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Why Victoria University should not change its name – Hugh Rennie

by Hugh Rennie QC
Although it now appears that what the Vice Chancellor has called “name simplification” for Victoria University has been under consideration for many months, this first came to my attention on return from overseas at the end of May in a very brief reference in an alumni email to one of my family. Enquiry showed very few alumni known to me had heard of the proposal and I found very little support for the idea.

It has proved to be very difficult to access information on the proposal. Key documentation had either not been published or had ceased to be available when Council papers are removed from online access after each meeting. Official Information requests to VUW were collated into one, simplified, and presented immediately. At the time of this submission,some responses are still awaited. Much of the material sent has been extensively redacted in a way that does not comply with the Act.

This submission is confined to the English language name. What is appropriate in Maori I leave to iwi as the persons properly concerned with that.

Initial response:

On 12 June I responded to the email address cited in the alumni newsletter:

“I find it extraordinary that this change of name should even be suggested after almost 120 years of its use for the College and almost half of that time as a full independent university.
In my view the reasons proposed for it are banal and lack any credible reasons. The alleged commercial features for national and international recruitment count for nothing. Status comes from a university building up its reputation over decades and even centuries.
A geographic name is meaningless (leaving aside the number of towns of that name worldwide). One instantly thinks of Monash, Macquarie, Harvard, Stamford, Sorbonne and many others without even knowing which cities they are found in.
I urge that no more time is wasted on this stupid proposal, and that those who thought of it be given some education in what makes a university great – and the answer is not branding or marketing, but academic and research achievement.”

The Vice Chancellor responded:

“The proposal isn’t particularly ‘extraordinary’ having been made four times since 1955 and once by our ‘founder’ Stout in 1887 with his failed ‘The Wellington University College Bill’. A persistent feature of these re-naming attempts has been the desire of staff to better align with and support our city and region. This desire reflects the civic or red brick university ethos on which the university was founded.
I’m interested to understand the basis upon which you dismiss the commercial features of international recruitment? Do you have particular experience in international student recruitment that you would like to share?
I agree status comes from a university building its reputation over time. Unfortunately, after 120 years of effort, international surveys of academic reputation show that Victoria is barely on the board in that respect. Our quality as an institution has failed to translate into strong academic reputation beyond the people who directly interact with the University. Evidence gathered suggests this is partly due to confusion over our name – eight variants of which are in common usage. Our reputation is also being sullied by under-performing Victoria Universities such as the Victoria University in the State of Victoria. [Reference to a “Tweet” omitted.]
Non-geographical names for universities perform well if they are unique and the university has the resources to tell their story around the world. We do not have the resources (nor is it a good use of public money) to be telling Victoria’s story in the 100 countries from which we draw our students and staff. Our name has to stand on its own without the need for further explanation. This is why the large majority of top tier institutions use geographical names….
Sadly, you are mistaken in your last point. It would be lovely to think that great academic reputations are built purely on academic and research achievements. Unfortunately that romantic view of universities ignores the reality that the universities perceived as ‘great’ amongst the 18,000 worldwide all now have expert marketing departments and brand managers and compete fiercely for the international prominence necessary to attract top staff, students and investment.”

This response left me deeply troubled. I was even more convinced that VUW has embarked on a potentially damaging and mistaken plan, casting aside the assets now held in its name and reputation without taking steps which will achieve a greater benefit.

I record now the following points:

• I did not then know and have since been unable to find evidence of a desire by staff to drop the name Victoria and thereby better align with and support our city and region. Sir Robert Stout did not propose a name change, merely an initial name.
• I did not “dismiss the commercial features of international recruitment”.I said the proposed change would do nothing for student recruitment within New Zealand – and it won’t. I said the proposed change will do nothing for international student recruitment. In this submission I explain why not.
• I do have “particular experience in international student recruitment”. My principal (but not sole) experience was being engaged to carry out (with another person) an expert review on New Zealand’s tertiary non-university overseas student recruitment some years ago.
• I disagree that “International surveys of academic reputation show that Victoria is barely on the board in that respect”.
• I did not say that “great academic reputations are built purely on academic and research achievements”. I disagree that my view is “romantic”. I do say, as I said before, that branding and marketing will not create great academic reputations. Branding and marketing can only sell what is in existence.

My view then was that VUW was about to substantially damage its current and future reputation, in an ill-conceived pursuit of a new “brand”.

