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NZ uni launches indigenous exchange program

A new program to increase the number of indigenous students studying abroad and connect them with the cultures of the first nations of their host countries has been established in New Zealand.

Many indigenous students don't have access to study abroad experiences. Photo: Bryn ParishMany indigenous students don't have access to study abroad experiences. Photo: Bryn Parish

Participants also engage with the cultures of the first nations of the host country

The program, which was created by the University of Otago on New Zealand’s South Island, will see a two-way flow of Māori students going on exchange to Australia, Canada and the US, and the university hosting indigenous students itself from those three localities.

“Being indigenous… means that we are the local people, we’re from this land and of this land”

Tuari Potiki, program founder and director of the University of Otago’s Māori Development Office, said the program aimed to increase the participation of indigenous students in study abroad experiences.

“There weren’t many Māori taking advantage of international mobility opportunities, and we wanted to know why that was,” he said.

“For a long, long time these sorts of opportunities were really only available to an elite and select few.”

Speaking with The PIE News, he said the program sought to help students overcome barriers around overseas study, including costs, adding that many Māori students at university were the first of their family to undertake higher education.

Uniquely, participants also engage with the cultures of the first nations of the host country, spending time within them to learn more and contribute. Potiki said this served the dual purpose of emphasising community-based relationships and acknowledging the indigeneity of both participants and hosts.

“Being indigenous… means that we are the local people, we’re from this land and of this land,” he said.

“For a program to be truly indigenous, that’s where the foundational connection needs to occur. It has to be community to community first and foremost because that’s indigenous.

“Without that, it’s not an indigenous program, it’s a program for indigenous people which is different. That’s more about ethnicity.”

The program intends to expand to different countries, with talks already underway with universities in Taiwan and South America.

Increasing participation and including indigenous populations in international education is increasingly becoming a talking point within several countries.

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