Te Ara Tautika | The Equity Policy whakapapa
The 2022 Equity Policy review
The Waipapa Taumata Rau, University of Auckland Equity Policy was reviewed in 2022. The review took place in the context of Taumata Teitei Vision 2030 and Strategic Plan 2025, the Waipapa Toitū framework, and the 2021 Equity Function Review. The Office of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Equity (OPVCE) facilitated a collaborative review process to create a contemporary and distinctive policy that reflects the shared values and unique characteristics of the Waipapa Taumata Rau community. This meant the kaupapa focussed on our place, our space, and our time, to deliver key principles and values.
The policy review process was led by people with lived experience and expertise, and guided by values of diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and respectful collaboration. The six-month process involved approximately 40 people who directly contributed to drafting the new policy and revising it in response to feedback. The process included a three-week consultation phase that was open to submissions from all members of the Waipapa Taumata Rau community as well as the general public. Each step of the process, and the people and groups involved, are outlined on the Process and timeline page.
There were three main themes discussed by those involved in the review process and the submissions received during the consultation period.
1. Indigenous framing
The review process set out with the intention to acknowledge the relationships between Waipapa Taumata Rau, tangata whenua, and tangata Pasifika. Principles of whanaungatanga and manaakitanga are at the heart of the policy, along with a commitment to upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi. All of the feedback received about the Indigenous framing of the policy was positive.
2. Named groups
The previous policy listed “equity groups”, as follows.
"Equity groups are more likely to have experienced one or more barriers to accessing and succeeding at the University, such as discrimination, marginalisation, under-representation, underachievement in school, and/or socioeconomic background. The University supports Māori and equity groups including:
- Pacific students and staff members
- Staff members and students with disabilities
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Takatāpui + (LGBTIQTakatāpui+) students and staff members
- Students and staff members from refugee backgrounds
- Students from low socio-economic backgrounds
- Men, women and gender diverse people where there are barriers to access and success"
The representation, health, well-being, and safety of equity groups were centred by everyone involved in preparing the new policy, and their aspiration is to ensure respect, care, and responsibility for all who are part of or wish to join the Waipapa Taumata Rau community. See the Process and timeline page to find out who was involved in writing the policy. Those involved expressed ideas both for and against naming groups during preparation of the new policy. Submissions received during the consultation phase also conveyed both positive and negative feedback about not naming specific groups in the new policy. The ideas most commonly expressed are summarised here.
1. A key reason for naming specific groups is so they can be visible and protected. Naming and celebrating specific groups opens doors and gives voice and visibility to marginalised groups. This rationale was weighed up with the following ideas:
- Naming groups labels people, which can be stigmatising and deficit-based.
- Naming groups can create an impression that equity is a finite resource and groups need to compete for places on a list of groups.
- Naming groups can create privilege and exclusion because inevitably policies cannot name all marginalised and disadvantaged groups.
- Naming groups can make it difficult for decision- and policy-makers to recognise intersectionality.
- Naming groups involves a ‘catch-all’ category, which means the policy inadvertently applies to everyone anyway.
- A list of named groups would potentially need frequent updates for the policy to be responsive and remain contemporary.
- The process for adding and removing named groups could be politically charged and potentially fraught.
- Existing protections remain in place, with consequences for inappropriate speech and behaviour in the form of University policies, procedures, and codes of conduct, in addition to New Zealand law.
2. There was some concern that groups will be de-prioritised and unsupported if they are not named. This was considered in relation to the following points:
- Related policies, mandatory procedures, and guidelines that identify specific groups and give effect to the policy remain in place.
- The University will continue to meet relevant statutory obligations and reporting requirements, including those set out by the Human Rights Act, Public Service Act, and Education and Training Act.
- The University will continue to resource support for students and staff members in a variety of ways, including networks and specialised support for Māori and Pacific, people with disabilities, people with refugee backgrounds, and members of the LGBTQIATakatāpui+MVPFAFF community.
- Additional support is provided by new equity roles in HR and Campus Life established since the Review of Equity Function.
3. There was some concern that Undergraduate Targeted Admissions Schemes, scholarships, and Tuākana won’t work unless the equity policy names groups. However, schemes and programmes such as these will continue to name and define the groups they are intended to support, following specific procedures as identified in the Key Relevant Documents section of the policy.
4. A concern was also raised that a more inclusive policy could be used inappropriately by privileged groups. This potential risk is mitigated by the consequences for inappropriate speech and behaviour that remain in place, in the form of University policies, procedures, and codes of conduct, in addition to New Zealand law.
5. Finally, it is possible that Times Higher Education may view the policy as not sufficiently specific, and this may negatively affect our scoring and ranking. This potential risk is mitigated by expanding the Key Relevant Documents section of the policy, to assist Times Higher Education in identifying supports for specific groups of staff and students.
On balance, the thought leaders who wrote the policy decided to proceed without naming specific groups. The policy’s clear principles, responsibilities, and definitions identify its intended effects and beneficiaries.
A third theme of discussion and feedback related to how the new policy would “work”. There was a range of comments about the need for a more concrete and action-oriented policy, with more information about implementation and accountability.
The University’s Policy Framework Policy describes the purpose of policies, procedures, and guidelines as follows:
- "Policies establish key principles and values that govern decision-making at the University and rules that are mandatory and apply across the University.
- Procedures give detailed mandatory direction on how a policy is to be implemented.
- Guidelines offer approved and recommended approaches, but are not mandatory. They may give practical examples of how specific policies may apply in particular areas, and suggestions for effective implementation."
The new policy is consistent with these definitions, by establishing key principles and values that govern decision-making. Detailed mandatory direction about implementation of the policy is provided in existing procedures, and will be further specified in new procedures under development. The OPVCE will also support faculties, large-scale research institutes, and service divisions to develop local guidelines as needed, to guide effective implementation.
The new policy lists related plans, policies, procedures, and guidelines in the policy's Key Relevant Documents section. This list will be continually refreshed as existing related documents are revised and new related documents are developed over the next 2-3 years. Our schemes, programmes, and mandatory procedures are a continual requirement of the University. The policy review aims to strengthen this with values that are also expressed at the heart of Waipapa Taumata Rau. The new policy is therefore the foundation for a programme of work to strengthen the University’s pro-equity practices and accountability.