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April 29, 2019 | by  | in News Splash | [ssba]

Māori Law Students

A recent Official Information Act request has shown a proportionate increase in Māori law students over Aotearoa in the last few years.

The Māori population of Wellington has increased by 8% since 2001. Now 10% of the Māori population reside here, in the capital.


Victoria University of Wellington states that it is “one of New Zealand’s leading universities for research into Māori knowledge and development”, but is this reflected in the law school? And how does this compare with other universities?


The OIA reveals that the proportion of Māori students in first-year courses has remained stable from 2016 through 2018, only changing year by year by less than one percentage point (14.29% in 2016, 13.58% in 2018).


Passing into second-year, there is a cap on the total number of seats available. Previously capped at 300 students, this rose to 330 going into 2018. However, a 10% rise in total enrollment rise did not occur between these two years, as 2017 had already seen a second-year cohort of over 330 anyway. In fact, there was a 1.19% drop in total enrollment.


However, the proportion of Māori students did rise with the larger cap. The proportion of Māori law students in second-year (those enrolled in the compulsory LAWS297) rose by 12.2% between 2017 and 2018; from 14.15% to 15.36%.


This is above the 10% of seats reserved for Māori students moving into second-year. There are no other caps or quotas relevant to this data.


The other notable point from the VUW OIA is that 2018 is the only time in the last three years that the proportion of Māori students has increased when passing from first- to second-year. 2016 and 2017 saw small drops (-0.14 and -0.77 points, respectively), while 2018 saw a much larger 1.78-point rise.


13% of all law students, including those in postgrad courses, are Māori. However, VUW was unable to provide a breakdown for each group at the time the request was made. This information, and longer-term trend data, is expected soon.


Related to this, the data for second-year Māori student numbers is not indicative of pass rates at, or beyond, second-year.


Other than the 10% of reserved seats, Ngā Rangahautira (the Māori Law Students’ Association at Victoria) encourages Māori students to commit to kaupapa Māori, with emphasis on safe kōrerorero.


When Salient spoke to a lawyer who completed their studies at VUW, however, they pointed out that, at 200-level, there were “limited” resources when it came to learning about the Māori systems of law, and had hoped they weren’t so “broad”.


As for the rest of Aotearoa, the University of Canterbury has “Te Tono Motuhēhē Discretionary Entrance” where students applying for admission must abide by all other entry requirements along with at least a C- pass rate.


The University of Auckland (UoA) law school provides entry to Part II of their legal studies to 32 Māori students under their Undergraduate Targeted Admission Scheme.


A law student from UoA says the accessibility of Māori content has made them “extremely passionate”, though they are disheartened when others enrolled in law don’t share this passion. The student says “it wasn’t what [the others] were expecting, to learn as much as we did.”


Salient will be looking at doing another stats breakdown on this issue in the near future. If you have any information, or personal experiences with the Faculty of Law at VUW, we would appreciate your insight. Please contact


Universities’ relevant OIA responses can be found by searching “Number of Law Students/Māori Law Students” on the website.


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