Cultivating a whole of university response to Pasifika: Research in action for widened participation, retention and completion at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Ruth Toumu’a, Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban


Pasifika students (students of Pacific nation descent) are participating more in tertiary education in New Zealand, but this is not being matched by necessary increases in retention, academic achievement or course and qualification completion. Moreover, while there is an emerging base of research literature on Pasifika student success in higher education, the relationship between this research and everyday university practice is less clear. This paper documents the ‘research in action’ undertaken at Victoria University of Wellington in order to listen to, understand, and actively respond to the real experiences of its Pasifika learners and their families, and to cultivate a whole of university response to widening Pasifika participation, retention and degree completion. The paper documents some of the most significant findings of the research, the collaborative process of developing and implementing the pan-university strategy it informed, and some of the modest but heartening outcomes at year three. In documenting this, the authors wish to encourage continued efforts to engage in ‘research in action’ by, with, for and through non-traditional student groups, such as Pasifika, at universities.


widening participation; higher education; Pasifika; retention; degree completion; research in action equity groups

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Banner image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), movement score 01 (detail): oil stick and acrylic on paper. Photograph by Kira Jovanovski. Cover image: Kira Jovanovski (2020), grunt_iteration 02 in the boughs and stamped: installation in University Gallery. Photograph by Jedidiah Cranfield. (c) the artist.





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