New research led by Te Pūnaha Matatini Associate Investigator Dr Tara McAllister (shown above fronting for the media) indicates our universities are not meeting their own diversity and equity values.

Published in the MAI Journal , the two studies have revealed that there has been very little improvement in Māori and Pasifika representation in academic workforces in our eight universities (Auckland, AUT, Waikato, Massey, Victoria, Canterbury, Lincoln and Otago), at senior levels in particular, from 2012 to 2017.

Why isn’t my Professor Māori?

Lead author of the first paper, ‘Why isn’t my Professor Māori?’ Dr Tara McAllister (Te Aitanga ā Māhaki, Ngāti Porou) says the institutions tend to portray themselves as supportive of and adherent to diversity and equity, as well as valuing te Tiriti o Waitangi.

“Universities always have these blanket statements that they value the Treaty, but I don’t think they’re sure what that looks like,” says Tara. “A good start is having more Māori and Pasifika academics employed.”

“As you move up the academic levels of seniority, the under-representation of Māori gets worse and worse. I think that’s really disappointing given the outward promotion of diversity by each of these institutions.”

According to the study’s findings, there was no significant change in the overall percentage of Māori employed in New Zealand’s eight universities between 2012 and 2017.

Furthermore, by 2017, only 3.4% of university staff at Professorial or Dean level were Māori – a major under-representation.

Tara’s co-authors included Associate Professor Joanna Kidman (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Raukawa) at the School of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, Dr. O. Rowley (Ngāi Tahu) from the College of Public Health Medicine and Veterinary Science, James Cook University, Australia, and Dr. Reremoana Theodore (Ngāpuhi, Te Arawa), Co-Director of the National Centre for Lifecourse Research at the University of Otago.

Why isn’t my Professor Pasifika?

Lead author of the accompanying study, ‘Why isn’t my Professor Pasifika?’ Dr. Sereana Naepi from Thompson Rivers University, says her paper shows that representation of Pasifika academic staff within New Zealand universities is even worse than for Māori.

According to the study, numbers of Pasifika academics at New Zealand universities remained stagnant from 2012 to 2017, with five or less at senior level staff (Professors or Deans) at the beginning and end of the period assessed.

Current New Zealand university policies on diversity and equity could be understood as little more than “window-dressing”, but we are not unique in that sense, says Sereana.

“New Zealand aligns with international universities and their structural exclusion of diverse bodies and ideas. Although universities have made significant headway in increasing Māori and Pasifika students they now need to invest the same effort into recruiting, retaining and promoting Māori and Pasifika academics.”

“It is important to have Māori and Pasifika leadership not only in Māori and Pasifika roles but throughout the university as our diverse viewpoints can provide creative solutions that are perhaps outside of the norm for universities.”

Regular academic recruiting across a range of disciplines is key

The researchers suggest there are some promising initiatives being implemented. In particular, early career academic programmes that regularly recruit emerging Māori and Pasifika academics across a range of disciplines.

“An institution-wide approach like this can have significant impacts on these numbers, and cohort hiring for Indigenous and diverse academics is one way of providing ongoing support and mentoring to ensure that Māori and Pasifika rise to leadership positions quicker,” says Sereana.