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What the future looks like for Māori academics

How grim is grim? What the future looks like for Māori academics

“It looks grim,” says Dr Tyron Love, a senior lecturer of Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship at the University of Canterbury (UC) College of Business and Law, of the preliminary findings of his research into the future of Māori academics in New Zealand universities.

“The literature points to it and the conversations we are having indicate that not much has actually changed for Māori academics in universities over the past few decades. The leadership in the Māori research space is inspiring but the institutional work arrangements aren’t keeping up.”

Dr Love, who was recently awarded a $300,000 Marsden Fast Start Grant is collaborating with Professor Michael Hall on the three year research project and says there are good things in place, such as initiatives to support Māori academics and funding allocations, but for academics on the ground not a lot has changed.

The aim of the research is to understand the exploitation and exclusion of Māori academics and exclusion of cultural knowledge in a university setting, but also to understand the extent to which people see institutions as constraining or liberating and the historic institutional elements that come with it.

“The research is getting a lot of support from Māori and non-Māori academics, indicating we are hitting the nail on the head,” Dr Love says.

“Māori academics often feel exploited for their perceived cultural knowledge in the university system. For instance, I won’t do karakia and I won’t bless food, it’s just not something I have done. So when people ask me to do things simply because I’m Māori it can be a little awkward,” he says.

The research will be heavily qualitative and analysis will focus on universities but also acknowledge how the eight New Zealand universities interact with wānanga, polytechs, other tertiary institutes, government and funding bodies.

“The conversations will automatically stretch to other types of institutions and organisations, but mainly we want to try to understand universities and Māori academics in universities. Our participants will tease out the direction of the information and we are interested to see where the conversations lead and the perceptions of non-Māori academics, too.”

The intent of the research isn’t to raise awareness of Māori academics in professorial roles, it is to understand the barriers to progression and exploitation of Māori academics, he says.

“Ultimately we would like to see more Māori academics in professorial roles in New Zealand universities and that will encourage Māori to see university as a study and career option for them, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. First, we need to better understand, articulate and explain the institutional arrangements which have led to such a problematic state,” says Dr Love.


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