Find out the regulations, eligibility criteria and selection process for the 2023 Postgraduate scholarship programme.

The Department of Conservation (Te Papa Atawhai) was established by the Conservation Act 1987 to manage, preserve, and protect land, freshwater, and other natural and historic resources throughout New Zealand. Our vision is Papatūānuku thrives.


Te Papa Atawhai funds postgraduate research scholarships to help answer strategic and high priority questions and to build capability and capacity in conservation related science in Aotearoa New Zealand. In order to increase opportunities for postgraduate scholarship funding Te Papa Atawhai may also partner with other funding organisations who share similar goals.

Scholarships will be awarded to eligible full-time or part-time candidates, enrolled or eligible to enrol in a Master’s degree at an approved Aotearoa New Zealand institution, who in the year of tenure, will undertake (or have started) research into a topic identified by Te Papa Atawhai or their funding partners as a priority for conservation research. These priorities are informed by:

  • Te Mana O Te Taiao (the Aotearoa New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy 2020)
  • He Rautaki Tāonga Tuku Iho/Manuhiri Tuārangi (Heritage and Visitor Strategy for Te Papa Atawhai)
  • The Biodiversity Conservation Science Prospectus
  • DOC, Te Papa Atawhai Strategy 
  • Long-term Insight Briefing (LTIB)

Conservation science in this context is interpreted broadly and includes, from a multitude of disciplinary, trans-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary perspectives - the biodiversity, visitor and heritage related responsibilities of the Department. These perspectives include Te Ao Māori (including Mātauranga Māori), the social sciences (including economics) and the biophysical sciences.

Eligibility Criteria

Applications will be accepted from candidates

  • who are enrolled in, or eligible to enrol in, a full time or part time Master’s degree in a Aotearoa New Zealand university, or an NZQA accredited tertiary institution
  • who are completing their research component in the year immediately following the award (part time scholars have a maximum 2 years to complete).
    Note: Candidates undertaking only coursework Master’s are not eligible
  • whose proposed course of study includes a minimum thesis component of 90 Credits
  • whose research thesis focuses on priority questions of importance to the funding provider/s.

Selection Process

The following process will be applied to select scholarship recipients:

  • Stage 1: Universities NZ ensure basic eligibility criteria are met
  • Stage 2: Pre-assessment panel shortlist applicants whose proposals best align to DOC research priorities and meet other criteria
  • Stage 3: Selection committee review shortlisted applicants and select the scholarship recipients.

Pre-Assessment Panel

Te Papa Atawhai pre-assessment panel members (assessors) will consist of staff in senior science roles and/or research experts who will evaluate applications in a broad approach, as well as specific fields of expertise. Any funding partners external to Te Papa Atawhai may nominate a suitably qualified assessor to represent their interest.

Note: Application assessment will be conducted in the strictest confidence to ensure applicants privacy is maintained.

Selection Committee

The Selection Committee will consist of:

  • Chief Science Advisor, Te Papa Atawhai or nominee, who shall be the convenor and have a casting vote.
  • Treaty Relationships Group representative from this Te Papa Atawhai business group, or nominee.
  • Universities NZ scholarship committee Chair, or nominee.
  • Other suitably qualified selectors (including representatives of external funding partners) as determined by the Chief Science Advisor, Te Papa Atawhai.

The decisions of the Selection Committee are final and no correspondence will be entered into following the assessment of the applications.


  • The committee may request that a candidate attend an interview. This will be at the expense of Te Papa Atawhai.  Interviews may be done virtually or face to face.
  • Applicants may bring their whanau support (at their own expense) to the interview.
  • A decision may be made purely on the submitted application and associated documentation.
  • The committee may refrain from making an award if it finds no candidate of sufficient merit.

Selection Criteria

The Selection Committee awards scholarships based on the following criteria:

  • Relevance of the research thesis topic to funding provider/s research priorities.
  • Demonstrating the implementation of Te Tiriti o Waitangi principles, by providing endorsement of the relationship and engagement with the Iwi, hapū and whānau of the area the research is specified (or the intention to engage by providing a plan).
  • Academic merit.
  • Genuine interest in research topic and evidence of commitment to conservation science.

