Students’ first-year experience has long been recognised by both universities and the New Zealand Government as an important element in degree completion. There is little New Zealand research on the factors that contribute to first-year retention of Māori students in general, and in Otago in particular. The findings of one small scale satisfaction study (University of Otago, 2004) suggest that the support provided by the centre is viewed positively by students who have used the Te Huka Mātauraka (the University of Otago Māori support centre). There is no other empirical evidence related to Māori students’ first-year experience at Otago.

In 2007 a small team of researchers started a multi-faceted research project seeking to gain a greater understanding on the recruitment, retention and achievement of self identified Māori students at the University of Otago. The focus in this paper is on the closed answer section of the survey that was administered in 2008. This section deals with respondents’ opinions on a range of issues related to their studies and their knowledge and use of support structures in the university. Overall, the data indicate that with respect to their study and support expectations, the students are very satisfied with their experiences at the university. However, challenges could be discerned around academic workload and confidence to ask for help. Students’ sense of preparedness, their understanding of what university would be like and their thoughts about not returning to university after their first year, seemed to be related to these challenges.

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