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POPO overview

Student support team group photoThe Pacific Opportunities Programme at Otago (POPO) Student Team oversees student support within the Division of Health Sciences – the largest provider of health education training in New Zealand. We assist with recruiting, retaining, and supporting Pacific students in health professional and health-related courses.

We engage with Pacific communities, schools, career advisors, government, and non-government organisations to achieve our aims, and assist in research to enhance Pacific health sciences students' experiences at the University of Otago.

Meet our Va'a o Tautai Student Support Team

Supporting Pacific students in Health Sciences

The Va'a o Tautai – Centre for Pacific Health aims to increase the number of Pacific students in health related courses and facilitate high academic outcomes. We do this through the research activities below, and also by supporting Pacific students before and during their time at university.

Our research-informed programmes start by helping transition Pacific students from secondary school into university, while providing pastoral and academic support, mentoring, and leadership training in a Pacific cultural context. Our programmes also provide students with the opportunity to network with their peers, undergo professional development, discover postgraduate research opportunities, and learn from working health professionals.

The Pacific Opportunities Programme at Otago (POPO)

Pharmacy info evening displayThe POPO is a joint initiative by the University of Otago and the Ministry of Health which helps Pacific students transition from secondary school to University. POPO is designed to equip first year students for the rigors and academic requirements of the Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) Programme. If you are an HSFY student, then POPO is for you.


Three graduates on Dunedin campusPOPO PLUS is a mentoring programme for students studying in the Division of Health Sciences Professional courses, Allied Health courses, and the Otago School of Medical Sciences.

This mentoring programme is accompanied by professional development and academic support and runs throughout the academic year.

POPO Internship Programme

Pacific networking eventThis is a paid 10-week internship programme for students in their penultimate year of study.

POPO Foundation Programme

Group attending Pacific orientation workshopThe POPO Foundation Scholarship Programme will not be offered in 2025. Va’a o Tautai – Centre for Pacific Health are re-evaluating and restructuring the programme.

Partner organisations

We also work with a number of groups to help students achieve their goals. Some of our partner organisations include:

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