Interview mit Shannon M. von der University of Waikato
Autor: Alexandra Michel
Shannon Mackey ist International Market Manager an der neuseeländischen University of Waikato und hat uns einige Fragen zum Studienangebot für internationale Studenten beantwortet. Die University of Waikato gehört zu unseren Partnerhochschulen in Neuseeland.
College Contact: The University of Waikato is classified as one of the most modern universities in New Zealand. Please tell us a little bit about it – what kind of institution is it and what is its reputation within New Zealand?
Shannon Mackey: Sure! The University of Waikato is one of the younger universities around - we are turning 50 this year. But we managed to achieve a huge amount in that time. Being a younger university means that we are very flexible. We have created some quite innovative programmes. For example, we have just launched a new master’s degree - the Master of Cyber Security. So we try to be reactive to changing landscapes of business. Obviously a lot more is being done electronically, so the need for cyber security is hugely important.
Like all of the universities in New Zealand we are a public university. We are publicly funded, so there is certainly a lot of research that is conducted on campus. That’s an important part of what we do. And it’s certainly great for students, because it means that the new information is always being generated at the university.
We have seven different faculties within the university: The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Waikato Management School, the Law Faculty, the Faculty of Science and Engineering, the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, the Faculty of Education and also the School of Māori and Pacific Development, which is obviously something that is going to be quite unusual for German students to hear about. But, as you can see with the name Waikato, it is not an English word, it is a Māori word. There’s a certain amount of exposure the students would have to Māori culture. Certainly they will see multilingual signs on our campus and a lot of exposure to the culture in general.
Going back to the innovation within our programmes, we were the first university to allow students to complete PhD studies in Māori, so they can submit their thesis in Māori. We were the first to offer Film Studies, a long time ago; and we were the first university to offer Women’s and Gender Studies. Those are just three very quick examples of what we’ve done there. That’s what we continue to try to achieve and accomplish.
College Contact: What subject areas or programmes is the University of Waikato known for?
Shannon Mackey: According to the QS Rankings, we have five subjects that are ranked in the Top 200 in the world. Education is certainly one of those as well as Geography, Modern Languages, Computer Science and Information Systems, and certainly the Management subjects. If I was to say the first three departments in my mind: Anything to do with Teacher Education, anything to do with Business, and anything to do with Computer Sciences. Those would be the three big ones.
College Contact: Besides undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, you also offer a Study Abroad program. Could you please tell us more about the different options available to international students?
Shannon Mackey: If we’re looking at Study Abroad, say someone that might come study with us for one semester or two semesters, students have an enormous amount of flexibility. They can choose courses from any of our faculties. Obviously, it’s the student’s responsibility to make sure that what they are studying in New Zealand will transfer back to their qualification in Germany, but we give them the flexibility to choose and create their own programme. A student would be looking to take 120 points in a year. 120 points is the equivalent of 60 ECTS. That is a regular full-time programme.
As you mentioned, we’ve got everything - from bachelor’s degrees all the way to the PhDs. But there are also opportunities if a student wanted to come to New Zealand just to learn the English language. We have the Waikato Pathways College affiliated with the university and they offer what we call sub-degree or pre-degree programmes as well as General English or Academic English.
College Contact: What are you doing in support of the international students that decide to study at the University of Waikato? Are there any special activities or services for them?
Shannon Mackey: Sure! We have an International Students Services Office that’s located in the Student Centre where our library is. There’s a team of people dedicated to the pastoral care of international students. Students can find assistance with visas or if they’re looking for work; if they just want someone to talk to or help with linking them to the other services on the campus. A university is a big place and certainly it can be a little bit scary when you’re the first time there, in a new environment. But that is what the team is there to do, to link students to the support services. What we’d like to encourage students to do is to come in contact with us. Homesickness happens to everybody at some point and it’s just important that the students feel comfortable reaching out to us.
The International Students Services Office is very visible at the start of the year in terms of the orientation. They hold orientation sessions for our international students and we give the students all of this information, and hopefully they make the right choices with it.
College Contact: What are the general requirements that international students have to meet if they would like to study at the University of Waikato for a semester or year?
Shannon Mackey: If a student is coming for Study Abroad, they will still need to provide evidence of their English language proficiency, preferably through IELTS or TOEFL testing. Those are the most recognized English language tests. Obviously, they would need to have completed some study at their home university before being eligible.
But if a student was considering coming to Waikato for a full degree, German students normally need only to complete their Abitur, the regular university entrance requirement. I should also say that there are some programmes we offer that have slightly higher entrance requirements in terms of English language levels, or the students may need to have taken certain subjects at school to go into that subject area. Law has slightly higher entrance requirements as does Teacher Education. Those are just two quick examples.
College Contact: How many international students are there at the University of Waikato and where do they come from? How easy is it for international students to get in contact with local students?
Shannon Mackey: We have an overall student population each year between 11 000 and 12 000, and each year we would have between 1 500 and 2 000 international students from over 70 countries. What I can certainly say is the majority of our international students is coming from China and then that would be closely followed by India. They are the two major providers of international students. But I certainly know we’ve got an increasing number of students from Brazil. We still have our traditional students coming from Germany or other countries in Western Europe and the United States. Also, there are a large number of international students that come from the Pacific Islands. Obviously, with New Zealand’s location, as it’s close to the Pacific Islands, it is seen as a natural choice alongside Australia. So, German students would certainly see a lot of diversity on our campus.
At our university, approximately 17 % of our student population is also identified as being Māori, our indigenous population of New Zealand. At other universities that tends to be closer to 5 % to 10 %, so population of 17 % is a huge number.
