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About the Pacific Islands Research & Student Support Unit


The Pacific Islands Research & Student Support Unit (PIRSSU) oversees Pacific development, direction, research and 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 conduct research to enhance Pacific health sciences students' experiences at the University of Otago.

POCE 2017

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Supporting Pacific Students in Health Sciences

PIRSSU 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 Islands Health Professional Students' Association (PIHPSA) is an active student support organisation. It works collaboratively with PIRSSU to provide support and develop networks for students.

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

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Research activities of PIRSSU

Our research focuses on 4 key areas:

  • Recruiting students
  • Students engagement and transition
  • Improving academic achievement
  • Evaluating support programmes

Publications from the Pacific Islands Research & Student Support Unit

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The Pacific Strategic Framework

PIRSSU is guided by the University of Otago’s Pacific Strategic Framework, which has 6 areas of focus:

  1. Demonstrating and valuing leadership on Pacific matters
  2. Enhancing capability
  3. Encouraging Pacific research excellence
  4. Strengthening community engagement
  5. Developing Pacific curriculum
  6. Contributing to the Pacific region and international progress

Download the Pacific Strategic Framework (PDF 2.7 MB)

Pacific Strategic Group

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Brunton chairs the Pacific Strategic Group, which drives strategic direction and development of Pacific initiatives throughout the Division of Health Sciences. Group members are nominated by the Deans of each Faculty or School within the Division.

Members of the Pacific Strategic Group

Pacific Advisory Group

The Pacific Advisory Group is made up of members from various Dunedin Pacific communities, who have been invited to help drive and advise the strategic direction of the PIRSSU.
The Group is chaired by Mr Peni Qauqau.

Members of the Pacific Advisory Group

Pacific Students' Support Staff Group

Faumuina Professor Fa’afetai Sopoaga chairs the Pacific Students' Support Staff Group, which coordinates pastoral and academic support for Pacific students within the Division of Health Sciences. Members of this group are nominated by the Deans of each Faculty or School within the Division.

Members of the Pacific Students' Support Staff Group

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