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Maori and Pacific Islands education is likely to take a massive body blow when the cuts at the University of Auckland go ahead, a fact brought about by government under-funding of this institution. $3.8 million will be diverted form the Faculty of Arts budget for various University Projects. Given that most Maori and Pacific Islands enrolments are in the Faculty of Arts, we believe this can only be detrimental for Maori and Pacific Island students (in terms of the range of available course options and support mechanisms).

It is government policy (by funding only 72.4% of each student’s education) that has forced the University to increase fees each year from 1990 to 1999. The government’s loans policy has encouraged high levels of Maori and Pacific Islands student debt-according to Dame Anne Salmond’s Report of the Taskforce for Improving Participation in Tertiary Education October 1990 70% of Polynesian and 60%of Maori students at universities take out loans, while 48% of Pakeha and 32% of Asian students do so. This comes at a time when our people’s participation rates at all universities are falling, as education, health and employment policies have created a situation where real poverty has contributed to a drop-off in enrolments, and a real fear of being caught in a student debt-trap.

Government under-funding is pushing the University’s acclaimed E.E.O and E.Ed.O principles and objectives to the wall. WE ask, how can the University institute its principles of inclusion, recruitment, and retention of under-represented groups (Maori and Pacific Islands students and staff in particular) given the restraints within which the University has been forced to work?

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Something is wrong here. Unless these problems are addressed, we will continue to have a “C is for Coconut, M is for Missing Out” syndrome in education. All this, in a city with the largest Maori and Pacific Islands population in the world.

What is of concern is that the University will turn into a privileged zone which is only available to the affluent, or those prepared to take on huge debt repayments, and this is particularly the case for Maori and Pacific Islanders from more impoverished socioeconomic backgrounds. We must not allow our society’s divisions between rich and poor, Pakeha and Polynesian, to be perpetuated in the university environment.

The University of Auckland was established in a very big way by moneys granted to it from the confiscation of Maori land. This is still the classic case of Pakeha power structure maintaining the control, and Maori and Pacific Islanders being left out in the cold.

Witi Ihimaera (09) 378-8707
Tony Fala (09) 482-1213

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