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CategoryAdministration and Management
Approved by Council, 12 November 2002
Date Policy Took Effect1 January 2003
Last approved revision 
SponsorDeputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Responsible officerDirector, Office of Māori Development


The purpose of this Policy is to promote te reo Māori use by staff and students of the University.

Organisational scope

This Policy applies to all staff and students of the University.



Bilingualism and multilingualism are valued by the University. The empirical evidence that has been published in the last thirty years not only supports the idea that being brought up speaking two or more languages is definitely not a disadvantage, but that there are probably some subtle advantages, as well as the major benefit of being able to speak two languages and being comfortable in two cultures.

Sustainable bilingualism and biculturalism cannot be maintained on the basis of open and unlimited interaction between minorities and majorities. Te reo Māori (the Māori language), like all minority languages, requires special measures to ensure its survival as a language used in a wide range of contexts and domains with an increasing number of fluent speakers. In order to promote te reo Māori use by staff and students, incentives need to be introduced to encourage this. 1

The importance of the language is reflected in the waiata composed for the Ngāi Tahu reo rūmaki ( Māori language immersion) hui at Rāpaki marae in January 1998.

He taoka te reo
He kura pounamu
Iti kahuraki
Māpihi maurea

(The language is a treasure
Like a greenstone pendant
That which I strive to possess
And carry with me always)

Sir James Henare's comments on the importance of te reo Māori are also worth repeating.

The language is the core of our Māori culture and mana. Ko te reo te mauri o te mana Māori

(The language is the life force of Māori mana). If the language dies, as some predict, what do we have left to us? Then, I ask our own people who are we?...

Therefore the taonga, our Māori language, as far as our people are concerned, is the very soul of the Māori people. 2

One of the provisions in the Māori Language Act 1987 is that te reo Māori is an official language of New Zealand.

3. Māori language to be an official language of New Zealand -The Māori language is hereby declared to be an official language of New Zealand. 3

Since 1997 the Government has had a Māori Language Strategy which government departments are currently implementing.

This University policy seeks to give effect to the Māori Language Act 1987 and is consistent with the University's Strategic Direction to 2005. The University will also be fulfilling a commitment to the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi as expressed in its Charter:

  1. to encourage greater Māori participation within the University
  2. to protect and promote te reo and tikanga Māori in a manner consistent with Māori cultural aspirations and preferences, and the practices of the University
  3. to support iwi initiatives that address iwi needs
  4. to develop mutually beneficial partnerships with iwi in research, teaching and administration
  5. to promote research in te reo and tikanga Māori, health, education, current issues and history 4


The University Vision Statement For Te Reo Māori

That te reo Māori becomes an ordinary, useful, relevant, vibrant and inspiring language as a medium of communication in a wide range of contexts.


Principle 1

In recognition of the status of te reo Māori as a taonga (treasure) protected under the Treaty of Waitangi, and within the spirit of the Māori Language Act 1987, the University of Otago will endorse the right of students and staff to use te reo Māori, including for assessment.

Principle 2

The University of Otago will be proactive in the promotion of te reo Māori by:

  1. Recognising competence in Māori language as a valued skill
  2. Urging departments to recognise in their selection criteria the desirability of appointing staff who are bilingual in te reo Māori and English.
  3. Encouraging University staff, both academic and general, to take te reo Māori papers.
  4. Encouraging students to take te reo Māori papers as part of their degree.

Principle 3

The University will ensure that written te reo Māori used in University publications is of a consistently high standard and will adhere to te reo Māori orthographic conventions set out by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, the Māori Language Commission. It accepts all dialects of te reo Māori, reflecting the fact that it is a national rather than a regional university.

Principle 4

The University will recognise the rangatiratanga and mana of mana/tangata whenua, especially Ngāi Tahu, along with any existing or future agreements with such parties, which may impact on such relationships.

Principle 5

The University will promote and encourage Māori culture.


  1. To increase the number of people who speak te reo Māori by increasing their opportunities to learn the language.
  2. To improve the proficiency levels of people in speaking, listening, reading and writing te reo Māori.
  3. To increase the opportunities to use te reo Māori by increasing the number of situations where te reo Māori can be used.
  4. To foster amongst Māori and non- Māori positive attitudes towards and positive values about te reo Māori so that Māori-English bilingualism becomes a valued part of the University community and of New Zealand society. 5

Procedures for Student Assessment in Te Reo Māori

The following procedures should be used for student assessment in te reo Māori:

