Samoa rejects New Zealand’s scholarships policy change

Samoan scholarship students with the Samoan, Australian and New Zealand government representatives in 2017

Staff Reporters 

APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 11 JANUARY 2019: New Zealand funded scholarships will be discussed at Waitangi in March following the last minute change in New Zealand’s policy that affected 20 Samoan students already earmarked for scholarship awards this year.

The last minute change prompted the Samoan government to step in and fund the awards to the tune of $0.5million talā.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told Talamua in this week’s news interview that he has already written to the New Zealand Prime Minister rejecting the policy change.

Tuilaepa said he suspects the change was pushed through by the officials giving little time for the top decision makers to look it through. There was also an issue with the availability of results in time through NUS, which he had already taken up with the University.

But given the time frame for students to enroll, Government had no option but to fork out the cost until it sorts out the issue with the New Zealand authorities.

Tuilaepa told Talamua that the change used mid-year exam results to select scholarship awardees whereas the old policy relied on the final year exams results.

This means the students who qualified under the old system were left out when the change was pushed through.

However, a joint statement by the Samoan, New Zealand and Australian governments before a reception for the awardees earlier this week, said New Zealand’s new online application and selection process for the Foundation Category was made last year for the 2019 intake.

“The online system  has changed altogether the way the New Zealand scholarships for  Foundation level  have   been  assessed for  NZ funded  awards, where  academic  merit is not given the prominence it was accorded  in the past, but more so other  assessment attributes contribute to the assessment and selection process,” said the statement.

“Work is in progress to ensure that any system applied provides a fair, robust, transparent and efficient selection process.”

Tuilaepa said he has charged the Deputy Prime Minister and a former Minister of Education to handle scholarship policy negotiations with the New Zealand authorities.

For the 2019 intake, a total of 127 Samoan scholarships students will be studying in New Zealand, Australia and Samoa funded under the scholarship scheme.