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Minister of Education and Ako Aotearoa launch new awards to celebrate tertiary educators sector-wide

28 February 2022

Thursday, 24 February marked the launch of Te Whatu Kairangi Aotearoa Tertiary Educator Awards - a more diverse and inclusive awards programme for celebrating outstanding tertiary teaching and training in Aotearoa NZ.

Together with the Minister of Education, we launched a reshaped awards system to sector representatives last week, with changes aimed at broadening the reach of the awards (previously the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards) to be more inclusive of the very best educators from across the entire tertiary education sector.

Ako Aotearoa Director, Helen Lomax, commended the ongoing success of and respect for the Awards, while explaining that improvements were necessary to more strongly support the Government’s Tertiary Education Strategy priorities. “Since 2008, we’ve seen more than 150 innovative, passionate, outstanding education and training professionals be recognised for their commitment to the success and wellbeing of learners in Aotearoa through the Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards; [but we realised that] more needed to be done to broaden [the reach] to be more inclusive of the very best educators from across the entirety of the tertiary education and training sector.”

New name - “Te Whatu Kairangi”

Minister of Education, Hon Chris Hipkins welcomed the announcement of the changes, including the new name for the Awards.

“Our tertiary education sector is diverse. About 700 providers make up the sector, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Add to that the tens of thousands of workplaces where people are daily gaining practical skills and knowledge from their peers and their mentors.

“I’m pleased to see that the new awards give all tertiary educators the opportunity to put themselves forward, with the backing of their organisation, no matter where or what they teach.

“In developing this new identity, it was important to retain and enhance the mana of the current awards, but also reflect the notion of outstanding teaching.

“The new name, [Te Whatu Kairangi], combines traditions around scholarship and the high esteem we hold for those who best reflect the qualities of excellent teaching.”

Changes to the categories, criteria and nominations process

Changes to the Awards will be introduced in two stages. The first this year and the second in 2023.

Along with a new name and look for the awards this year, the criteria has been refreshed for the Kaupapa Māori Awards, and there are new award categories and criteria for the General Awards. 

“We wanted to focus on some of the important challenges facing tertiary education and to broaden the outlook of the awards by identifying award categories”, Helen Lomax explained.

The inaugural categories are:

  • Advancing approaches to, and the outcomes of, work-based learning.
  • Achieving diversity and inclusion for improving outcomes for: Māori learners. Pacific learners; neurodiverse learners; and/or learners with disabilities.
  • Innovation in learning, teaching, and curriculum (including developers, educators, or combinations).
  • Progressing educational partnerships and collaboration.
  • Initiatives for progressing hauora and wellbeing in education.
  • Progressing seamless ākonga transitions between contexts.

The new awards criteria is focused on sustained contribution to and impact on learner success, and on whānau, communities and employment outcomes.

A more standardised approach to the nominations format has also been introduced, with a reduced word count for nomination text submitted, and a standardised nomination template.

Entries will now be accepted from any tertiary educator who has been working in an education position for at least four years full-time, or equivalent, and is employed with an organisation that receives Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) funding.

We will be holding a series of online workshops throughout March 2022 to aid sector understanding of the changes.

Help us spread the word

Nominations are now open. If you know an outstanding tertiary educator who should consider submitting a nomination for this year’s awards, please share this article with them.

More info

For more information and awards updates, please visit the Te Whatu Kairangi page on our website. You can also watch a video recording of the launch there.