Note: A group of relevant Te Papa Atawhai experts (some of whom may also be members of the Pre-assessment panel) refresh the list of research priorities annually based on contribution to outcomes contained in the following strategic documents:


Candidates must complete an application using the Universities NZ online scholarships application website by closing date of 2 October 2023.

Visit Universities NZ

Candidates are requested by the Committee to submit as part of their application:

  • a statement detailing how their proposed research relates to the priority areas of importance to the funding provider/s as detailed on the Te Papa Atawhai website
  • a research plan, detailing the proposed research approach, timeline and outputs/outcomes
  • a statement detailing how their proposed programme of study relates to te ao Māori
  • a statement detailing why they wish to undertake the proposed research and what they wish to gain from it, including future career plans
  • academic transcript
  • statements from two referees - one of whom should be a member of the faculty in the candidate’s preferred institution. The academic referee should be able to comment on the applicant’s academic ability/capability; the other, a character reference to be submitted by someone who has known the candidate for a minimum of one year (family members are excluded). The character referee should be able to specifically comment on the applicant’s commitment to conservation science.


The tenure of a scholarship will be determined by the Selection Committee (normally one calendar year for full time scholars and two calendar years for part time scholars).  Tenure will commence in the year immediately following the year of application.

The scholarship may not be deferred unless prior approval is granted from the Convenor of the Selection committee.  Award payments will be made six monthly and will be dependent on positive and satisfactory progress reports from the scholar and the institution at which the scholar is studying.  Unsatisfactory progress may lead to termination of the award.


A scholarship may be tenable with any other scholarship, fellowship or award with the permission of the Convenor of the Selection Committee. In granting permission for co-tenure, the Convenor of the Selection Committee may impose such conditions as they think fit, whether as a reduction in the emolument of the scholarship or otherwise.


The value of a scholarship will be determined by the Selection Committee. Scholarships will be valued at up to $15,000 and may be used in any way that helps the scholars meet the purposes of the award.

Reports and Theses

Every scholar shall furnish to the Selection Committee, through Universities NZ, such reports that are required as listed in the scholarship offer letter. An end of tenure report is required once the scholarship/programme of study is complete.  One copy of any thesis written is to be lodged with Universities NZ for distribution to the funding provider/s. This may include –

  • a plain language summary written for funding provider/s with the supervision team which links to the management implications.
  • a seminar presentation in a suitable format to communicate findings with relevant Te Papa Atawhai staff and/or any relevant funding partners.

Suspension or Termination

Following consultation, the Selection Committee may at any time suspend or terminate any scholarship and the associated award payments if the Committee is satisfied that the scholar is not diligently pursuing the agreed programme of study or has failed to comply with any of the terms and conditions on which the scholarship was awarded or has acted in a manner that has brought the funding provider/s into disrepute.

A scholarship may be terminated, and no further payments made if a scholar ceases to pursue the agreed programme of study. Any changes to the original research topic will require prior approval from the Convenor of the Selection Committee to ensure continuation of the scholarship.  Approval from the convenor is not guaranteed.

Publicity and Media

Scholars will agree to have their name and image published and be available for interviews with the media if required.

Intellectual Property (IP)

The IP will remain with the scholar and university, unless otherwise negotiated. However, the expectation is that any research would be freely available for the funding provider/s to use for non-commercial purposes, i.e. to inform policies, strategies and operational decision-making the funding provider/s would acknowledge the source of the information.

Note: Scholars will need to get permission and/or negotiate IP with Iwi and hapū at place to conduct any research covered by the Wai 262 claim.


While the research publishing rights stay with the author, it is reasonable that the original thesis and any subsequent submissions to academic or professional journals (or any other media) acknowledges that the research was supported by funding from the funding provider/s

Back to top