In October and November 2020 SLT endorsed Te Waka Pākākano | the Office of the AVC Māori, Pasifika and Equity to conduct research to inform a complete Equity Review. The aim of the review was to examine equity, diversity and inclusiveness in the University of Canterbury (UC) context, with a Tiriti o Waitangi-centred and intersectional approach.
We wish to acknowledge and sincerely thank all who participated in the review, particularly those who shared their lived experiences.
The report has now been presented to Council and shared with participants. The results (summarised below) identify the importance of breadth of focus across the University.
The Equity Review draws attention to the challenges the university faces in defining equity, diversity and inclusiveness and in delivering commitments into meaningful outcomes for underserved communities. These communities include, but are not limited to Māori, Pacific, Rainbow, people with long-term disabilities (physical and mental health-related), people of faith, migrants, people of refugee background and women.
Qualitative research data was collected to inform the review through semi-structured interviews with targeted groups of students and staff. This was supplemented with an anonymous online questionnaire, which was distributed to gather broader UC student and staff input. Approximately 700 responses were received online and in excess of 80 in-person interviews as part of this process.
Findings highlight confusion about the meaning of equity in the UC context and it is clear that the implementation of the Equity and Diversity Plan, policy and aspirations were not met in full, as a result of this lack of clarity. Many research participants reported experiencing various forms of discrimination in the University. Others talked about the ongoing reproduction of structures of privilege. Many participants from non-marginalised groups denied or were unaware of the reality of marginalisation for others, and voiced concerns that acknowledging diversity could cause a reduction of teaching and learning standards or even threaten the value of the dominant culture.
It is encouraging that despite the significant challenges identified in the feedback, students and staff recognised the valuable equity work already under way across the University. This included the development and implementation of UC Values, Takere Māori and Pacific Academy and the Kia Angitu Student Success Framework. These developments demonstrate UC’s commitment to providing equitable access for Māori, Pacific, first in family, those from low-decile schools, and students with disabilities as they enter tertiary education.
In particular, focus on a strengths-based approach and research-based evidence drive action to meet UC’s aspirations for equity. It was also clear in participants’ feedback that research without committed leadership and an improved organisational culture would not lead to meaningful change.
 The term ‘underserved’ is used in the review report to refer to individuals, groups and communities that experience discrimination and exclusion (social, political and economic) because of unequal power relationships across economic, political, social and cultural dimensions.
What’s our response?
In response to the Equity Review findings, an Equity Response Plan is being developed to determine how UC will achieve positive change. The approach will be phased, prioritising short, medium, and long-term strategies and tactics. The Equity Response Plan will be finalised and circulated later in 2021.
This is a step in our journey to creating an equitable community, and we are committed to continuing to engage in conversations that facilitate this. We welcome your feedback and ideas on the response to the review via email to email@example.com.
There are actions we can take even as we establish a meaningful implementation response. The first step is to define a shared understanding of equity, which is pivotal in achieving meaningful outcomes to this work. While the workshops and response planning phase take place, we will also refine and confirm a definition that is concise and specific to UC’s aspirations for equity, diversity, and inclusiveness.
As a student at UC, what can I do now?
At UC there are lots of opportunities to get involved and connect with people from diverse backgrounds and who have different experiences. Whether you want to play sport, attend social events, join a student club or explore our vibrant city, you’ll find heaps of opportunities to support your personal journey in building awareness and understanding of equity. A good place to start is to check out the Tūhura |Explore Student Handbook, which shows you heaps of ways that you can make the most of uni-life and experience something other than your status-quo.
Make the most of the amazing support services around campus that can help you on your journey:
- Te Waka Pākākano | Office of AVC Māori, Pacific and Equity – can provide Māori, Pacific and Rainbow students with culturally responsive support and care.
- Pacific Student Advisors https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/pasifika/contact-us/
- Kaiurungi, Māori student advisors https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/akonga-maori/whakap-mai–contact-us/
- Rainbow Student Advisor https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/contact-us/people/ari-nicholson.html
- Disability Advisors (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/equity-disability/contact-us/) – Support students with disabilities by providing appropriate, disability-related study support services and specialist resources.
- Atawhai Ākonga | Student Care (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/needtotalk) – Student Care Advisors offer pastoral care and support for both domestic and international students and provide referrals to other support service as appropriate. The team can also support students who have experienced sexual harassment or violence.
- Te Whare Hauora | UC Health Centre (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/healthcentre) – you can make an appointment to talk to a health professional including nurses, doctors and counsellors to help you get through this difficult time. If you need to be seen straight away, contact the Health Centre and tell the reception staff that your situation is urgent: they will then find a health professional you can talk to.
- UCSA Advocacy and Welfare (https://ucsa.org.nz/student-support/advocacy-welfare/) can help you if you are experiencing financial difficulties at this time, including support with food, and can help you communicate with your teaching staff and apply for extensions and Special Consideration if you are finding your study is being affected; and
- UC Chaplains (https://www.canterbury.ac.nz/support/health/chaplains), who are available if you need someone to talk to.
You can also find additional resources and support services in the community:
- Need To Talk: 1737 (free text or phone)
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Nāhaku noa, nā
Dr Darryn Russell and the Equity Reference Group