But was this correct? In the light of the Vice Chancellor’s response, after four weeks of work fitted into an already over-taxed schedule, it is even more clear to me that this branding initiative is not supported by real evidence, is very unlikely to have any positive benefit, and will certainly injure the present standing of VUW.

International surveys of academic reputation:

Given the weight placed on this by the Vice Chancellor, it is interesting to contrast the current official New Zealand website which promotes all New Zealand universities nationally and internationally which says:

“Our university sector is unique
• New Zealand is home to eight universities of the highest quality. All are ranked in the top 3% (500) universities in the world.
• New Zealand’s universities are also highly ranked by subject. They are ranked within the top 50 universities in the world in 22 different subjects, and in the top 100 in 39 (out of a possible 46) subjects.
• New Zealand graduates enjoy some of the best graduate outcomes in the world – with high completion and employment rates, and low rates of under-employment.
• New Zealand universities have a robust and multi-layered quality assurance system, which ensures programmes, teaching and learning are of a very high standard.
• The strong reputation of New Zealand universities is the key reason why 93% of our international university students chose to study in NZ.”

…When the individual listings of VUW are inspected, it becomes clear that not only is VUW highly ranked, but individual schools within the university are readily identified and given high rankings. Thus the QS 2018 survey states:

“Victoria consistently ranks among the world’s best universities. It is ranked 219 in the 2017/18 QS World University Rankings and in 2015 it received five stars from QS Stars University Rating in each of the eight categories – arts and culture, discipline ranking and accreditations, employability, facilities, inclusiveness, internationalisation, research, and teaching.

In the QS World University Rankings by Subject, Victoria is ranked 38 in the world in Law and in the top 100 universities in 11 other subjects; Archaeology, English, History, Linguistics, Performing Arts, Psychology, Earth Sciences, Geography, Development Studies, Hospitality & Leisure Management, and Library Management.”

The legal position

Legislative change would be required to change VUW’s name. Section 3 Victoria University of Wellington Act 1961 provides:

Constitution of the University

1. For the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination and maintenance thereof by teaching and research there shall be a University to be called the Victoria University of Wellington.
2. The University shall consist of the Council, the professors emeriti, the professors, lecturers, Registrar, and librarian of the University for the time being in office, the graduates and undergraduates of the University, the graduates of the University of New Zealand whose names are for the time being on the register of the Court of Convocation of the University, and such other persons and classes of persons as
the Council may from time to time determine.
3. The University shall be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal, and may hold real and personal property, and sue and be sued, and do and suffer all that bodies corporate may do and suffer.
4. The University established under this Act is hereby declared to be the same institution as the institution of that name existing immediately before the commencement of this Act under the Victoria University of Wellington Act 1933 (as amended by the Victoria University of Wellington Amendment Act 1957),
which institution was originally established under the name of the Victoria College under the Victoria College Act 1897.

This is the legal basis for the existence of VUW. It defines who comprises the “university”, and specifies what its name shall be.

Information material issued by VUW in support of “simplification” claims that a name change may be effected by the Minister under s.162(5) Education Act 1989 by a notice published in the Gazette. However it is in constitutional law not possible to amend an Act of Parliament by a notice by a Minister in the Gazette. I have confirmed with one of New Zealand’s leading constitutional lawyers that a name change would require amendment of the 1961 Act.

While Parliament may amend any of its Acts, it would be at least unusual for that to be done without the clearest request and assent of those who together comprise (under s.3(2)) the “university”. It is inconceivable that a University whose law school is regularly ranked in the top 50 in the world would act otherwise.

The core issues:

The core issues are: what issues or problems are thought to exist which require action; and if there are such issues, will a change of name deliver resolve, or at least substantially mitigate those issues?

The public material issued in support of the proposal proposes that the issues and problems are:

(a) Name confusion between VUW and other universities in the world whose names include “Victoria”;
(b) A claim that the substantial research status and achievements of VUW are not adequately recognised as a result of this confusion;
(c) A belief that VUW is not obtaining the share of overseas students which it merits and that this is connected to the two previous issues;

On the assumption that a change of name (in essence, a new branding of the university) will resolve or mitigate these issues and problems, supporting arguments are presented for a new name (which it appears is not finally settled but may be “University of Wellington” or “University of New Zealand Wellington”). In particular:

(a) It is claimed that a university in a capital city has a superior appeal to students overseas selecting a university;
(b) Reference is made to the high ranking of Wellington internationally as a city where it is congenial to work and study.

