A Pacific community leader has warned of a "Pasifika
uprising" if the Government goes through with a threat to
force Auckland University to take more engineering students,
which may cause redundancies in other faculties.
Rev Uesifili Unasa, the university's chaplain and head of
Auckland Council's Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel, said the
move threatened Pacific participation in the university,
which was concentrated in faculties such as arts and
"I'm very disturbed by the threat from minister Joyce. I can
see a Pasifika uprising on this threat," he said.
Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce told a Herald series
on job/skill mismatches, which began yesterday, that he would
direct the university to take more engineering and science
students if it did not do so voluntarily in response to
This year's Budget lifted funding for engineering by $42
million, or 8.8 per cent, and for science by $17 million (2
per cent), while funding for all other subjects was frozen.
But Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon told the
Herald that the increases were paid as a bulk fund and the
university did not have to put it all into engineering and
"If we followed that, we would have increased the budgets of
those faculties and made large numbers of people in the arts,
creative arts, the business school and the law school
redundant," he said.
Mr Unasa said the reality was that few Pacific students were
studying engineering or science.
"The reality is that the students are studying the arts and
particularly education, and enjoy and value and actually have
a lot of success in those areas," he said. "For those Pacific
students entering the university, who are not as many as
there should be, even one or two of them [being shut out]
makes a huge difference."
He said any cuts to those areas could threaten the
university's Centre for Pacific Studies, which was "a central
part of the identity of the Pacific community in Auckland".
"It has that community capital value that can't be measured
in the jobs in science, engineering or medical sciences."
Another Pacific leader at the university, Dr Airini, head of
the School of Critical Studies in Education, said more
Pacific students needed to be recruited into engineering and
science. "Mr Joyce is right. We do need to see that profile
of Pasifika people in engineering. We also need to see that
profile in education. It's not an either/or, it's a
both/and," she said.
"This is actually about New Zealand's workforce development.
We need to see a Pasifika presence in all of these areas
because Pasifika are actually a big part of our younger
population that will be essential for driving ahead NZ Inc's
Mr Joyce said the extra funding aimed to lift the number of
engineering graduates with degrees or higher qualifications
by 500 a year by 2017, but that did not have to mean cuts
Professor McCutcheon was not available for comment yesterday
but issued a statement saying the university had been funded
for an extra 150 engineering places next year.
He said the university taught 200 more engineering students
than it was funded for this year and would be about 250
students above the funded places next year.
- Simon Collins of the New Zealand Herald