Producing 500 new Māori PhDs in five years

At Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga we now manage a database of well over 500 Māori scholars. Twenty five ago years ago Māori academics were so few we'd have had no need for the resource. As for Māori PhDs, with a national total of around 20, some academics would have been realistically able to name them all.

Māori research, of course, is not new, and scholars such as Professor Bruce Biggs, Sir Peter Buck and Sir Apirana Ngata have been leaders in publishing from a Māori perspective. But nevertheless in late 2002 when Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga decided on a target of 500 Māori PhD candidates and graduates in five years we knew we'd set no small goal.

Ahead of deadline, at the end of 2006 we came in ahead of target – with over 500 PhDs awarded to Māori or underway. Many factors will have helped, but at Victoria University of Wellington for example, the impact of' the MAI (Māori and Indigenous Doctoral Support) programme supported by Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga was clear: PhD enrolments jumped five fold in the programme's first 18 months.

An integral part of our Capability Building programme, MAI operates through a national network of sites which offer mentoring programmes, fellowships, conferences, retreats and workshops. MAI addresses the isolation common to Māori PhDs who typically return to university to complete their study at a later and busier stage of life. Unique in New Zealand, the programme is now being replicated in other countries and is partially emulated by universities in New Zealand on their own initiative.

The PhD graduates we are seeking will be happy in both Māori and New Zealand cultures (and many will be substantially bi-lingual), original intellectually and ready to provide leadership in research and public service environments.

In five years the measurable gains have been outstanding. In another 25 years the benefits to the nation will be incalculable.