The University of Waikato has launched a new initiative in partnership with the secondary schools and communities of Tokoroa and Putaruru.
Watch the launch video here
Te Ara ki Angitū: Pathways to Excellence is a new programme designed to widen the pathway to university study by alleviating the barriers of affordability and transport, and installing quality support to guide students through the transition to university. The initiative will include heavily subsidised bus transport between the University of Waikato and Tokoroa and Putaruru, fees scholarships, university learning hubs in the high schools, and the provision of student learning devices. The first student cohort of Te Ara ki Angitū: Pathways to Excellence will start university study in A Semester 2016.
The initiative was developed following discussions between University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley and the four high school principals in Tokoroa and Putaruru about improving access to the University for Year 13 students.
Professor Quigley says university participation rates in the Waikato region could be higher, but more needs to be done to make Waikato University a practical option, particularly for those living in the rural areas.
"Choosing university study can be financially challenging for students and families, and in these communities the challenge is compounded by the fact that there's no public transport option that runs between these towns and the University on a daily basis.
"We want students who have the potential and the aspiration to attend university to also have access to the opportunity that makes it a realistic and viable option. This requires positive collaboration between the university, the schools, families and the communities."
To mark the initiative and sign the Memorandum of Understanding, a 30 June launch brought together the University community, the principals of the Tokoroa and Putaruru high schools and representatives from the communities and local business.
South Waikato Mayor Neil Sinclair spoke at the launch and said the initiative is a positive incentive for Tokoroa and Putaruru students who would otherwise not consider university study a realistic option.
"This is a positive collaboration that creates an opportunity for the youth of these communities, and makes university study a more achievable goal to strive for."
Tokoroa High School Principal, Willie Ford, said he can see the programme having a strong impact in his community and school.
"I was really excited when I first heard about the initiative and I've been waiting for something like this to happen. This will have a positive long-term effect on our community, and I can see brothers and sisters who have left school coming back to study at the University through this programme."
The University's Future Student Advisors will now work with the high schools, the students and their families to discuss the opportunity.
Professor Quigley says the local business communities of Tokoroa and Putaruru will also be invited to engage by supporting summer scholarships and internships for these students.
"The scholarship will support students in their first year of study, and then we would like to see a programme of internships in place to support students with summer employment and work experience, starting with the 2016 – 2017 summer break. I'm delighted that ANZ has come on board as a key sponsor of the programme, and I'm inviting the support of the wider local business network of Tokoroa and Putaruru to come on board as well."
Professor Quigley also signalled a willingness to extend the initiative to other rural communities in the University's catchment area.
"If there are strong expressions of interest from other schools and communities in collaborating, then we will certainly look at extending the initiative to other parts in the region.
"I look forward to the bus rolling up to the campus at the beginning of A Semester next year. It will be full of excited students with great potential, and the University community will be ready to receive them."
More information about the programme can be found here: http://www.waikato.ac.nz/study/pathway-programmes/south-waikato.shtml