Māori Students 45.7% 27.4% 33.2% 47.0% 48.9% 42.4% 56.3%/td> 51.7%
    All Students 37.9% 24.6% 31.7% 52.2% 54.6% 56.3% 60.0% 49.6%
    Completion Rates
    Māori Students 39.2% 23.6% 28.4% 35.7% 46.9% 34.9% 15.6% 41.1%
    All Students 32.8% 22.6% 27.0% 43.0% 53.0% 51.5% 23.0% 40.3%

    Progression to further study

    Over half of all Māori students (51 percent) who completed a qualification in 2002 continued to study towards another qualification in 2003. This compares with 38 percent for all students. Out of those who completed a qualification, most continued to study at the same level (25 percent) or moved up to a higher level (19 percent).

    Figure 10: Percentage of Māori and all students completing a qualification in 2002 who enrolled for further study in 2003 by level of further study

    More Māori in industry training

    In 2003, 20,500 Māori trainees participated in industry training, with nearly 1,000 participating in Modern Apprenticeships. This is an increase of 5,000 and 600 trainees respectively over 2001 numbers. This reflects both increased funding from government and employers and continued growth in demand for this training.

    The number of Māori industry trainees, as a proportion of total trainees, has remained steady at around 17 percent each year since 2001. However, Māori Modern Apprentices as a proportion of total Modern Apprentices declined from 18 percent in 2001 to 15 percent in 2003.

    The proportion of Māori trainees who are women has remained fairly similar in both programmes over the last three years. In 2003, 29 percent of Māori industry trainees were women, compared with 28 percent in 2001. In 2003, 10 percent of Māori Modern Apprentices were women, compared with 9 percent in 2001.

    Figure 11: Māori trainees in industry training and modern apprenticeships 2001-2003

    30 percent of Māori men participating in industry training registered with the Forestry ITO. In general, Māori men were concentrated in fewer ITOs than non-Māori men. Māori women were more evenly spread across ITOs than non-Māori women. 16 percent of Māori women were registered with the Community Support ITO.

    Figure 12: Top ten industry training organisations by percentage of total Māori trainees registered (including modern apprentices) December 2003
    Top Ten Industry Training Organisations
    (Including Modern Apprentiships)
    Males Females Total
    Forestry 30% 6% 24%
    Engineering, Food & Manufacturing 9% 9% 9%
    NZITO 8% 8% 8%
    Agriculture 6% 7% 7%
    Road Transport 7% 2% 5%
    Electrotechnology 5% 7% 5%
    Community Support 0% 16% 4%
    Hospitality Standards 1% 10% 4%
    Building 5% 0% 4%
    Electricity Supply 4% 1% 3%

    Māori in targeted training programmes

    There are three main training programmes targeted at people with low qualifications and who lack vocational skills. Skill Enhancement provides vocational education and training to Māori and Pasifika youth aged 16 – 21 with low qualifications. Training Opportunities and Youth Training are second-chance education programmes.

    In 2003, more than 14,000 Māori learners participated in these programmes. The largest number were in Training Opportunities (8,000), followed by Youth Training (5,600) and Skill Enhancement (800).

    Since 1999, both the total number of learners and of Māori learners on Training Opportunities and Youth Training has been steadily declining. This reflects changes in funding policies. The number of trainees on Skill Enhancement has remained steady.

    Figure 13: Number of Māori trainees on training programmes 1999-2003

    Research in tertiary education

    Māori participation and completion in doctoral degrees

    Two important indicators of how Māori are functioning in research in the tertiary education system relate to enrolments in and completions of doctoral degrees, as these degrees are the key to training the country's research workforce.

    In 2003, the participation rate of Māori in doctoral degrees was half the rate of non-Māori – 0.06 percent, compared with 0.12 percent for all students. While these statistics show that Māori are still not engaging in postgraduate study to the same extent as the whole population, Māori enrolments in postgraduate qualifications have grown faster than for the whole population. The Māori participation rate in 1998 was 0.04 percent, compared with 0.09 percent for all students.

