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Marketing Tertiary Education to Maori: Building Bridges to Strengthen Participation (April 2005)

Group or Institution

Te Wananga O Aotearoa


Mark Bojesen-Trepka, Dr Sasha Grant, Dr Ngapare Hopa


This research is concerned with marketing and communications. It is expressly ‘positioned’ at the community level and brings together the disciplines of social anthropology, management studies, and education.

The prime focus of the research was examination of the issues that inhibit Maori from successfully engaging with tertiary training and education providers. In particular, it examines the marketing and communication activities and strategies of tertiary providers as they seek to market their ‘offer’ to Maori.

This report overviews the activities and learnings from phase one of this research – an exploration of the marketing activities and processes of NZ tertiary providers and its effectiveness from a Maori perspective.

The research was informed by in-market and desk research, a review of the pertinent education, marketing and communications literatures, and examination of tertiary provider marketing effort. In part, the literature review and desk research showed that issues and themes surrounding Maori engagement with the NZ tertiary sector were common to the indigenous peoples of Australia and North America. As a consequence, the research has relevance to New Zealand tertiary providers looking to engage the increasingly diverse ethnic groups within their catchment areas.

Despite the proliferation of tertiary courses offered in NZ, Maori engagement with tertiary education (12%) remains at a less than half that of non-Maori (26%) (Te Puni Kokiri, Ministry of Maori Development, Fact Sheet 6, 1999). In 2000, there were 25,627 university graduates, of which 1,286 (5%) were Maori (Te Puni Kokiri, 2001).

Researching tertiary provider marketing effort required a critical review of provider marketing and communication outputs, specifically those that were directed toward Maori. The research team reviewed the marketing and marketing communications from a mix of NZ universities, Te Wananga o Aotearoa and a technical institute.
It also involved interviewing Maori already engaged with tertiary training in order to begin identifying the marketing and communication elements that were deemed ‘effective’ from a Maori perspective.

What We Found
The research showed that similar issues existed for indigenous communities in Australia and North America, characterised by low levels of participation, retention, and completion. Despite this universally acknowledged ‘problem’ there was no significant literature (academic or industry-related) in the area of marketing tertiary education to indigenous peoples. There also does not appear to be any current research effort in this area.

The researchers’ network contacts with Maori working within NZ Crown Research Institutes and Maori student respondents from the range of tertiary providers confirmed that their choice for tertiary training was not influenced by tertiary provider marketing.

The mix of providers examined meant that marketing and marketing communications effort was highly variable. While each institution had designated Maori liaison personnel, actual marketing effort directed specifically at Maori was minimal. Invariably, tertiary provider ‘marketing’ staff were different from those provider staff who were engaged with ‘teaching’ i.e. there did not appear to be a realisation that Maori were not that well represented in the classroom by those engaged with tertiary marketing. In effect, there was a potential target segment that was not being addressed by most tertiary marketers.

This is significant when considering the pending need to train the forecast increase in the number of Maori in the main workforce ages (15-64 years). This is expected to increase from 350,000 in 2001 to 468,000 in 2021, an increase of 117,000 or 34 percent. Within the younger working age population, the 15-24 age group is important because many people are entering tertiary education and/or the labour force at these ages. The projections indicate that the largest increase in the Maori population aged 15-24 years will occur before 2011 (Statistics NZ).

It is therefore imperative that tertiary providers begin to engage with Maori.

Implications for Tertiary Providers and Their Communities
While the research is in its early stages, it is possible to provide some initial insight into what might constitute effective marketing strategies for engaging the Maori community. For providers to facilitate an increase in Maori participation in tertiary education it is suggested that they:

The Research: Where to from here?
The plan for phase two of this research is currently under development and will be presented to Trust Waikato in May 2005.

Phase two of the research is designed to engage the Maori population ‘where they live’. This means contact with individual IWI groups, Marae and with other less traditional locales i.e. the Maori business network, Te Kaupapa Matauranga Mo Te Iwi Maori (Maori Education Trust), and Maori alumni.

Additionally, since the Government has indicated a vested interest in promoting Maori educational initiatives then research contact is needed with Maori organisations like Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, and secondary schools/careers advisors.

Further research is also required with Maori students who are already engaged with the tertiary sector. The research design will thus involve the conducting of focus groups with Maori students currently enrolled in universities and polytechnics. The aim of these focus groups is to identify what works and what does not work in terms of provider marketing activities.

Ultimately, the research team also plans to produce scholarly journal articles in addition to documenting and communicating best practice methodologies to providers and other stakeholders.


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