What Enabled and Disabled First-year Pacific Student Achievement at University?

Dr. Tasileta Teevale1, Miss Alapasita  Teu2

1University of Otago , Dunedin, New Zealand, 2University of Otago , Dunedin, New Zealand


Identifying positive success factors and addressing the factors that impede academic success for minority students in higher education, is a priority for most countries that are experiencing rapid population diversity. This qualitative study explored the experiences of first-year Pacific students at a New Zealand university, and undertook a comparative analysis of factors from two groups of students; one that successfully passed 50% of their first-year papers compared with those students who did not pass at least 50% of their academic papers. Students who succeeded in the first year of study used Pacific-centric student support services, had family members who had been to University before, and had different study habits, learning strategies and expectations from their peers who struggled to achieve. This study identified important aspects of the first-year transition for Pacific students, upon which tertiary institutions can have some impact. As first-year academic success predicts University completion, this study recommends further effort in first year transition interventions to address the social and academic adaptations that Pacific students need to make in order to be successful at University study.

Key words: Pacific Island, students, minority, ethnicity, university, higher education, tertiary education, transition, first-year, New Zealand.


Alapasita works as an assistant research fellow for the Pacific Development Office assisting in a research project that looks at Pacific students and their university experiences. Ala has completed a Bachelor of Physical Education (Hons) and completed a Master in Public Health. Her research topic explored factors influencing the transition and academic success of Pacific first-year students in the Health Sciences First Year Programme. Alapasita leads this research project which extends her research interests around Pacific student retention and achievement and their first-year experiences at the University of Otago.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education. We are focused on: The quality of the student experience Supporting and empowering students to achieve their educational and life goals Enhancing student wellbeing and development Improving student success and persistence Providing outreach to students at-risk Raising institutional student retention rates For more information, please visit the ANZSSA website at anzssa.com.

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