Canadian rich lister John McCall MacBain is gifting more than $1million to The University of Auckland to fund a postgraduate scholarship programme.

This is the latest in the more than NZ$275 million worth of donations made by McCall MacBain's foundation since 2007, which included an unprecedented NZ$150 million gift to Oxford University's Rhodes Scholarships.

McCall MacBain, was in Auckland this week to announce the donation at the university.

He told the Weekend Herald this was a unique opportunity to fund scholarships for New Zealand's leading university, which he hoped would not just change the lives of the recipients but also others.

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"At worst case you've changed somebody's life for the better and in a few cases they may change the world for the better," said McCall MacBain.

The donation will be used to create the new Kia Tuhura Scholarship Programme that will be offered to exceptional postgraduate students with a view of developing the next generation of Kiwi leaders.

Initially focusing on the sciences, up to 20 scholarships are set to be available from 2019, along with a leadership programme.

McCall MacBain was named the 75th richest person in Canada by the Canadian Business magazine this year, with a net worth of $1.37 billion according to the publication.

He made his fortune running Trader Classified Media, the world's leading classified advertising company, which he sold in 2006 before setting up the McCall MacBain Foundation.

The foundation has funded scholarships and education, health and environmental projects.

"We really believe in public universities. [Donating to Auckland University] really allows us to make sure we are actually helping the people who can make a difference in the world. It's the kids that really need the money too," he said.

McCall MacBain's link to philanthropy in education began at the receiving end of three university scholarships, including a Rhodes Scholarship at the University of Oxford.

Without these scholarships, McCall MacBain said he would not be where he is today.

McCall MacBain's charitable efforts helped earn him the Order of Canada in 2016.

He is also the founding chair of the European Climate Foundation, a Second Century Founder and trustee of the Rhodes Trust, which funds and oversees Rhodes scholarships worldwide, and a chair of the Trudeau Foundation that helps fund and promote academic and public interest research, to name a few.

Like the Rhodes, the Kia Tuhura Scholarships aimed to support and nurture talented students with the potential to make real change in the world.

Each scholar will be matched with a high-caliber mentor, who will be drawn from a variety of fields, including business leaders to senior policy makers.

In addition to significantly developing their leadership skills, the recipients will have their full tuition fees and accommodation paid for.

"These scholarships are an incredible opportunity for New Zealand's top students to prepare for challenging careers and to speak out and lead in their communities," said University of Auckland vice-chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon.

"The programme will also help New Zealand to retain home-grown talent by fostering a cohesive community of exceptional scholars."

The selection process will look for academic excellence as well as leadership capacity, while ensuring diversity in the cohort.

McCall MacBain has committed to funding the development costs for the leadership course that will accompany the programme and to personally supporting five scholarships for the first five years.

The university hoped to expand the scholarship to other faculties once it has gained momentum.

"We would like to do more with the university as well," said McCall MacBain.

The University was in the process of raising philanthropic funding for the additional scholarships prior to the 2019 launch.