In a memorandum of 13 March 2018, the Vice Chancellor summarised the hoped-for outcome:

“The principal downstream benefits expected from achieving these goals are enhanced international academic reputation, greater global research impact, improved international rankings, increased recruitment of international students, and improved ability to partner with leading international universities.”

VUW has cited research by Colmar Brunton claimed to support the proposal. Despite VUW citing and relying on that advice, Colmar Brunton (in breach of the code of ethics applicable to such research) refused to release it. VUW ultimately released redacted information.

I have had the available information peer reviewed by an expert in such research and have consulted another expert in research and branding. I record now that it is seriously deficient and I am advised of no utility.

Existence of problems:

Internationally, there have been examples of confusion between universities (including but certainly not limited to those with “Victoria” in their name) for many years.

VUW has presented no evidence of any name confusion within New Zealand, and it is improbable there is any. Any “confusion” relates only to an overseas knowledge of New Zealand and in turn VUW.

VUW has presented no evidence of research by the University being misattributed to other universities, in New Zealand or overseas. It appears that the real issue is that international ranking tables of universities (which are an increasingly common feature of student selection of places to study and so a target of marketing by universities) include in their evaluation algorithms for calculations based on research citations.

The Vice Chancellor in correspondence has claimed that recent data from Google Analytics indicates that the “click through” rate from online searches to the VUW website is low – about 2% of searchers. This data has not been disclosed and the raw figure is meaningless.

All this, taken together, is only one element of such analysis. VUW is currently ranked within the top 500 universities in the world by the three major ranking agencies. Specific schools are highly ranked – for example last year VUW law school was ranked in the top 50 in the world by one agency…..

In about 1999-2000 VUW took a number of steps which “simplified” its branding by giving major prominence to the words “Victoria University” and omitting the words “of Wellington”. It built an entire design toolkit around the use of just the words “Victoria” and “Victoria University” – see http://toolkit.victoria.ac.nz/digital-brand – whose use was and is mandatory. The main web address for VUW was changed from www.vuw.ac.nz to www.victoria.ac.nz .

It entered into arrangements with at least one Asian university which then led to that institution also adopting the name Victoria. Victoria University College of Bangladesh states:
“Global Institute of Business and Technology (GIBT), Dhaka – the only approved educational partner center of Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) in South Asia – …started functioning in 1999. In March 2001 it signed a partnership agreement with Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The partnership agreement was designed to jointly provide degree programs for students with facilities for studies both at GIBT and VUW leading to VUW degrees.”

A further development was that most other New Zealand universities adopted “New Zealand” as part of their title and logo…Only “Victoria University” dropped its regional and national claims.

Any “confusion” is clearly a twenty year “own goal” by VUW. A first step to exploring the mitigation of any adverse effect is to follow the lead of other New Zealand universities, reinstate the correct name of Victoria University of Wellington, and add “New Zealand” to the logo and other supporting material.

Change of branding:

The most common reason to make a substantial change to a long-established brand or name is to discard the past and present the newly-named replacement as the candidate for the future.17 There are in New Zealand many examples of this – in the public sector this has often followed a restructuring as in the energy and telecoms industries. In broadcasting (where I had extensive experience) a specific objective was to transition names in the face of external competition.

Like it or not, such change is a vote of no confidence in the past; and hazards the future on the uncertainty of whether the new name will be successful. In this case, the only identified purpose of the change is an international competitive proposal – it has no relevance to student recruitment (or academic recruitment or retention) in New Zealand.

It involves embracing an untested new brand element in the use of “Wellington” – a complex brand which in lifestyle values has some current positives; but in commerce and the public sector some significant negatives (“the dead hand of Wellington” (bureaucrats); “a dying city”(John Key); etc).

There is no researched justification presented to answer these key questions….

Conclusion:

VUW has spent an unknown number of hundreds of thousands of dollars20 without establishing a credible case for change, and is now about to commit to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars more to implementing a break with its past as a risky and unnecessary experiment as to its international reputation which is unlikely to succeed and whose failure would cause serious damage to VUW.

None of the disclosed information shows that VUW has implemented the advice of Ms Madeleine Setchell on 1 March 2018 in a memorandum to the Vice Chancellor:

“The below assumes full costings and an analysis of impact will be undertaken, drawing on international and domestic research already provided, prior to any decisions being made.”

It seems even that initial prudent step has not been taken. In proceeding now VUW will separate itself from its current standing and reputation, lose the support of many of its graduates and alumni, here and overseas, and it will not advance its position at all within its primary student catchment – New Zealand.

