Teagan Hansen was the first in her family who ever wanted to go to university. But she wondered how on earth she, and her hard-working single mother, would ever afford it.

“It was a big stress, but I have always known I wanted to go to university,” says Hansen.
Hansen’s grades were good, but a merit endorsement in Year 12 didn’t put her among the academic elite and she didn’t think she would qualify for a scholarship.

Thanks to her careers adviser at Tuakau College, she applied for several scholarships at AUT and Victoria University. Schools have access to the givME database run by Generosity New Zealand, which lists more than 4,000 scholarships.

Landing one of the AUT University New Horizons Scholarships, which pays $6,500 per year, has been life-changing for Hansen. In the biomedicine student’s first year, the money has paid more than half of her rent at AUT’s Wellesley student apartments. Next year it will be credited towards her fees. By then she expects to be in a position to work part-time to help pay her living costs.

Hansen is one of around 900 students at AUT on one form of scholarship or another, says Philippa Hay, AUT’s head of scholarships.

Academic excellence not a prerequisite

Like many institutions, not all of AUT’s scholarships and grants require academic excellence, although recipients do need to be good students, says Hay. The university recognises that well-rounded people make successful students and the assessment process looks at the whole person when considering who to award scholarships to.

The largest single category is the Vice Chancellor’s Significant Student Scholarships for undergraduates, of which 150 are handed out each year. Some of those scholarships are for academic excellence; however, others include the New Horizons Scholarships for students from decile 1 to 4 schools and Kiwa Scholarships for Maori and Pasifika students.
Hansen believes her application was helped by the fact she had been a prefect at school, helping organise events such as the school ball, and her volunteer work for the surf lifesaving club at Port Waikato.

Scholarships provide benefits to both student and university. The benefit to AUT of providing scholarships is that it brings in a high quality of student and will eventually help create a strong alumni body.

There are many other awards at AUT, such as the Woolf Fisher First In Family AUT Scholarship, which covers the student’s full fees for the term of their qualification.

Since 2014 the Woolf Fisher Trust has provided up to 13 three-year scholarships for full-time undergraduate study to “break the cycle” and encourage students from families with no history of degree-level study to get a university education, says Andrea Vujnovich, AUT’s assistant vice-chancellor corporate.

Part of the partnership with the Woolf Fisher Trust is that AUT provides mentoring, says Vujnovich. Once accepted, the students receive what Vujnovich calls a “wrap-around blanket”, to make their transition to university life easier.

The world of scholarships is fraught with potential issues. For example, in the past students had to prove financial difficulty. That approach did at times favour students whose parents had a good accountant rather than those who are truly cash-strapped and may be too ashamed to admit it, says Vujnovich.

This is one of the reasons that AUT targets decile 1 to 4 schools, adds Hay. The scholarships staff members also look long and hard at the student’s statement and the referees, which often gives a truer reflection than the accountant’s figures.


Trade training scholarships

Scholarships aren’t just for academic courses. The government-funded Maori and Pasifika Trades Training Auckland (MPTT), for example, has provided 815 full-fee scholarships this year for trade training through MIT, UNITEC, Te Wa-nanga o Aotearoa and NZMA aimed at students for whom fees might prove a barrier to studying pre-trades programmes at those institutions.

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