Dr Tara McAllister (Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Porou), a research fellow with Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre of Research Excellence hosted by the University of Auckland, and Dr Sereana Naepi from Thompson Rivers University who is soon returning to the School of Social Sciences at the University of Auckland discuss their research on the under-representation of Māori and Pasifika scholars in our universities.

Our new academic papers Why isn’t my Professor Māori? and Why isn’t my Professor Pasifika? both record and analyse the number of Māori and Pasifika academics in universities (excluding wānanga) across New Zealand. We highlight that Māori and Pasifika scholars are severely under-represented and make up only 5% and 1.7% respectively of the academic workforce. Alarmingly, these percentages have remained unchanged for six years.

Of further concern is that with increased academic seniority, the numbers of Māori and Pasifika academics become fewer and fewer; according to the data out of 1045 Deans/Professors in 2017 only 35 were Māori and five were Pasifika.

Māori and Pasifika are also over-represented within precarious employment - we are often employed as tutorial assistants and tutors.

We cannot simply insert more Māori and Pasifika academics into universities. We must examine the structures that exclude and marginalise us in the first place. In our papers we highlight that many factors could be attributed to these low numbers, including the embedded institutional structures which can lead to Māori and Pasifika experiencing racism that ultimately impacts their retention and promotion as outlined in Why aren’t universities made for me?, Beyond the Dusky Maiden and When Pasifika students feel tokenised, it's no wonder there's a lack of Pasifika professors.

These embedded structures are difficult to change, but with a collective movement towards change it may be possible to challenge and ultimately shift university structures that exclude Māori and Pasifika.

We found it very difficult to obtain data on the number of Māori and Pasifika academics from universities themselves, with only one New Zealand university, the University of Auckland, openly publishing an equity report.

The Ministry of Education requires some of this data from universities and this is the data we presented.

Moving forward, we would like to see the government require more consistent collection and transparent dissemination of data. Before we begin to address inequalities in academic staffing, we must gain a detailed picture of where Māori and Pasifika academics exist within university structures.

Naming the numbers is a powerful exercise but we must also be reflective about what they say about us and our universities.

We imagine universities as places that embrace all learners, esteem all knowledge, and serve all communities, but they are not currently fulfilling this potential. To achieve this aspirational goal, we need collective action and we invite you to join us as we continue to record and expose the experiences and realities of Māori and Pasifika working in New Zealand universities.

It is through sharing the data and our stories that we hope to continue to build on the legacy of other Māori and Pasifika scholars to create the university we all deserve.

We are building a collective of Māori and Pasifika scholars to respond to and make calls for action. Please get in touch if you wish to join the collective.

@taramcallister4 @sereananaepi

If you are unable to join the collective we encourage you to share the articles and discuss them in your department, school, faculty and university. They are conversation starters and we look forward to seeing the transformation that is possible from meaningful dialogue across the university.