Part 4: Administration and monitoring of the Māori and Polynesian scholarships

Inquiry into the Ministry of Education's monitoring of scholarships administered by the Māori Education Trust.


The Ministry is responsible for administering scholarships in accordance with the Māori and Polynesian Scholarship Regulations 1973 (the Regulations). The Trust provides this administration service under contract to the Ministry.

The Regulations contain eligibility criteria for awarding scholarships to Māori and Polynesian students.

Secondary students: Historically, 2 types of scholarships have been awarded to secondary students under the Regulations. Māori and Polynesian Secondary School (Course) Scholarships may be awarded where there is no secondary school that the student can reasonably be expected to attend which offers a course of instruction appropriate to their needs. Māori and Polynesian Secondary School (Distance) Scholarships may be awarded where there is no secondary school the student can reasonably be expected to attend while living at home. The Ministers of Education and Finance from time to time fix the number and value of these types of scholarships.

Higher education students: Māori and Polynesian Scholarships for Higher Education are not to exceed 15 in any year. They are to enable students to undertake a course in a New Zealand university, agricultural college, or technical institute. The required standard of educational achievement is expressed in terms of School Certificate and University Entrance examinations.

Between 1988 and 1999, the Ministry also approved payment of scholarships to ‘special needs’ students. The Ministry introduced the ‘special needs’ scholarship category after receiving Ministerial approval in March 1988 to amend the Regulations ‘to make provision for special needs assistance at secondary school level with effect from 1988’. These scholarships were discontinued in 2000 because the Regulations were never amended, as approved.

Funds are appropriated for the Māori and Polynesian scholarships through Vote Education: Benefits and Unrequited Expenses. The maximum amount payable for scholarships awarded in any one year is capped to the level of the appropriation. In 2001, the scholarships contract allocated the appropriation between the scholarship categories as:

  • Secondary students $535,000
  • Higher education students $526,000

The scholarships for secondary school students were discontinued after 2001. Eligible students were transferred to the School Boarding Bursaries scheme from this date. The Trust has since administered the Māori and Polynesian Scholarships for Higher Education only.

Process followed by the Māori Education Trust

Applications for higher education (undergraduate) scholarships close in February each year. The Trust is responsible for receiving applications and for reviewing eligibility against an interpretation of the criteria contained in the Regulations, as agreed with the Ministry.

The Ministry and the Trust confirmed their interpretation of the criteria in an exchange of correspondence in September 1994. In recent years, the criteria have been programmed into the Trust’s scholarship database. 4.8 Once applications have been screened for eligibility, a schedule of recommended scholarships is produced from the database and submitted to the Ministry for review and approval.

Once Ministry approval has been obtained, the scholarship payments are made by the Trust to the students. The Regulations require payments to be made in 3 instalments each year:

upon receipt of a satisfactory report from the Chairman of the Professorial Board at the University or agricultural college or the principal of the technical institute…on the attendance, diligence, conduct, and progress of the holder.

The Trust is required by the contract to report to the Ministry. The contract requires the reports to assess the quality of the Trust’s service against set performance measures.

Our findings and conclusions

Currency of the Regulations

The regulations for the Māori and Polynesian Scholarships for Higher Education need to be reviewed. The Ministry and the Trust acknowledge that the 1973 Regulations are outdated. They were last amended in 1983.

Practice has been modified to give effect to planned amendments to the Regulations that have been approved by the Minister, but the Regulations have not actually been amended. Figure 3 shows the timetable of proposed amendments.

Figure 3
Timeline of proposed amendments to the Regulations

Month and year Development
March 1988 The Ministry received Ministerial approval to amend the Regulations to allow for the award of scholarships to 3rd and 4th form students, and to ‘special needs’ students.
February 1997 The Ministry obtained Ministerial approval to allow 3rd and 4th form students to be awarded scholarships, pending amendment to the Regulations.
May 1998 The Ministry issued drafting instructions to the Parliamentary Counsel Office for the amendments.
August 1998 Parliamentary Counsel advised the Ministry that there were technical legal difficulties in amending the Regulations in the manner proposed.
November 1998 The Ministry advised Parliamentary Counsel that the proposal to amend the Regulations was on hold, pending the outcome of a general review of education scholarships. This review resulted in the transfer of eligible secondary scholarship recipients to the School Boarding Bursaries scheme from 2001.

