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Massey Announces Award Scheme

Massey University tonight launches a new Vice-Chancellor's Award scheme, designed to support and encourage students who might otherwise forgo tertiary education.

The launch will be at Porirua's Aotea College, at the school's annual prize-giving ceremony. Massey University Vice-Chancellor Professor James McWha will hand 17 fifth-formers an award stating the recipient is "currently demonstrating the academic and personal qualities required for university study."

>From tonight, the programme will be expanded to include selected sixth-formers next year, and the seventh-formers in 2001. Participating students entering Massey for full-time study will have a waiver of first year tuition fees up to a maximum of $3,100, and a $500 cash grant for living expenses.

The three schools taking part in the pilot scheme are Aotea College, Flaxmere College in Hastings, and Lyton High School in Gisborne. Up to 9 bursaries will be awarded in each of the two years of the pilot scheme and Professor McWha says the scheme could be extended to other schools.

Aotea College principal Brent Lewis said he is delighted with the Massey initiative. "We look forward to many of our students qualifying for these awards both now, and in the future." The award would give students who had not previously considered tertiary study the chance to be "exposed, encouraged and supported" in understanding university life. "Massey has recognised that some students might not be considering university study for financial reasons, or through not understanding what is involved with the university way of life."

Mr Lewis said students receiving the awards would not necessarily come from deprived families. The "best and the brightest" would be selected, irrespective of their backgrounds. "Giving the award to any student who meets the requirements is a hugely motivating force, particularly as it permeates through to sixth and seventh forms...It creates that awareness; people are being tracked, opportunities are being lined up, experiences are available. That's an immensely powerful and motivating force - the seed is being planted at an early stage."

College of Education Pro-Vice Chancellor Luanna Meyer describes the award as an "exciting joint partnership venture" with schools determined to get more students into university. Each selected school is demonstrating a commitment to support students thinking of further study and communities with a history of limited participation in university study are being targeted. "It is vitally important to begin talking with students about tertiary education no later than fifth form, because by then, they should be thinking about their career choices."

Participating schools will be assisted in developing a "culture of learning and teaching" that encourages both an "appreciation and capacity" for tertiary education, irrespective of background. Many school leavers are not aware that by getting a university degree, potential income over a lifetime is doubled. "And that will have huge benefits in terms of quality of career and life," says Professor Meyer.

A unique aspect of the scheme is the way in which the schools are being entrusted to decide which students have the academic and personal qualities needed for university study. "By approaching these issues from a school perspective, I believe we will each understand better how we can support these young people in achieving their goals." Professor Meyer says New Zealand is losing ground in the percentage of less-affluent students now moving on to tertiary study.

"One of our goals with this scheme is to show that we can turn this situation around, that university study is not only for the children of wealthy parents...We can't waste the talent of our young people, simply because the school doesn't have access to the same resources.

"Massey has identified 60 students within the three participating schools who are on track for university studies. "So it's quite a large group - we're not setting up one two people to be tall poppies, we're looking to develop a peer support group, where this will be viewed very positively. It will be something they're proud of, rather than embarrassed by."

Professor Meyer says once the first generation of recipients are seen to be achieving, that recognition could help change a community's attitude towards further education. "Then we hope increasing numbers of students will meet the criteria."


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