College Contact: What’s campus life like at Waikato? – Tell us a little bit more about this point…
Shannon Mackey: We’re very fortunate – our campus is the largest single campus of all universities in New Zealand. It’s 65 hectares. Having so much land allows us to have a lot of good open space, sports fields, trees, places just to relax on campus, as well as having all of our different faculties on the same campus. So, students don’t need to catch a bus to get to a different part of the city for different classes. They can walk basically from any point on the campus to their class in 10 to 12 minutes.
We are a suburban campus, so along two sides of the university there’s residential housing. So that itself is going to be a little bit different for German students, where the majority of universities are urban. We’ve got banks on campus, there are cafés on campus, we have doctors available on campus for students, we have a gym – there’s a lot of services available for students on campus. And if it’s not on campus, it’s very close to the university. Like shops that students can go to in order to purchase food or buy clothes or just general equipment for living.
College Contact: And where can international students live while studying at the University of Waikato?
Shannon Mackey: For students coming in for one semester we would certainly recommend that they stay on campus. Just because to go through the process of finding a private accommodation is not really worth it for that period of time. We have four halls of residence on campus, and we have a capacity to house 1 000 students on campus. If there’s someone who might want to stay off-campus, that’s fine, we can assist students in finding off-campus accommodation. There are a large number of brand new studio apartments close to the university. There’s been a lot of construction in recent years, so there’s a good quality of housing available to students either on campus or off-campus. The suburbs nearby have also a lot of reasonable accommodation available.
College Contact: Would you recommend students to buy or rent a car or is it possible to get around comfortably on public transport to New Zealand’s “must see” places?
Shannon Mackey: It’s very easy to get around the country. The intercity bus services are quite well established. There’s not a lot of train services, but certainly buses. I know that two of the major bus companies stop at the university. So, if students were going to Auckland or to Tauranga or some of the other nearby cities, then that would be very straightforward. In terms of buying a car, we don’t discourage students from buying cars, but we also don’t encourage them. There are of course challenges like that we drive on the other side of the road in New Zealand, the road rules and understanding that – it just adds another layer of difficulty perhaps for students. Again, we don’t encourage it, but we don’t discourage it.
Students might want to rent a vehicle during the holiday period, that’s fine, that’s quite common. And certainly I’ve seen groups of international students who have rented a van for two weeks and travelled together, so that is possible.
But you can very easily get around in New Zealand. When we look at New Zealand on a map, we forget how small it actually is. No one in New Zealand lives more than about 140 km from a beach or from the coastline.
College Contact: New Zealand has so much to offer - nature and culture. We would like to learn more about student life beyond the campus. Both the city of Hamilton and the region of Waikato definitely offer various leisure time activities. Could you outline that a bit? What is there to do for fun and where can international students see the “real” New Zealand?
Shannon Mackey: What students will find in Hamilton very quickly is that Hamilton has a great nightlife for students: bars, restaurants, cafés, a huge range of social activities depending on what students are into. Most of them are located in the central city, but that’s very accessible. By bus, it will take 15 to 20 minutes from the campus.
If we looked at the region a bit broader, something that always kind of stands out – well, I must admit that I am one of the worst New Zealanders ever, I’ve never watched a Lord of the Rings movie from start to finish – but, 40 minutes away from our campus, there is the Hobbiton village, the film set. We actually organise an excursion for international students to go there, just to go and see it and have some photos taken.
40 minutes driving time to the west of Hamilton is a small seaside village called Raglan, which is beautiful and a really great place. It’s quite common to see our students at the end of classes grab their surfboards, chuck them on the car and head out to Raglan for a surf.
In the Waikato region there is lots of hiking and fishing opportunities as well as camping and sports opportunities. Hamilton is home to of one of the five professional rugby union teams in New Zealand, so students can go to games if they wish and get reasonably priced tickets. But we’re also only 90 minutes away from Auckland. Auckland is the largest city - that means that there are a lot of concerts and events as well. It’s really easy for students to access them. So what I would probably say to sum it up is that Hamilton’s location is wonderful for getting to a lot of other things as well.
College Contact: A short résumé, or in a few words: Why study in New Zealand? What are the main reasons to move to Waikato and study abroad? What are the greatest benefits of choosing the University of Waikato?
Shannon Mackey: Starting off with the idea of New Zealand as a whole, the New Zealand education system is very strong and well-respected. I think that’s a real positive for German students. I think students want to be confident that the qualification or the experience that they have overseas will be transferable back here, and we can certainly say that with the strength of our individual subjects, but also the international accreditations that our programmes have, students will have no trouble with transferring those skills back here to the German work environment.
Focussing on our university, why would a student want to choose Waikato? Someone who’s looking for a diverse experience will certainly find that we can offer that to them on our campus. Flexibility of qualifications as well, so students can really tailor what they want to do. I’ve mentioned before some of our real subject strengths; going over those again, certainly the field of Teacher Education, all of the Management-related subjects including Accounting and Finance, but also other things such as Human Resources Management, or Marketing and Communications. We have also very strong Biological Sciences programmes, Chemistry and Marine Sciences, and Earth and Ocean Sciences. So, if we’re looking at all things environmental as well, that’s certainly something that would attract students to Waikato. And again, why choose the location? I think it’s a very good chance for students to see the real New Zealand and live in a slightly smaller city, which gives, I guess, a comfier feeling than some of the larger cities, and is centrally located with pretty nice people.
College Contact: Thank you for the interview, Shannon!