It is not too late to avoid this.

This is an abridged version of a personal submission by Hugh Rennie on the proposal by the Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington to change the university´s name. It was sent this week to the university.

38 comments:

  1. Michael Gibson, 20. July 2018, 17:12

    Note to the powers-that-be at Vic:
    I am incredulous that the proposal for a name change has failed to highlight the need for the necessary change in the governing statute. How could supposedly intelligent people have spent so much time on “communicating” without mentioning this?
    As a mere matriculand I will be supporting Hugh Rennie in his opposition to a name-change.

     
  2. Polly, 20. July 2018, 17:21

    Over so many years family and friends have been graduates of Victoria University and very proud of Wellington so leave it alone… thank you Hugh Rennie.

     
  3. Citizen Joe, 20. July 2018, 18:07

    Like Queen Victoria I’m not amused by the proposed name change and I wonder if it’s all because Massey University might be looking to change its name to Wellington University.

     
  4. Helene Ritchie, 20. July 2018, 19:07

    Leave it as the VUW I knew and know…

    Have those in charge lost the core purpose of the University as in its Constitution and instead replaced the pursuit and dissemination of research, knowledge, teaching and education, with the pursuit of “rebranding” for elusive commercial gain?

    Could the University please scrap this rebranding and instead of wasting $$ put all the proposed and ongoing rebranding costs towards scholarships for people who otherwise could not afford to go to Vic.? How many would that fund?!

     
  5. Tony Hurst, 20. July 2018, 20:49

    I’m glad to see someone putting forward such a well-argued case against the change. It does seem that part of the problem was the previous attempt to change the branding by stealth to Victoria University. Reversal of this would solve some of the issues that worry the Vice-Chancellor. Victoria and Wellington are not unique terms, but their combination is.

     
  6. Stephen Kent, 21. July 2018, 5:27

    My education at Victoria University of Wellington, for which I am profoundly grateful, has stood me in good stead in an international academic career in scientific research. As a proud graduate of VUW, I fail to see the point of ‘re-branding’ the university. It smacks of ‘corporate management’, the current bane of universities worldwide.
    Universities are not companies. They are communities of scholars, dedicated to the exploration of the cutting edge of knowledge in all fields of scholarship, and to transmitting that knowledge for the benefit of society.
    The Vice-Chancellor should focus on the fundamentals that bring distinction to an academic institution, particularly scholarship in all its dimensions.

     
  7. TrevorH, 21. July 2018, 7:32

    As an alumnus I’m grateful to you Hugh for doing the hard yards in putting these arguments against the name change together. You have clearly demonstrated the purported reasons for the change are specious and potentially damaging. It must be rejected.

     
  8. Mark Stocker, 21. July 2018, 10:14

    Brilliant, Mr Rennie, and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in a vanity exercise when you are at the same time proposing staff redundancies in the humanities is worse than irresponsible. It’s a vanity project that has no proof of success. Your point about Stout was well made – there’s a kind of philistine ‘history is bunk’ outlook among the corporatist name-changers: and yes, I do admit to being a fan of the eponymous Queen and Empress! You don’t say it but the type of people who are likely to confuse VUW with similarly named ‘under performers’ are highly likely to be under performers themselves! Did the University of Oxford consider changing its name when the (admirably performing) Oxford Brooks University hit the scene? Yeah right!

     
  9. M F Townsley, 21. July 2018, 10:48

    I support Hugh Rennie’s case and do not want a name change. I am proud to be an alumnus of Victoria University of Wellington.

     
  10. J Sorensen, 21. July 2018, 21:17

    Thank you Mr Rennie! I could not understand why this was not receiving more publicity. Basically, because I suspect most of us thought it was nonsense and it wouldn’t fly, it runs the risk of happening by stealth were it not for people like yourself. Where is the Alumni organisation when we need it? Silent. Apathy is not our friend. Let’s get behind Mr Rennie and stop this in its tracks.

     
  11. Hugh Rennie QC, 22. July 2018, 7:06

    I sent my submission to VUW and to a few friends as well. It has gained welcome support, and the summary here (placed by a friend) is a good one. The full submission has more with data and references as well. If you would like a copy of it please email my PA and she will send you one on Monday. Marina.kapua@legalchambers.co.nz . A little more has happened since 16 July – VUW has finally released some more information (which however doesn’t change anything) and a sample of its intended new logo. An expert in that field tells me: “The logo is a disaster. If this is what they think they should go with, they will be forced to think again. The logo is just a bit of name switching. Just calling itself Wellington is not enough. Their visual language and copy needs to be compelling and with such a strong design community in Wellington they will want to see a better job done. I guess the logo is a starter, there is an application of the logo in this format, but it is not a brand, and the desire for brand has led them to their decision.” VUW meets next on Friday 27 July at @12.30, Level 2, Hunter Building. No agenda out yet but this issue is expected to be on it. I have great hopes that the Council will decide to think again.

