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Critic and Conscience of Society Award

About the award:

Established in 2017, the Critic and Conscience of Society Award encourages academics to provide expert commentary on important issues affecting the New Zealand community and future generations. Previous award winners include Professor Robert Patman (2024), Dr Dean Knight (2023), Professor Janet Hoek (2022), Professor Alexander Gillespie and Associate Professor Siouxsie Wiles (2021), Professor Michael Baker and Associate Professor Anita Gibbs (2020), Professor Andrew Geddis (2019), Professor Ann Brower (2018) and Dr Mike Joy (2017).

Applications for the 2025 Critic and Conscience Award will open in November 2024. The award is administered by Universities New Zealand – Te Pōkai Tara. It is not necessary to be nominated and academics can apply via an online form.


To be eligible for this Award, you must:

  • Be a full-time or part-time university staff member who has publicly raised or commented on a New Zealand critic and conscience of society issue within the last two calendar years.
  • Have received no support from any person or organisation who or which could derive a direct financial benefit from the issue raised.
  • Be commenting within your area of expertise. 
  • Have been a critic of an issue that affects the community and future generations.

 Value and Number awarded:

One award will be made each year.

The current annual value of the funds available for the scholarship is NZ$50,000.

No scholarships will be awarded if the selection panel is of the opinion that there is no candidate who is of sufficient merit.

Opening date

12 November

Closing date:

28 February

How to apply:

Check your eligibility.

Applying for the scholarship is an on-line application process. A link to the application website is available here.

Decisions made:

by the end of April



  • Each year the Award is made to an academic staff member who, in the opinion of a panel of three independent judges, has done more in the past two calendar years (1 Jan to 31 Dec) than any other applicant to provide the public with independent, expert commentary on an issue or issues affecting the New Zealand community or future generations.
  • It is not necessary to be nominated for the Award.
  • Winners of the Award will not be eligible to apply again until after five years have elapsed.
  • There will be a function held where a framed certificate is presented to the recipient.
  • The funds are to be administered by the recipient’s university, but there are no reporting requirements as to how the $50,000 is used and no time frame is set.
  • Currently, an Emeritus Professor is not eligible. The application states that the Award is open to academic staff, so they would have to be currently employed by a university. The $50,000 also has to be administered by the recipient’s university, which would pose difficulty for a non-staff member.
  • Academics can act as the critic and conscience of society by drawing public attention to one or more issues in their area of expertise. This would have to involve suggesting changes which they consider need to be made.
  • The judges can only consider what has been done over the past two calendar years inclusive, in order to give young academics a reasonable opportunity. However, a summary of public engagement in the past could be taken into account if it is difficult to make a decision.
  • The Gama Foundation advise that if you have on hand any letters which thank you for the work you have done in bringing a particular issue to public attention, these could be included. However, applicants have not been asked to obtain letters of support so it is unlikely that a general letter of support would be taken into account by the judges.
  • Sensitive information written in the application form will remain private and will only be viewed by the three members of the judging panel.
  • The Award is made singularly and not to a team.
  • We recognise that those who had very frequently been interviewed about covid-19 deserved an Award but did not want that to prevent anyone who had done a good job of speaking out on another issue to be prevented from receiving an Award. That is why for two years we had two Awards.
  • The Selection Panel is made up of two judges have retired from senior university administrative roles and the third judge is a community representative.