PostGrad profiles

October 2012


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Education Review finds out what postgraduate students from universities, polytechnics, wananga, and private training establishments from all around New Zealand are up to.


Te Whānau-a-Apanui, Whakatōhea, Ngāpuhi, Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD) graduate, Te whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Dr Sheryl Lee Ferguson’s graduation with a Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD) was a landmark event for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Ferguson and Hawai’ian international student Malcolm Naea Chun were awarded the institution’s first doctorates at a graduation ceremony in Whakatāne in May. Dr Ferguson was also awarded the Top Thesis: Emeritus Professor Roger Green, ONZM Award.

Māori Affairs minister Dr Pita Sharples hailed the doctorates as a milestone – not just for Awanuiārangi, but for the world.

“It is a world first, a great milestone for our Māori people,” Dr Sharples said.

The doctorates were the first ever awarded to indigenous students who had been taught by Māori, at a Māori institution developed for Māori and indigenous peoples, he said.

An education lecturer at Awanuiārangi, Ferguson wrote her thesis on e-Education, a field which sparked her interest while completing a post-graduate qualification at the University of Waikato.

“My thesis title is e-Aorangi, an indigenous model for e-Education,” Ferguson says. “e-Education is borderless – it’s any time, anywhere. At Awanuiārangi, it offers students who are geographically removed from the main campus in Whakatāne the opportunity to access a quality education without having to relocate. Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi offers students and kaiako a unique teaching and learning experience.”

Ferguson helped develop two Awanuiārangi education degrees – Te Iti Rearea Bachelor of Teaching and Learning Early Years and the current Bachelor of Education (Teaching).

She credits a rural education and upbringing, goal-setting, and strong family support as factors that helped her achieve her academic ambition – despite beginning the journey as a second-chance learner.

“I was raised at Te Kaha in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and attended St Joseph’s Māori Girls College in Napier for a year and Te Kaha High School for the remainder of my secondary education. Eager to explore life, I left school at 15 with no formal qualifications.

“I was a young mother when I decided to return to study after being away from the education system for 15 years. As a second-chance learner, I have empathy for the adult returning student and some of the issues they face. From my own experience, I can say that learning is sweeter the second time around, and I encourage all – young people and returning adult students – to experience education at Awanuiārangi.

“My rural education and upbringing instilled in me a sense of belonging and confidence to complete tertiary study. Life plans and goals are also very important to me, so I set these goals every five years. And I am fortunate to have whānau who have supported me throughout my years as an adult student.

“I strongly believe we need to nurture our tamariki and ensure their goals and aspirations are realised. Education – the imparting and acquiring of knowledge through teaching and learning – is the key to unleashing the talent and potential of our tamariki/mokopuna.”


Cardio-thoracic Graduate Certificate of Nursing Practice, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT)

I first became interested in postgraduate study when I returned from overseas in the 1980s. In 1994, I completed my BA (Nursing) from Massey University, which I had undertaken as an extramural student. Following the completion of my degree, I had time away from nursing as a full time mother.

I returned to nursing in 2001 and commenced part-time work in a private surgical hospital as their infection control nurse. My extensive experience in operating theatre served as a good basis for this role. However, I felt that my practice could be enhanced by some further study in this area.

I became interested in the Level 7 graduate certificate of nursing practice offered at CPIT because it offers both practical and academic knowledge that could be easily utilized in the clinical setting. The flexibility and choice of course dates also fitted well with my family and work commitments at this time.

As my family grew, I was able to increase my work hours and was delighted when the hospital opened a cardio-thoracic unit. This gave me an opportunity to build on my previous experience working in cardio-thoracic operating theatre and a new challenge. I relished the opportunity to have direct patient contact and this rekindled my passion for this specialty. I recognised that I could grow my skills with further education and looked back to CPIT for courses to help me do this. In the meantime, I was appointed charge nurse of the area, and this motivated me further, as I had the desire to undertake this role to the best of my abilities.

Over a period of six years, I worked towards the graduate certificate of nursing practice, specializing in cardio-thoracic nursing. I found returning to academic writing a real challenge but the more I wrote, the better and the easier it became. I remember really dreading writing references as I am sure many readers can relate to. This hardship was balanced by fantastic tutors, interesting speakers, practical topics, and lively discussions. But best of all is using what I have learnt in my day-to-day practice. Not only has my practice improved, my confidence increased, and my knowledge broadened, I am also enjoying helping others work towards achieving a similar goal. I am proud that all my staff under take graduate certificate study and apply it to their clinical practice.

Although an earthquake tried to prevent it, I graduated in September 2011 with CPIT’s first Cardio-thoracic graduate certificate of nursing practice. This was a special day as my daughter graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing alongside me.


Training to be a primary teacher, New Zealand Graduate School of Education (NZGSE)

I completed a Bachelor of Communications degree and was in the top five per cent of all Massey Business students in New Zealand in 2010. I was determined to win a job in business, but all the time, I had a niggling feeling that this wasn’t what I was passionate about. I applied for marketing assistant type jobs and all the time I was hoping that I wouldn’t get them. Just after I finished my degree, I went back to South Africa for my grandad’s funeral in Port Elizabeth. It was there that I visited a care centre where there were orphans; many were quite seriously ill, but they were all so happy and appreciated everything that was done for them. That was when I realised what I wanted to do: teach.

