17 Oct 2014

Māori Business Programme to close

7:04 pm on 17 October 2014

The Māori Business Programme at Victoria University will be closed.

Victoria University's Academic Board voted 29 to 19 in favour of closing the Business School.

Victoria University's Academic Board voted 29 to 19 in favour of closing the Business School. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The closure was signalled a few weeks ago, when the Victoria Business School said enrolments were too low to keep it open.

The university's Academic Board voted on 16 October, with 29 to 19 in favour of closing it.

Māori Business Programme director Senior Lecturer, Aroha Mead of Ngāti Awa and Ngāti Porou descent, said she tried to refresh the programme to attract more students, but was turned down.

"I think it's been one of the worst, most poorly managed processes that I have ever observed, I have encountered restructures and I'm familiar with management processes and it seemed that it didn't follow good practice guidelines," she said.

"It was done by stealth and it was not open or respectful and it felt like a decision had already been made before going to the Academic Board."

Aroha Mead has worked at Victoria University for 14 years, and has worked in the Education Review Office, Human Rights Commission, and held governance positions for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and is the chair of its Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy.

She said over the years she had made a number of requests to both refresh and bring in an external advisory group to help them through that process, of getting enrolments up, and asked to involve students, and use better marketing in order to attract people to the course.

"It needed proactive Māori led and Māori focussed marketing - which didn't happen."

Ms Mead said the decision to close it comes at a time when having more Māori well versed in business and management is so important.

"The signals we are getting from iwi leaders, the Māori economic development taskforce and Government policy is that everyone is saying how important it is right now to have a skilled workforce to work on post-Treaty settlements."

Victoria University said the programme never reached levels comparable to those in other programmes and numbers have steadily declined during the last decade.

It said that Māori student enrolment has increased by 3 percent since 2000 at the Business School.

Victoria Business School's Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Buckle, said that the vast majority of Māori students have chosen the mainstream business programmes.

Mr Buckle said he respectfully disagrees with Ms Mead's comments, and said he believed it was a collegial process.

"The programme has been running for some 15 years now and we have made intensive efforts to support the programme, the concerns about the enrolments is not new, there has been a steady decline in students since 2005."

In response to Ms Mead's claims that her attempts to refresh the programme were declined, Mr Buckle said he did not know or have the records but said he would be surprised if the content had not changed.

Mr Buckle said all students currently enrolled in the Māori Business Programme will be able to complete their course of study and that Te Kawa a Māui, School of Māori Studies, offers courses which can be included in a Bachelor of Commerce degree.

No decisions have been made about the future employment for the two lecturers at the Māori Business Programme.

Aroha Mead said the future for her mahi is not on her mind, "that's a discussion for another time, I am still reflecting on what this [the closure] means for Māori."

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