Project Details

A two-year project to learn more about the capacity building and career development needs of Māori doctoral students in their early careers. A collaboration between University of Waikato, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and Ako Aotearoa.


The project aims to:

  • identify the capacity building and learning needs of Māori scholars early in their careers
  • document effective practices that support the capacity building and learning needs of Māori scholars early in their careers
  • undertake workshops with Māori scholars and staff to pilot career pathway planning, gather feedback and refine research findings
  • publish a research report and resources for supervisors, research teams and the broader tertiary education institution community.


The project will use a kaupapa Māori methodology and include:

  • interviews
  • hui, workshops
  • pilot career pathway development
  • literature review
  • the use of thematic analysis
  • a Māori storytelling process for participants.


the university of waikato

Associate Professor Leonie Pihama

Principal Investigator

Te Kōtahi Institute, University of Waikato
the university of waikato

Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai

Co-Investigator/Researcher, Facilitator

University of Waikato
the university of waikato

Associate Professor Jenny Lee-Morgan

Workshop Leader and Facilitator

The University of Waikato
the university of waikato

Professor Linda Smith

The University of Waikato
the university of waikato

Herearoha Skipper

Project Manager

The University of Waikato
the university of waikato

Rangimarie Mahuika

Research Officer

The University of Waikato




$351,543.00 (excl GST)

$150,000.00 National Project Fund
$101,543.00 The University of Waikato
$100,000.00 Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga

Key Findings

Key Recommendations

Ways supervisors can support Māori & Indigenous PhD scholars.

Capacity Building

  • Supervisors need to be sensitive, aware, prepared for and supportive of any and all cultural matters that may arise throughout the research project, particularly if the supervision team is non-Indigenous.
  • MAI doctoral scholars require more support from supervisors and institutions to develop their writing abilities, and gain knowledge about the range of journals (in which to publish), relevant conferences, book proposals, funding, promotions, and university committees, to increase and access wider professional development and growth. Māori and Indigenous doctoral and early career academics also require safe spaces to build their confidence and develop experience.


  • Regular meetings and activities which have time for whakawhanaungatanga deliberately built in to  enable the slow but steady development of supervisory relationships is critical.
  • Hui which engage on an iwi level are important. Opportunities where scholars can exchange and network with iwi/hapū leaders and/or scholars is highly desired and is key to generating post-doctoral pathways which enable MAI doctoral scholars to work with or for their people.

Mentorship and beyond

  • Sponsorship as an approach to supporting doctoral scholars that moves beyond mentorship is highly desired by MAI doctoral scholars. Described as an action-based process catalysing upward career mobility (whereas mentoring is credited with preparing people to move up). Sponsorship may  include mentoring, coaching, protection, exposure, or an assignment of challenging work.
  • Sponsorship that is based in cultural frameworks such as tuakana teina is highly desired from supervisors. This requires active capacity building and the provision of opportunities which continues throughout the PhD and for at least 12 months after graduation.

Pathway Planning

  • Provide opportunities for MAI doctoral scholars to engage in active planning of their post-doctoral  pathways.
  • Mentorship or sponsorship that is sourced from within whānau, hapū or iwi contexts should be supported by supervisors and institutions as being integral to creating and sustaining pathways for MAI doctoral scholars that go beyond the PhD.


  • Many MAI doctoral scholars experience feelings of cultural and social isolation in academic institutions. Supervisors should advocate for more opportunities where scholars can socialise and interact with other Māori and Indigenous doctoral candidates or staff.
  • Advocating for physical space within the academy that is dedicated solely for MAI doctoral scholars is central to enabling scholars to gather and support each other. Creating and filling space, with our ways of knowing and being, is also essential to the systemic, institutional and societal changes Māori and Indigenous peoples seek.


Te Tātua o Kahukura

A report prepared for Ako Aotearoa by Leonie Pihama, Dr Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai, Dr Jenny Lee-Morgan, Linda Smith, and Rangimarie Mahuika.

(PDF, 4.9 MB, 78-pages).

  • 7 November 2018
Read more


REFERENCE GUIDE | Te Tātua o Kahukura

A quick reference guide for supervisors supporting Māori and other indigenous PhD scholars.

(PDF, 113 KB, 2-pages).

  • 7 November 2018
Read more


Key principles for Supporting Māori and Indigenous Doctoral Scholars | A Postcard Series

A support resource identifying key principles for supporting Māori and indigenous doctoral scholars.

(PDF, 4.2 MB, 16-pages).

  • 7 November 2018
Read more