There appear to have been no further attempts to amend the Regulations relating to tertiary scholarships since November 1998.

The Ministry is now developing guidance for integrating the National Certificate of Educational Achievement into the Regulations.

Recommendation 2: We recommend that the Ministry complete the review of the Regulations associated with the Māori and Polynesian Scholarships for Higher Education, to ensure that they are up to date, as a matter of priority.

Interim qualifications

Correspondence between the Ministry and the Trust (dated September 1994) appears to have established criteria that supplemented those contained in the Regulations. For example, in relation to higher education scholarships, a criterion was adopted that restricted the scholarships to students completing their first degree.

In the case of a student enrolling in a programme of study that results in an interim qualification recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), the Trust has determined that the scholarship will continue until the end of the programme of study rather than the completion of the interim qualification. The Trust did not confirm this administrative decision with the Ministry.

One student, who received a Manaaki Tauira scholarship award of $1,065 in 2003, had received a Maori and Polynesian Scholarship for Higher Education in the 3 years from 1997 to 1999, and again in 2001 and 2002. The student, studying towards a 6-year medical qualification where 2 degrees are awarded, had failed the first year of the second degree in 2000. The total amount received by the student in 2001 and 2002 was $22,909.

This situation was in keeping with the Trust’s decision relating to interim qualifications but was not in keeping with the criteria established with the Ministry. Māori and Polynesian Scholarships for Higher Education were restricted to students studying towards their first degree. Further, the student’s failed marks in 2000 should have resulted in the student being ineligible for an award in 2001.

Recommendation 3: We recommend that the Trust and the Ministry clarify whether awards of Māori and Polynesian Scholarships for Higher Education are payable for the duration of a programme of study when an interim NZQA-recognised qualification is awarded.

Over-allocation of scholarships

In the 2000-01 financial year, the Trust failed to take account of students awarded scholarships in previous years who continued to be eligible. This resulted in the secondary scholarships being over-allocated by $176,838. In addition, 258 new eligible students were submitted in 2001, over and above the number able to be funded from the contracted amount of $535,000.

Surplus funding in the School Boarding Bursaries scheme was used to fund this shortfall in the secondary scholarships scheme.

The Ministry’s plan to deal with the deficit was approved retrospectively by the Minister on 8 August 2001. This retrospective approval was required because the Trust did not report the over-allocation in a timely way, and the Ministry’s monitoring did not identify the issue immediately.

Scholarships awarded to ineligible students

Ministerial approval was received in December 2001 for students to retain the conditions of their secondary scholarship when they transferred to the School Boarding Bursaries scheme (using a discretionary provision within the School Boarding Bursaries Regulations 1972). In the process, it became apparent that some ineligible students had been awarded course and distance scholarships. The approval to transfer scholarship conditions was therefore limited to:

  • students currently receiving a Māori and Polynesian scholarship to access an education that could not be obtained from a reasonably nearby secondary school;
  • students who had been boarding and would continue to board;
  • students not otherwise eligible for an alternative bursary.

Milestone reporting

The quality of the Trust’s milestone reporting has been inconsistent. Frequently, milestone reports have not addressed all of the Trust’s contractual obligations.

The variability in the quality of reporting by the Trust led to the Commission becoming concerned about the Trust’s financial management and the Ministry’s monitoring of the Trust (see paragraph 10.8 on page 40).

We consider that the inconsistencies were representative of the limitations of the Trust’s reporting systems rather than any fundamental mismanagement of the Trust’s administration of scholarships in which the Crown has an interest. The Trust should, however, have addressed these limitations.

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