Meeting a target of 500 new PhDs

PhDs are the backbone of any research community. Yet for the first hundred years or so of universities in New Zealand the number of Mäori doctorates could have been counted on not too many hands. This might make the target Ngä Pae o te Märamatanga set in 2002 of contributing to 500 new Mäori PhDs in five years only look the more unrealistic. But it is a welcome measure of change, and of a lot of hard work, that Emeritus Professor Leslie R Tumoana Williams, the Centre’s Capability Building Manager, says that target is well on the way to being achieved.

In earning doctorates Mäori students tend to move in a different pattern. Typically, they will not have gone straight to doctoral studies after completing a degree. Many are middle-aged and have to balance study with community, family and leadership responsibilities. Not surprisingly, they can feel tired and isolated.

MAI, the Mäori and Indigenous Doctoral Support Programme, aims to correct the balance. It runs at seven sites supporting 200 PhD students, and its impact can be dramatic, contributing to a five-fold growth in PhD enrolments at Victoria University of Wellington in the last eighteen months.

“MAI is a significant step in establishing a cohort of excellent Mäori researchers,” says Professor Williams. “They will lead future research for social and economic development for Mäori.”