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Te Kauae Parāoa is the policy on admissions for domestic students to the health professional programmes offered by the Division of Health Sciences. This policy supersedes the former Mirror on Society Selection Policy.

Policy overview

Working towards a more a culturally competent and equitable health workforce is a major priority for both the University of Otago and the Division of Health Sciences. A workforce that represents the communities it serves will improve health outcomes for all.

It is hoped this policy will continue to promote and facilitate equity for students from underrepresented priority groups: Māori, Pacific, rural, socioeconomic and refugee background.

Te Kauae Parāoa comes from the whakataukī: He rei ngā niho, he parāoa ngā kauae – to have a whale's tooth you must have a whale's jaw. This name was gifted by the Office of Māori Development and points to the importance of being suitably qualified.

Te Kauae Parāoa has been formally adopted but will take effect via admissions processes in 2023 for students entering health professional programmes in 2024.

This work continues with reviews of processes, and plans to consider how students with disabilities can be included in the future.

The Division wishes to acknowledge and thank all those who have participated and contributed so generously of their time, energy and focus to the advancement of this work.


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Te Kauae Parāoa: Division of Health Sciences Policy on Admissions

CategoryAdministration and Management
Approved byHealth Sciences Divisional Executive
Date takes effectDecember 2021
Last approved revisionNA
SponsorPro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences
Responsible officerPro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences or nominee
Review dateDecember 2024

Policy rationale

Te Kauae Parāoa replaces and supersedes the Mirror on Society Selection Policy.

In Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world many health science education providers strive to achieve a student cohort that reflects the ethnic and socioeconomic reality of the societies they serve. However, such organisations find this challenging as elite educational institutions have historically developed within the context of socially and ethnically stratified societies. Furthermore, there are often inequalities in access to educational opportunities for many sectors of the population. Admissions selection policies therefore serve as critical tools to counter these historical and social inequities and promote equitable access to health professional education for under-represented groups.

The purpose of health professional education is to develop a health workforce equipped to meet the needs of society. As such, the Division of Health Sciences (the Division) aspires to ensure the recruitment of health professional cohorts that both lead to a health workforce that represents the society it seeks to serve, and that is socially responsive. This purpose is reflected in the whakataukī, He rei ngā niho, he parāoa ngā kauae, which is a metaphor for people being suitably qualified for particular enterprises (in this case health professional careers). Hence the naming of this Policy, Te Kauae Parāoa – Division of Health Sciences Policy on Admissions.

This Policy identifies that Aotearoa New Zealand's universities, acting as agents of Government, have a dual obligation to honour both the contractual obligations defined in te Tiriti o Waitangi and the responsibility to correct the inequitable health outcomes experienced by Māori populations. The Division is committed to actively promoting initiatives that increase the number of Māori graduates of health professional courses.

This Policy also acknowledges Pacific health as an area of special responsibility due to Aotearoa New Zealand's history, its location as a Pacific nation, and the inequities experienced by Pacific peoples. The Division is committed to increasing the number of indigenous Pacific students graduating from health professional courses.

This Policy recognises the need to address historical underrepresentation of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the Division is committed to providing access to students from this background into health professional courses. Similarly, the Division is committed to providing opportunities to people from refugee backgrounds. This Policy also documents, in response to an initiative to increase Aotearoa New Zealand's rural health workforce, that there are Government- funded rural places allocated in the Medicine and Dentistry programmes. The Division is committed to supporting this Government initiative.

Organisational scope

This Policy is relevant to the Division and specifically, the admission processes for domestic students for each health professional programme, including: Bachelor of Dental Surgery; Bachelor of Dental Technology; Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science; Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery; Bachelor of Oral Health; Bachelor of Pharmacy; Bachelor of Physiotherapy; Bachelor of Radiation Therapy; and the Master of Nursing Science.


Due to the high demand for placements in the Division's health professional programmes, this Policy is designed to document the admissions process. Therefore the Division adopts the following principles in the selection of students into our health professional programmes. For each of our health professional programmes we aim to select students who:

  1. are committed to, and have the ability to successfully complete, their chosen health professional programme;
  2. are committed to serving the needs of individuals, families, whānau and communities in Aotearoa New Zealand or overseas;
  3. represent diverse communities within Aotearoa New Zealand (as outlined in the Policy Rationale) with the aim to address workforce and health inequities; and
  4. meet the Government's goals for improving the rural health workforce.

To achieve these goals, the health professional programmes will implement selection policies and procedures that:

  • assist the Division to meet its commitments to and obligations under te Tiriti o Waitangi;
  • assist the Division to achieve its equity goals and equity objectives in its Strategic Plan;
  • select students using robust, evidence-informed selection methods that are based on core
  • principles and mitigate selection bias; and
  • ensure that all students admitted to a health professional programme are able to receive the necessary support required to succeed.

The foundational principles of this Policy are that:

  • eligibility criteria will be explicitly defined and be well communicated to students, staff, stakeholders and the wider community;
  • selection of students will be underpinned by appropriate institutional structures and processes that give effect to the Policy's te Tiriti obligations and equity objectives; and
  • tailored and responsive support will be provided to students as required.

Related procedures

Eligibility of applicants

Places will only be offered to students who have met the academic requirements as set out in each of the health professional programme regulations and associated Guidelines. Applicants will be required to demonstrate eligibility that aligns with Te Kauae Parāoa – Division of Health Sciences Policy on Admissions.

Procedures for selection

The Chair of the Admissions Committee of each School / Faculty will ensure there is an Admissions Committee responsible for the overseeing of the School / Faculty processes, selection and reporting. These Committees will include relevant staff with te Tiriti o Waitangi and equity responsibilities or their nominees.

The Admissions Committee for each programme is responsible for defining admission processes and ensuring that they are fair and explicitly defined. Admission processes may include multiple methods of assessing achievement and potential, including: academic records; interviews; essays; references; portfolios; oral presentations; tests of aptitude; and other methods to ensure selection aligns with the Policy Rationale.


The eligibility requirements for each programme, along with the closing dates for applications will be communicated in all relevant publications for future students, including prospectuses, websites and handbooks.

Quality Assurance

In April of each year, the Chairs of the Admissions Committees will be required to report to the Academic Board of the Division of Health Sciences on the following matters:

  • criteria and processes used to select students;
  • total numbers of applications, admissions and enrolments by ethnicity, iwi (if identify as Māori), undergraduate or graduate entry, rural/non-rural, refugee / non-refugee status, and decile of high school for undergraduate students;
  • support systems available to students including disability support, learning needs, resource requirements; and
  • the academic progress of students recruited into health professional programmes.

The Chairs of the Admissions Committees will be required to regularly, collectively review their selection processes to ensure that they are fair, reliable and valid.

This Policy will be reviewed every three years, or at any time on the request of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor Health Sciences.

Related legislation and University strategic documents

  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 Education Act 1990
  • Human Rights Act 1993
  • Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994 Privacy Act 1993
  • University of Otago Māori Strategic Framework
  • University of Otago Pacific Strategic Framework
  • University of Otago Equity and Diversity Strategic Framework University of Otago Strategic Direction

Contact for further information about this Policy

If you have any queries regarding the content of this Policy, procedures or guidelines or need further clarification, contact Health Sciences at

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