I met an NZGSE intern in a pie shop by chance. He was so passionate about his training. We got talking and he said I must go to “Grad School”. I knew the training was going to be difficult but I was convinced it would really prepare me for the job.

I love the variety of teaching opportunities that I have undertaken in schools on teaching practice. I have learned to play the ukulele properly, have coached a hockey team and have really sharpened my skills in teaching maths and English. It is so rewarding to build rapport and make such important connections with children, particularly the most difficult ones. I have also discovered things about myself. I’ve learned to be more humble and that it is OK to learn from lots of people.

In terms of the course, the practical side is demanding but it is so rewarding. It is such a great way to learn and with the tutors by my side I really feel the progress. The competency aspect of NZGSE’s core principles gives me the confidence that when I finish I will be equipped to teach. The other great aspect is that I can work at my own pace. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and I don’t need to try and keep up with my colleagues. I have to practice some aspects of teaching over and over again and I just need to keep on being patient with myself over this. I can also get anxious if I’m teaching something I don’t know much about. However, the NZGSE tutors are always nearby for me to get all the help I need.

Alongside my teacher training, I’m doing catechetical studies, so my goal is to ultimately teach in a Catholic School.


MBA student, Massey University, discusses the findings from their recent study tour to Europe.

Firms that survive in a highly competitive business environment will, supposedly, be efficient and innovative, they will exhibit strong growth, and they will weather the toughest of times. That, at least, seems to be the dominant view in New Zealand.

During the 2012 Massey University MBA study tour to Europe, however, we found that partnership and collaboration may be better at fostering such innovation and resilience. The executive MBA students visited successful companies and organisations in relatively small countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden; including KU Leuven Research and Development ; the Wageningen Food Valley Organisation; citizenM Hotels; Ikea; Lego; SKF; Husqvarna; Bjoern Borg Design; and many more. All these companies are exhibiting strong growth despite the global financial crisis, and few of them, if any, operate in isolation, illustrating the benefits to be had from various forms of collaboration, including ‘open source’ type technologies.

Large companies, such as Ikea or Husqvarna, literally do not have New Zealand on the maps on their office walls. Even our biggest companies, and the New Zealand economy as a whole, seem to have little relevance to some of them. So what were the lessons learnt and what were valuable insights we gained from this trip that could help New Zealand change this situation?

The Wageningen Food Valley Organisation, where universities, research institutes, science companies, industry, and government have joined forces to establish a highly efficient, innovation- driven network exemplifies an approach guided by collaboration instead of the pursuit of relentless competition. All participants benefit from the opportunities it offers. That is illustrated by 90 innovations to which Food Valley contributed since 2007, 15 new technology-based businesses launched, and €12 million of new investments during this time. Large companies thrive in this environment which is both conducive to their research and provides them with a source of qualified staff.

Universities, research institutions, and industry are mutually dependent on one another. To attract postgraduate students, universities need partnerships with research institutes and research active industry, industry, on the other hand, relies on postgraduate students as a resource. Both appear to gain in a co-operative model like the Wageningen hub, as do small companies within and around this innovation nexus. The network provides smaller companies with the opportunity to find appropriate partners for developing ideas and bringing them to the market whilst the bigger players need expert knowledge in specific areas and are comfortable with outsourcing this to trusted partners.

Although New Zealand has no shortage of innovative ideas, progressing them from the concept stage into a marketable product often happens in other parts of the world due to the lack of appropriate partners, capital, and/or production facilities here. Examples of European university/research-industry-government partnerships demonstrate how New Zealand could effectively counteract brain drain and loss of research capacity to overseas competitors. Of course, businesses face a different environment in Europe that creates specific motives for collaboration; undoubtedly, EU policy is a strong driver for collaborative approaches because EU funding supports cross-regional cooperatives, such as the ‘Regions of Knowledge’ programme, of which Wageningen Food Valley is a partner.

Another aspect is the large size of the European market. The EU constitutes a market of over 500 million consumers and a combined GDP of €12,268,000 million. To succeed in these conditions, companies have a strong motive to team-up if they want a distinct share, and to serve customers across the EU, they need partners to establish multiple local presences.

Furthermore, we found that European companies are notably aware of their value chain. They identify exactly where they create value, focus on the products or processes most relevant to their value creation, and source efficient partners to complement their offerings. In a market the size of Europe, it is easier for companies to find the right partners and form successful cross-border partnerships than it is for New Zealand companies, due, in part, to our small size and remote location.

In summary, the environment and the drivers for collaboration might differ, but New Zealand could well learn some of the valuable lessons from the companies and networks we visited on this study tour. Those lessons point the way to some fundamentally different ways of doing business, and of industry working with tertiary education, ways resting on collaboration in privately led initiatives yet under full support of Government, and with partnership at their core.