Awards recognise excellence in research from doctoral candidates to senior academics for 2023.

Dr Sereana Naepi and daughters accepts a Research Impact Award.
Dr Sereana Naepi and daughters accepts a Research Impact Award.

The University acknowledged the value and contribution of researchers and their work at the 2023 Celebrating Research Excellence, Hīkina kia Tutuki, Rise to Meet the Challenge presentation event last night.

The annual event recognises the best work from doctoral candidates to the most senior and honoured researchers. The award winners were announced recently. The presentation ceremony was an opportunity for the University’s research community to celebrate excellence.

The presentation ceremony was hosted by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Research Professor Frank Bloomfield at the Sir Owen G Glenn Building, the home of the University’s Business School.

Professor Bloomfield said: “Tonight is an opportunity for us to celebrate and acknowledge the success of our world class researchers. In 2024, the university climbed to a QS ranking of 68th in the world - its best results since 2010 and in no small part driven by the calibre of our research.”

He singled out the five winners of the Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for the best doctoral thesis. “They represent the cream of the crop of the 523 doctoral degrees successfully completed in 2022. These researchers’ doctoral theses stood out as exceptional for the significance, originality and contribution that they made to the field of research.”

The theme of the awards, Hīkina kia Tutuki – ‘rise to meet the challenge’ outlined the challenges researchers face, taking on enduring and intergenerational issues and reflected the core belief in the University’s strategy Taumata Teiti that excellence in teaching and research provides the means to engender positive transformation in people’s lives.

The keynote address was delivered by Professor Sir Ashley Bloomfield who applauded the award winners. He said it was important that the University ensured all of its work was both high quality and beneficial, either directly or indirectly.

“This includes research that doesn’t necessarily show us what to do, but what not to do, or rather than what to spend money on, it demonstrates what we shouldn’t invest in.” Negative research findings, he said, can be critical to good decision making.

Professor Bloomfield outlined the early thinking behind the Public Policy Impact Institute he will lead. “This is work in progress and, while the final name might be slightly different, what is clear is where the emphasis needs to be – namely, on public and impact. High quality research and the new knowledge it generates are only useful if the findings are not only disseminated, but they also influence decision making.”

He outlined two key areas for the new institute: “First, how can research help to inform better implementation of policy decisions, which is where we often fall down. Scaling up research findings in the real world is often messy and needs a constant cycle of research-informed review, learn and adjust.”

The second area of opportunity was "a convening one; to bring together all the necessary actors to address big issues that require intense focus and effort over time."

A prime example was climate change mitigation and adaptation. In 2023 alone, New Zealand had experienced more than $16 billion worth of damage due to adverse weather.

“Economist and author Mariana Mazzucatto is a strong champion of the need for all key parties – government, the private sector, academia, civil society and communities – to take a ‘mission’-based approach to such issues.

"My aspiration is that the Institute can convene such actors to take such an approach by developing its reputation as being a trustworthy and politically astute, but not politicised convenor."

Media queries: Gilbert Wong,