An equitable education: Achieving equity status and measures to ensure equality for refugee-background tertiary students in Aotearoa New Zealand

Published 2011. Contact: Sara Kindon


There is a growing body of research that suggests students from refugee-backgrounds are not accessing or completing tertiary study, undermining the potential to achieve such benefits. These findings reflect New Zealand’s failure to uphold our national and international obligations to ensure all groups have equal access to tertiary education.

The purpose of this discussion document is to advocate for recognition of refugee-background students as an equity group in government policy and funding, at New Zealand tertiary institutions and for other special and targeted support.


Unique barriers to refugee-background tertiary students were identified as:

  • language and education
  • course costs
  • availability of places
  • appropriate advice
  • culturally sensitive orientation and support
  • trust and safety issues.

Well-supported refugee-background tertiary students are an asset and will ‘give back’ to New Zealand far more than they cost. Supporting people with refugee backgrounds into tertiary study – and subsequently into the New Zealand workforce – will help ensure that New Zealand fulfils its obligation to ensure that people from refugee backgrounds reach their potential to participate fully in New Zealand life.

You can view the report online herepdf792KB