Will whare wananga be put through the third degree? Not if the SFO recognises the hyphen

Forget about the mortar boards and gowns – the important thing here is the hyphen.

Alf admires the way northern Maori have used one of the smallest things brought to this country by the colonists – the hyphen.

They have taken the hyphen and applied at as etymological glue between the words “indigenous” and “university”.

And – shazam!

The resultant creation is a brand new word – “indigenous-university” – which (contrary to impressions that might be given to those whose first language is English) is really a “whare wananga”.

The people who have cleverly fabricated this new word seem dead keen to emphasise they are not running a university and they don’t want to be a university.

Those of Alf’s constituents who suspect otherwise perhaps have been misled by Awanuiarangi’s running courses from certificate to doctorate level at its campuses in Whakatane, Auckland, Rotorua and Whangarei.

Its courses in the School of Indigenous Graduate Studies – for example – include these doctorates.

Doctor of Philosophy – Māori Studies
Doctor of Philosophy – Indigenous Studies
Doctor of Philosophy – Environmental Studies
Doctor of Philosophy – Education

It cost $4887 this year to study for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), described as the highest supervised degree offered by Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

Until now, Alf must confess, he thought a doctorate was defined as the degree or status of a doctor as conferred by a university.

Obviously – in this country, anyway – these doctorates can be conferred also by an indigenous-university (and/or a whare wananga) too.

The clever combination of the words “indigenous” and “university” to create a whare wananga was brought to Alf’s attention by news of a Maori elder who says he is considering laying a complaint against Whakatane-based Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi with the Serious Fraud Office.

Ngapuhi leader David Rankin raised concerns over the wananga using the words “indigenous university” when it wasn’t a university.

He wrote two letters to Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce expressing his concern and wasn’t satisfied with the response.

“If there’s no clear rectification of this matter by the end of July, I’ll pursue it through the Serious Fraud Office,” Mr Rankin said.

This Rankin feller reportedly told the Minister on May 11 he believed the Education Act had been breached, because an educational institution had called itself a university when it was not recognised as such.

“This issue is of concern, as I said, to our Maori students who are being misled into enrolling at an institution which calls itself a university, but is not.”

But the hyphen between “indigenous” and “university” makes a huge difference.

The chief executive of Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Professor Graham Smith, said they had received legal advice and were comfortable with the term indigenous-university.

“The term was all in lower case and hyphened so it makes a whole new word.”

And here’s a nice point:

Dr Smith said that interestingly, universities could call themselves whare wananga if they wanted to.

Alf can’t imagine why they would want to do that.

But maybe he is missing something.

Anyway, Smith reckons Awanuiarangi is deftly using the hyphen with good reason.

Dr Smith said they had relationships with universities and indigenous people overseas and it was easier to define yourself as an indigenous-university than a whare wananga. He said Awanuiarangi was a whare wananga.

“That’s what we are. We don’t want to be a university.”

In the light of this convincing explanation (and bearing in mind the Government’s need to give special treatment to our indigenous citizens) Steven Joyce was right not to respond to media inquiries on the issue.

He obviously regards Randall as a vexatious attention seeker.

Or should that be attention-seeker, with a hyphen?

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