     
  12. Paul M, 22. July 2018, 10:29

    I always find it incredible how resistant to change so many people are. The first response to rebranding anything is usually negative, until it’s been around for a while anyway.

    This is a sensible, logical change. There is clear confusion and always has been – it makes no sense, in the context of Universities, to call it anything other than Wellington University.

    Victoria University is in Victoria, Australia. Wellington University is in Wellington, New Zealand. Sensible and logical.

     
  13. Andrew, 22. July 2018, 18:47

    Paul, you talk about this like the rebrand of Telecom to Spark. What VUW is proposing is more akin to Heineken changing their name to ‘Dutch Beer’ in the hope they may increase international sales and throwing away over 100 years of heritage in doing so.

    When is the last time an enrolled student or new staff member accidentally booked a ticket to Melbourne instead of Wellington?

    Massey have it right.

     
  14. Hugh Rennie QC, 23. July 2018, 7:52

    Paul M – I am not resistant to change. I have in my career initiated, led, and participated in major changes in the legal profession, business, broadcasting, and the arts. What I know from nearly 50 years of that is that it is very easy to think that your problems – here in a single aspect of VUW – will be solved by throwing out the old and embracing your own new ideas. It never works. As for your claim that there has “always been” confusion, it is only in the last 27 years that there has been a Victoria University Melbourne – I suggest that you read the research (as I have) and put thought not emotion into this. I did, and I have said what I have.

     
  15. Professor Bruce Babington, 23. July 2018, 9:45

    I give my support to Hugh Rennie’s meticulously argued submission on this unnecessary and pointless vandalism in the name of supposed progress.There is no evidence that the new name proposed will lead to greater recognition or enrolments. Like so many others I am a proud graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, owing much to my MA at “Vic” which led to a further postgraduate degree at Oxford and eventually to a Professorship. The name reflects a distinguished history which I would hate to see abandoned.

     
  16. M David, 23. July 2018, 9:53

    Mr Rennie says – Any “confusion” is clearly a twenty year “own goal” by VUW. That does not mean that you should not correct these errors. Which is what the University is doing now. It is clear that the lack of any credible responses or attendance to the consultation meeting shows that people dont really care. Hence it is upto the University to decide what is good for them, not those far removed from the running of the University. Universities in this day and age have to run like a “business” while still managing its teaching and research obligations to be financially and academically successful. You cannot do that by sticking to old-fashined methods and ways. Just move with the times and leave the University to sort out its legal obligations regarding its name change. They will do what is right after all they are an University!

     
  17. Andy Mellon, 23. July 2018, 10:09

    Has anyone thought of asking the current students what they think as they are the ones most likely to be impacted by the change?

     
  18. Citizen Joe, 23. July 2018, 11:15

    There are eleven universities with Victoria in their title plus a Ugandan football team. There are four in the UK, a private one in Kampala, a business school in Switzerland and a newish private one Bangladesh. The three biggest are in Victoria Australia, British Colombia Canada and our very own Wellington.

    Victoria Uni in Australia celebrated its centenary in 2016 and had 46,198 students in 2014. It’s an amalgamation of TAFE colleges etc and changed its name to University in 1990. It has quite a lowly QS ranking of 701-750 in 2018. The British Colombia one started in 1903 as Victoria College and changed its to Victoria University in 1963. It had 21,696 students in 2017 so similar in size to Wellington and has a 2018 QS ranking of 346.

    Meanwhile our own Vic Uni is the oldest, established in 1897 by Act of Parliament, has 21,202 students and has the highest QS ranking (of the three big Vic Unis) of 219 in 2018.

    https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2018

    (There is always the Maori name which doesn’t seem to mention Victoria: “Te Whare Wānanga o Te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Māui”).

     
  19. Warren Searell, 24. July 2018, 8:47

    As an alumni and former NZ diplomat I fully support Mr Rennie’s analysis. Throwing out 120 years of proud history would be a shallow and meaningless act. There is no evidence whatsoever that a name change would result in any tangible benefit to VUW.

