100 years after first wahine Māori attended 'world's best uni', 13 new grads head to Oxford

13 Māori graduate student candidates from across Aotearoa are visiting Oxford University to pursue opportunities at the 'world's best university'. Photo / File

It's 100 years since the first wahine Māori enrolled at one of the world’s most famous universities, and 13 new Māori graduate student candidates from across Aotearoa are visiting the University of Oxford in the UK as part of an initiative to encourage students to look at international studies.

The university has been named the best university in the world for the seventh year in a row by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which rank 1,799 institutions from 104 countries.

The visiting candidates will meet Oxford University academics and leaders, network with recent Māori graduates, and tour the schools within the university in a visit designed to encourage more Māori students to consider international study at leading universities.

The tour also celebrates the centenary of the first wahine Māori student, and possibly first indigenous student at Oxford University, Mākereti Papakura.

"We are so pleased to be able to honour Mākereti, whose pioneering days as a student in Oxford are an inspiration 100 years later, to New Zealand and for people around the world,” says Evie O’Brien (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Ranginui), director of The Atlantic Institute, one of two bodies hosting the Te Hononga Māori Graduate Study Tour.

“Te Hononga builds on the legacy of Mākereti and those of Māori leaders who followed in her footsteps as students at the university,"

The Rhodes Trust, the convenor of the Rhodes Scholarship, is the second host of the programme.

Mākereti Papakura was the first wahine Māori to attend Oxford University and possibly the first indigenous student. Photo / Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Manatū Taonga

Te Hononga is about encouraging and supporting Māori into international study but also increasing the number of Māori students taking advantage of opportunities like the Rhodes Scholarship, O’Brien says.

"Of the more than 247 New Zealand Rhodes scholars selected since 1904, only three were Māori.”

“A clear strategy is needed to enable more Māori students to take their place in these world-leading universities," she says.

Te Pūtea Whakatupu Trust is one of 12 iwi and kaupapa Māori sponsoring entities and is supporting two candidates to attend the tour, Ryan Meachen (Ngāti Te Wehi, Ngāti Huia) and Jeanine Tamati-Elliffe (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Te Atiawa, Ngāti Mutunga).

"Ryan and Jeanine, and all the Te Hononga candidates, represent our boundless potential to excel on a world academic stage in a way that is grounded in our Māoritanga," Kaihautū, Te Pūoho Kātene says.

Commemorating the 100-year anniversary, the tour will include the first Mākereti Papakura memorial lecture at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History delivered by Māori academic Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou).

"It is commonly said that our people cannot be what they cannot see,” Kātene says.

“Te Hononga not only connects these scholars with the trailblazing legacy of Mākareti Papakura but also brings Oxford into their world, moving that dream of international study from the intangible to the eminently achievable."

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