Graduates mark milestone
A very special first has been marked by South Auckland students.
AUT University's Manukau campus has seen its first graduates receive their university qualifications, with a total of 181 graduates donning their robes and caps for the inaugural ceremonies.
The graduates were among the campus' first intake when it opened its doors in March 2010.
It was opened in response to a commitment from the Government and the former Manukau City Council to enhance tertiary education in the South Auckland region.
The ceremony was attended by AUT chancellor John Maasland, vice-chancellor Derek McCormack and Auckland mayor Len Brown who said he was excited and proud to be at the event.
"Now we know that nothing - especially not geography - is holding back local people who want to contribute to our community. You graduates are trailblazers," Mr Brown told the crowd.
Mr McCormack says the campus was opened to increase participation in university study in Manukau.
Local residents don't historically have a high rate of participation in university study and the AUT board wanted to build that up, he says.
"We had to build participation rates to build aspiration so more young people from decile 1 to 4 schools in the area aspire to do well at school and go on to higher education. The fact that we've now had our first graduates through is our first taste of success."
Nearly two-thirds of the Manukau campus students hail from decile 1 to 4 schools, compared to nearly one-third of AUT's total student numbers.
Qualifications were awarded in disciplines including sport and recreation, teacher education, computing, health science and business.
Among those receiving qualifications was Wattle Downs resident Sarah Williamson who received a bachelor of sport and recreation.
The 21-year-old says the size of the fledgling campus served her well over her three years of study.
"It's a really unique campus - you're not sitting in massive classes," she says.
"There's only a maximum of 20 in a class so it's more interactive and you feel more comfortable. You're really like a little family."
She and many other sport and recreation students had to travel to AUT's Akoranga campus on the North Shore to complete some papers, she says. "But we always felt like Manukau was our place to be. Manukau was home."