  1. In papers not taught in te reo Māori, candidates who intend to present all or part of an examination or piece of course work in te reo Māori are required to give notice of their intention to do so in writing6. They should write to the Head, Student Experience, Academic Services who will notify the Head of the Department in which the paper is offered. This notice of intention is necessary to allow the University the time to make suitable arrangements for marking including, when necessary, translation and external assessment. This notice should be given at the beginning of the paper and within the first three weeks of the semester in which the paper is taught.
  2. Every effort should be made by the Head of Department to have the examination or piece of work marked by a person qualified to assess the work in te reo Māori. This should be the examiner for the course if he/she is considered by the Head of Department, in consultation with Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, to be linguistically competent to do so.
  3. If the examiner of the relevant paper is not competent to assess in te reo Māori, a co-examiner, competent in both the subject under examination and in te reo Māori, may be appointed by the Head of Department in consultation with Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, and in agreement with the appropriate chief examiner, to conduct the assessment of work presented in te reo Māori. The University should take such steps as are reasonable in the circumstances (taking into account the period of notice given and the time-frame of the assessment process) to appoint a suitable co-examiner from within or from outside the University. The objectives stated in the course outline of the paper concerned should be given to the marker of the script written in te reo Māori.
  4. If a suitable person is not available to assess the work in te reo Māori, a translator should be appointed by the Head of Department, in consultation with Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, and in agreement with the appropriate chief examiner. The translator should be sent a photocopy of the original with the student's name removed. In the translation the translator should be asked not to correct errorsof content nor to make embellishments. However, ambiguities should be pointed out to the examiner. Where necessary, the examiner may seek clarification of the translation of the paper from the translator, but contact between the student and translator is prohibited. The assessment should be carried out by the course examiner on the basis of the translation.
  5. Resorting to translation of work or examinations should be made only when reasonable efforts to find an examiner capable of assessing the work in its original language have been exhausted. The Head of Department and Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, should take all reasonable steps to ensure that the translator is competent in the relevant subject under examination or for which work has been prepared. The decision of the Head of Department and Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies regarding the linguistic competence of the translator appointed should be treated as final, subject to the provisions for reconsideration of the final grade.
  6. It is suggested that the translator should correct any errors of spelling and grammar on the photocopy of an assignment in Māori with a brief report to the course convenor and the student regarding the quality and clarity of the Māori used by the student.
  7. Where a candidate has given notice in writing of the intention to present material in te reo Māori, he or she should be informed by the Head of Department as soon as is reasonably possible whether or not the assessment will be based on translation.
  8. The University should do its best to make the results of an item of course work or an examination presented in te reo Māori available to the candidate within the normal time-frame. The process of assessment in such cases, particularly if it includes translation, may result in delays in the return of course work or in the publication of results.
  9. If the course work and/or examination script is to be subject to external assessment and translation is required, the Head of Department, in consultation with Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies, should appoint the translator.
  10. When coursework or an examination script is returned to a student, any translation used should also be returned.
  11. When oral work is assessable, the same principles should apply as for written work. However, practicalities may necessitate more restrictive policy details, such as a limitation on the use of te reo Māori where oral work involves interaction with other candidates who do not understand te reo Māori.
  12. Any complaint about a decision regarding linguistic or subject competence made under the provisions of paragraphs 8, 9 and 10 shall be through the appropriate procedures such as via the Head of Department, Academic Dean of a Division, Pro Vice-Chancellor or in some cases, Student Experience, Shared Services. In such cases the University's Academic Grievance Procedures should be consulted.

Promotion of Māori Culture

The University acknowledges Ngāi Tahu as the mana whenua of its two South Island campuses. It also acknowledges as tangata whenua Ngāti Toa and Te āti Awa at the Wellington campus and Ngāti Whātua at the Auckland campus. These iwi are the arbiters of cultural practices on their campuses. Senate will consult with the Treaty of Waitangi Committee on relevant matters of cultural practice involving the University.
By including Māori cultural practices in University activities, not only will the institution be acknowledging the bicultural nature of New Zealand, but it will also be making the University a more friendly place for Māori staff and students.

Every language is tied closely to the culture of the people who speak it. The University supports the use of appropriate Māori cultural practices. Situations where these procedures could be used include:

  1. the welcoming of visitors, especially when they include Māori;
  2. interviewing prospective employees, especially when they are Māori;
  3. the opening of new buildings; and
  4. meetings and conferences

Training in how to use te reo Māori in such situations is offered through HEDC. The University's Māori Affairs Adviser is also available for advice on Māori cultural practices.


  1. Fishman, J.A. 1980. Minority language maintenance and the ethnic mother tongue school. Modern Language Journal. Vol. 64, No. 2, p. 167
  2. Te Reo Māori Report p. 34
  3. Māori Language Act 1987
  4. p. 2
  5. These objectives are adapted from the Government's Māori Language Policy Objectives. Mātātupu. Wellington: Te Puni Kōkiri, pp. 5 - 6.
  6. This does not apply to papers taught in Te Tumu, School of Māori, Pacific and Indigenous Studies.

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