First in Family

  • first-in-family-faith
  • first-in-family-java
  • first-in-family-Shelby
  • first-in-family-tyler
  • first-in-famly-arapeta
  • first-in-family-Moana

About This Project

First in Family explores the experience of ‘First in Family’ students (FiF) — defined as those whose parents did not attend higher learning institutions — as they make their way through a year of study, primarily their first, at the University of Auckland in 2019. Our students are enrolled in a range of disciplines and drawn from the Māori, Pasifika, international, former refugee and Pākehā working-class communities.


Although the site stands alone it is also an integral part of an international academic study conducted by Dr ‘Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki, and colleagues. Research shows that FiF students significantly underperform at university and are at risk of dropping out, especially during their first year. They tend to come from low socio-economic backgrounds, live on the fringe of more than one culture and report feeling out of place at universities. This complex relationship with institutional life can have significant impact on FiF student success, especially at first year, and consequently whether they continue with their study. Universities are often aware of the progress of this student cohort and some of the difficulties they face, but they tend to be included in more generalised programmes, for example, those designed to assist first year students as a whole, or within those that address the needs of ethnic minorities.


We believe that the film, in highlighting the common first in family status of an otherwise diverse group of students, could offer up research useful in helping FiF and universities improve the former’s academic outlook.


Special thanks to all students who participated – and to their families.



Annie Goldson, ‘Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki

Academic Advisor

‘Ema Wolfgramm-Foliaki


Julie Zhu, Lila Bullen-Smith

Line Producer

Lila Bullen-Smith

Web design

Renke An


Renke An, Leslie Gu


Edith Amituanai, Renke An, Serena Stevenson, Julie Zhu,


Ben Goldson

Thanks to

Faculty of Education and Social Work, (FRDF), Media and Communication, School of Social Sciences, Tim Signal, Waipapa Marae, Christina Zhang