Su’esu’e manogi: Conceptualising the fragrances of equity in higher education. A case study from Oceania


  • Tim Baice The University of Auckland


Equity policies in higher education are focused on dismantling barriers and redressing inequalities that restrict the participation and success of students from historically excluded groups. In some Universities across Oceania, ‘underrepresented’ includes students of Pacific heritage alongside students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, rural areas, students with disabilities and LGBTIQA+ students. Despite good intentions, equity policies can often contribute to the problems they seek to address with an overt focus on equity groups and identities. Little attention is directed towards reviewing the education ecosystems that create barriers to higher education. My research adopts an Indigenous Pacific (Sāmoan) framework, ‘Su’esu’e manogi, in search of fragrances’ as a conceptual tool to critically analyse and understand historical and contemporary manogi (fragrances) that frame and inform current equity policies and discourses in Oceania. Manogi is used as a metaphor to represent the worldviews, theories and ideologies that underpin equity policies and discourses. Using a case study, I present the findings of research that reviewed equity policies and discourses at the University of Auckland and their implications for Pacific learners. I found a series of tensions and disharmonies in manogi based on the interpretation of equity subscribed to by the institution. Equity policy discourses that are disparaging produce disharmony and unpleasant pungent manogi when they are based on deficit framing and are relegated to the periphery of higher education priorities. Equity policy discourses that are harmonious and produce sweet aromatic manogi for Pacific students are framed by commitments to social justice and sustainable development, recognise the principle of difference and the impact of structural factors on achievement. Drawing on the inspiration of the Rethinking Pacific Education Initiative for Pacific Peoples (RPEIPP) and “Revisioning education in Oceania: Walking backwards into the future together,” my research presents timely considerations for collective rethinking and revisioning of equity in Oceania.