    Figure 14: Māori and Non-Māori participation rates in doctoral degrees 1998-2003

    The number of Māori awarded doctoral degrees is correspondingly low in relation to the number of Māori completing all qualifications, but has risen sharply since 1998. In 2003, there were 28 doctorates awarded to Māori, up from 21 in 2002 and from only 7 in 1998. The share of those earning doctoral qualifications who were Māori was 4.8 percent in 2003, compared with 2 percent in 1998.

    Māori research within the Performance-Based Research Fund quality evaluations

    The government has changed the method of funding research in tertiary education, moving over the period 2004 to 2007 from a system where funding was based on student enrolments to one based on research performance. As part of the introduction of the new Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF), staff in participating tertiary education providers involved in teaching at degree level were required to submit a portfolio of research outputs completed over the last six years. These portfolios were assessed by national review panels established across the range of subject areas. Each researcher was provided with a quality score covering: internationally recognised (A); nationally recognised (B) and of acceptable standard (C). Those who had produced insufficient outputs in the last six years for adequate assessment were rated R. This included new researchers, as well as established researchers who had not been particularly active in terms of research outputs.

    The information collected for the PBRF provides the first comprehensive view of the quality of the research conducted in tertiary education organisations.

    One of the assessment panels covered Māori Knowledge and Development. The results from this panel do not provide a total picture of research in this area. A proportion of staff working in this area chose to submit to other subject-based panels. The aggregate results for this panel provide an indication of the relative strength of the many and varied fields of academic inquiry where Māori researchers are actively engaged and Māori research methods are regularly employed.

    A total of 150 research staff, from 17 of the 22 participating providers, submitted research portfolios to the Māori Knowledge and Development Panel. Over half of these staff were concentrated in just four providers.

    The proportion of portfolios assessed as nationally recognised (B) by the panel was very similar to assessments across other panels. This shows that there is core group of researchers who are producing innovative research in this area.

    The main difference between the Māori Knowledge and Development Panel and other panel areas was the larger proportion assessed as R, that is, having insufficient output over the last six years to adequately assess. This result probably reflects a predominance of newly established researchers in this area. It may also reflect the choice of some more experienced researchers to submit to other subject panels.

    The panel only assessed three researchers as A, which is a much lower proportion than across other panels. There has been a lot of discussion as to what "world class" research means in this area. The panel took the view that world class research in this area needs to be seen in terms of leadership in indigenous research internationally.

    Figure 15: Proportion of FTE staff assessed for PBRF quality evaluations by assessment score for the Māori knowledge and development panel and other panels

    Māori Researchers – Results from the PBRF

    The ethnicity of research staff was collected as part of the PBRF process. This information provides a view of the quality and spread of Māori researchers across all subject areas.

    A total of 364 research staff who submitted portfolios for the PBRF evaluation process across all the panels declared their ethnicity as Māori. The Māori staff made up only 6 percent of FTE staff, with a declared ethnicity, assessed for the PBRF.

    A higher proportion of Māori research staff were assessed as R (57 percent) than of non-Māori staff (39 percent). This probably reflects the higher proportion of relatively new Māori researchers. It may also reflect the additional demands on established Māori researchers to provider support and mentoring. At the top end, the proportion of Māori research staff assessed A or B (17 percent) was just over half of the proportion for non-Māori staff (30 percent).

    Supporting students in tertiary education

    The government funds two main mechanisms to support students financially during their tertiary education:

    • the Student Loan Scheme
    • student allowances.

    It also provides assistance through the Training Incentive Allowance, and a range of scholarships.

    Student loans

    More than 26,000 Māori used the Student Loan Scheme in 2003, 7 percent up on 2002 and an increase of around 55 percent since 2000. Māori represented 20 percent of all borrowers with a declared ethnicity in 2003, compared with 18 percent in 2000. The 2003 figure is comparable to the proportion of all students who were Māori (20 percent).

    On average, Māori have borrowed less than students in other ethnic groups, reflecting the higher proportion of Māori enrolled in qualifications with zero fees, the numbers who have access to fee support and the higher propensity of Māori to enrol in qualifications at certificate level, which are associated with lower borrowing.

    New research shows there are differences among different ethnic groups in repayments three years post study. In 2000, just 10 percent of Māori who had last borrowed and studied in 1997 had repaid their loans, compared with 20 percent for European and 29 percent for Asian groups. Conversely, nearly two thirds of Māori and Pasifika students had not reduced their debt at all three years after study, compared with 41 percent and 47 percent for European and Asian groups, respectively.

