Holding a mirror to society? The sociodemographic characteristics of the University of Otago's health professional students

N Z Med J. 2012 Sep 7;125(1361):12-28.


Aim: To describe the sociodemographic characteristics of students accepted into eight health professional programmes at the University of Otago.

Methods: Student data were obtained from the University of Otago's central student records system. Data were obtained in anonymous, summary form. New Zealand population data were obtained from Statistics New Zealand. Descriptive statistics were calculated.

Results: In 2010 health professional students at the University of Otago were largely from outside the Otago region (88.1%). 59.6% were female and 84.8% were either New Zealand citizens or permanent residents. Within the domestic student cohort, 65.0% of students self-identified as being within the New Zealand European and Other category (compared with 75.3% of the national population), 34.2% as Asian (compared with 11.1%), 6.3% as Maori (compared with 15.2%), and 2.3% as Pacific (compared with 7.7%). A large proportion of students came from high socioeconomic areas and only 3.4% of students had attended secondary schools with a socioeconomic decile of less than 4.

Conclusion: Schools and Faculties within the University of Otago's Division of Health Sciences do not achieve the sociodemographic mirror of society we hope for, and we strive to improve both our selection processes, within the constraints and limitations of the available selection tools, and our student support mechanisms. We will continue to refine these policies and work with other key stakeholders in better preparing school leavers for health professional programmes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Demography
  • Educational Measurement
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Schools, Health Occupations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Students, Health Occupations / statistics & numerical data*