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The Otago University Students' Association has disaffiliated with the Elohim Bible Academy. Photo...
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The University of Otago should be heartened by the response to now-abandoned talk of capping how many students it accepts into medicine using its Mirror on Society selection policy.

That so many people demanded caps be rejected well before they were formally proposed says the university is right to be proud of a policy that is gradually addressing inequity.

The eight-year-old policy underpins preferential entry programmes that affirm the university’s position that graduating cohorts should reflect the communities they are trained to serve.

The policy identifies Maori, indigenous Pacific, rural, low socio-economic and refugee groups as eligible for consideration for entry to a raft of Health Sciences programmes.

Figures suggest it has had a significant impact on enrolments and graduates from previously under-represented groups. Maori students were last year 12.4% of students in health science undergraduate professional degrees. They were 9% in 2015.

On average, 38 Maori doctors graduated each year from 2016, compared with an average of 14 between 2010 and 2015.

Work published in the New Zealand Medical Journal found the policy helped increase sociodemographic diversity and that this might be good for society as a whole.

The study noted international evidence showed health workforce diversity leads to better outcomes in diverse populations. There was also evidence students’ backgrounds influenced where, and in which communities, they practiced.

It follows that affirmative pathways are a tool to train a workforce that better reflects the many different markets in which it must operate. It recognises one size, no matter how well trained, does not fit all.

This was among the entirely justifiable arguments pitched when the academic community was blindsided by a discussion document that referred to capping some admissions.

That the policy was up for review was no secret — it was due for another look in January next year — but that preamble talks would raise cutting it back was entirely unexpected.

Talk of capping the as-yet uncapped Maori Entry Pathway was quickly explained away as a necessary discussion point rather than a firm proposal to change the rules.

The review was just that — a review — and nothing would progress without formal consultation. The university made it clear it was proud of its policy, and was committed to it.

Even so, many people are wary of any tinkering that might devalue the policy. Doctors are worrying on closed social media pages and open letters urge a firm no to any caps.

In many respects, this is a sure sign those who ought to know support the university’s broad aims to improve the gross under-representation of some groups in the workforce.

Theirs is a challenge to keep going, but the university faces a challenge to modify the programme to such an extent its aims will be rendered piecemeal.

A challenge in the High Court is likely to argue the university’s policy should only admit people at a rate relative to their group’s proportion of the total population. The university will argue this will slow the rate at which a representative workforce can be achieved.

The court may hear Maori were more than 16% of the population and 3.5% of doctors in 2018. Pacifika were roughly 8% of the population and 1.8% of doctors in 2018.

The New Zealand Medical Workforce 2018 report says there would be be 2410 Maori doctors and 1082 Pasifika doctors if the workforce were to reflect the makeup of New Zealand’s population. There were an estimated 573 Maori and 295 Pasifika doctors at the time.

Clearly, proportionality is an issue that must be addressed. Capping numbers is clearly not an answer when the question ought to be ‘‘can we improve diversity, quicker?’’ so that, one day, pathways are not needed at all.



Anyone that doesn't fit the pathway criteria would best be served going to a university that still operates on merit then.
Why waste a year and thousands of $ when working hard and doing your best doesn't qualify you for entry into the next year.
I'm sure the national publicity will have sent the message far and wide.
Excellence is no longer the objective of Otago University.
Near enough is good enough, provided you are part of the prefered victim identity group.

In the Cook Islands where i come from i had to wait months for a specialist team of surgeons from NZ to get my operation done to remove my gall bladder. They happened to be white, mostly men and i couldn't have been in better hands. The excellent outcome wouldn't have been any better even if they spoke my language or understood anything about my culture or were Cook Islanders. The diversity narrative will not achieve better health outcomes for anyone. It seems to be based on the false narrative that one section of society is oppressing another and therefore justifies discriminating against the oppressor group and punish them. No one is oppressing anyone. Schools in island nations like the Cook Islands perform poorly in comparison to NZ schools because its a much poorer nation and this is reflected in their educational outcomes. The performance issue needs to be corrected at that level, not at Otago uni, otherwise you end up as has happened committing a wrong against NZ students who should by right be studying medicine but instead are forced to forfeit their place to someone less qualified because of race. This is wrong. You don't fix a problem by creating another bigger one.

Less qualified by NZ educational standards?

I know little about that.
I do know your attitude defeats opportunity, and patient choice.

A little information on how much they are willing to dumb down our Medical School.
"The student achieved A+ grades for the requisite papers and a UCAT (an intelligence/suitability test) result above the 90th percentile. His child was denied entry."
"Māori and Pasifika applicants were accepted for 2020 with B- averages and no consideration of UCAT scores."
"another student who was turned down at Otago – after completing the first year Health Science course and then again after gaining a Bachelor of Science with distinction"
How would your feel if these were your kids?
How do you feel about having a B- doctor instead of an A+ next time you're in hospital?
And if you are wondering what UCAT is, it's there to make sure people with the 'right' social skills don't get through. So that would exclude those that feature in TV shows like Doc Martin, The Good Doctor, House and Grey’s Anatomy which all are autistic.
Einstein "is thought to have had Asperger syndrome, a type of autistic spectrum disorder, due to his creativity" so there would be no chance of him getting into med school.
Let's be clear about what the 'pathway' is, it's discrimination against our finest minds !!!

It is very disappointing about how little reporting and questioning has been done on this. Apart from the obvious discrimination taking place what impact is this having on other health science courses? Is there an intention for all of the health professions to reflect society in the same way, if so what is being done about it? What will be the impact on future research and academics? Average students don't usually fill these roles. How much extra support are these special entry students getting? There must be a significant cost involved.


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