    Student allowances

    In 2003, 17 percent of student allowance recipients declared their ethnicity as Māori. Of Māori student allowance recipients, men are slightly better represented at 51.4 percent, despite the fact that the great majority of Māori in formal tertiary education are women.

    Scholarships and other assistance

    The Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) provides financial support to help some beneficiaries access employment-related training or education. The great majority of those who received the TIA (86 percent) in 2002 and 2003 were Domestic Purposes Beneficiaries. In 2003, 37 percent of the 22,000 TIA recipients were Māori (35 percent in 2002).

    Tūāpapa Pūtaiao Māori Fellowships support Māori graduate students to undertake post-graduate study and research programmes at New Zealand tertiary education institutions. The current focus of the scheme is supporting Māori students in science, engineering and technology disciplines. Approximately 20 new fellows are able to be supported each year.

    The Manaaki Tauira scholarship scheme was established in 1991 to provide financial assistance to Māori in tertiary education. It pays a share of the tuition fees of those granted assistance. Eligibility is tied to commitment to kaupapa Māori and financial need. The scheme is funded from a pool valued at $4.3 million. There are more than 9,000 awards made under the Manaaki Tauira scheme each year. The average value of the awards is currently approximately $400 to $450 per student.

    Māori and Pacific Higher Education Scholarships provide for full payment of fees for the length of a scholar's course of study, plus a living allowance. The full value of the scholarships averages $10,000 a year. Fifteen new scholarships are awarded each year.

    There were 13 holders of Ngarimu scholarships in 2002, with each award valued at $5,000.

    The Ministry of Education also funds scholarships for those training as teachers in areas where there are shortages, including Māori language and Māori medium teachers.

    Notes on Data:
    • Data on formal tertiary education before 1999 excludes PTE and other tertiary education providers (OTEP) students.
    • Student and trainee data relates to domestic students and trainees enrolled at any time during the year.
    • Participation rate is the percentage of the population aged 15 and over who were enrolled at any time during the year. These rates have been adjusted to correct for the differing age distributions of each group.
    • Formal tertiary education is defined as study with a tertiary education provider in a recognised qualification of greater than 0.03 EFTS and excludes all non-formal learning, on-job industry training and PTEs which neither received tuition subsidies nor were approved for student loans and/or allowances.
    • Students who studied in more than one sub-sector or towards more than one qualification level have been counted in each sub-sector and qualification level. Consequently, the sum of the students in each sub-sector or qualification level may not add to the total number of students.


    1. NCEA Level 2 is usually taken in Year 12. It broadly corresponds to the level of Sixth Form Certificate.
    2. Rates of participation referred to here have been standardised for the different age profiles of the populations. The rates represent the proportion of each population aged 15 years and over that would be participating in tertiary education if all populations had the same age structure.
    3. The measure used in this analysis is the equivalent full-time students (EFTS) units consumed by course. This provides a way of prorating for different size courses and early withdrawals.
    4. Most of the courses designated as 'mixed field' courses are in foundation skills. Mixed field programmes include literacy, numeracy and life skills.
    5. The proportion of students who started study in the same year and were either still studying or had completed their qualification within the specified time period. Retention rates include completion rates, plus the proportion still studying towards completion.
    6. The proportion of students who started study in the same year and had completed a qualification within the specified time period.
    7. The Industry Training Fund provides funding to Industry Training Organisations (ITOs) which set standards and qualifications relating to a particular industry. Industry training is delivered, in part, on the job by employers, with other parts provided by polytechnics and/or private training establishments (PTEs). Modern Apprenticeships is a scheme targeted at young people, under which vocational education is largely delivered on the job.
    8. Tertiary Education Commission, Performance-Based Research Fund - Evaluating Research Excellence: the 2003 assessment ( Wellington: Tertiary Education Commission, 2004), p. 44.
    9. Around a quarter of PBRF eligible staff did not declare their ethnicity in the PBRF staff census.
    10. It is not compulsory to declare ethnicity when applying for a student loan. About 15 percent of all borrowers do not state the ethnic group(s) to which they belong.

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