     
  20. Georgewasbest, 24. July 2018, 13:27

    Citizen Joe. Not sure where the eleven universities called Victoria come from. The Vice Chancellor referred to 14, but 5 of those were high schools (doh!). Of the remaining nine, Victoria University in Melbourne was included twice (doh again!), there is Victoria University in British Columbia, and then a bunch of new niche (mostly business) colleges. I do not think there are any universities called Victoria in the UK. The whole name confusion argument seems to be a complete red herring.

     
  21. Prof. G., 24. July 2018, 19:36

    As a (senior) academic at VUW, I find the lack of dialogue and consultation around this proposal very troubling indeed. Many academic staff members are finding out about this pet project from the local media.

     
  22. Citizen Joe, 24. July 2018, 23:32

    GeorgeBest = see the following link for reference to universities with Victoria in their name
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria_University
    I apologise for the UK Universities I included that have subsequently changed their name. For example, Victoria University Leeds which has become Leeds University. I suppose this shows it can be done.

     
  23. Sarah McMurray, 25. July 2018, 6:43

    As a cheerful alumnus of VUW, humble yet inspiring like VUW itself, I strongly support the conservation of the existing name. Please VUW Council, put a stop to these spoilt-brat ventures to “innovate”. Is the best we can do to 1. try ditching our first name 2. admit failure on that 3. try ditching our last name? Seriously?
    While you’re at it, please rule out the last logical step in this chain of rebrands, and rule out “University Of” though it has a certain quirky charm.
    How about we own, acknowledge, and celebrate our messy history. This will not imprison us nor doom us to repeat the bad or dubious bits. Be of good heart, use “VUW” for all its worth and you Councilors please focus on helping VUW to *be* deeply valuable and keep the marketers in their proper field of play demonstrating and publicising that value.
    Ps “Wellington University” rightfully belongs in Shropshire:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wellington_(disambiguation)
    Arohanui

     
  24. Celia Lampe, 25. July 2018, 11:27

    I spent wonderful years at VUW, doing an Honours degree in Education with the unforgettable Jack Shallcrass, then the rather dreaded but useful Master in Public Policy. Victoria University of Wellington is where I studied. Please do not change the name. Thank you Hugh Rennie for your analysis.

     
  25. Ted Verrity, 25. July 2018, 16:31

    Good on you Hugh. Ernie would be proud of you.

     
  26. R M D Munro, 25. July 2018, 17:36

    Hugh Rennie has laid out a substantial case for not changing the name of the Victoria University of Wellington. That case has not, however, received an adequate response from decision-makers. Against this background, I do not expect the views of Hugh Rennie, Bruce Babington and like-minded Victoria graduates, including myself [MA (Victoria); MPhil (Exeter)], to sway the argument. But our views should be given weight because, among all the other points raised, it is still true that tradition and respect for precious institutions are not negligible values. Other universities know that: why not ours?

     
  27. Hugo Manson, 25. July 2018, 22:10

    I failed in an attempt to drop the ridiculous reference to a long-gone foreign colonial queen as part of the name of the capital’s university when I was a university council member more than 20 years ago. I hope that by now we can make this sensible, logical, overdue change. Hugh Rennie, your elegant discussion is wasted on an argument that is really about a weepy-eyed backward-looking old-establishment-preserving sentimental nostalgia. This university I am proud to be a graduate of is forward-facing, untethered to pointless and irrelevant tradition and unafraid of change.

     
  28. Hugh Rennie QC, 26. July 2018, 10:06

    Ted – many thanks. It was a real privilege to work with Ernie and his team and I learned a great deal.

     
  29. Farmer Bill, 26. July 2018, 13:57

    I guess that means ‘Wellington’ is out too Hugo as I doubt you’d support a name referring to an old colonial duke associated with the British Army (even though he was born in Dublin) and who defeated republican Napoleon. I presume Massey University can stay ‘as is’ though, as it is named after an Irish emigre who became PM of NZ. It’s about time an Orwellian Government ‘Newspeak’ Department was created to expunge all reference to our colonial history, one word at a time.

     
  30. R Bourne, 26. July 2018, 16:24

    Respect for the past is a key to the future – Great Work Mr Rennie

     
  31. Hugh Rennie QC, 27. July 2018, 13:38

    Hugo – yes you did fail and here’s what VUW’s official history says about it:

    “It was in this context that that ‘hoary old chestnut’, whether to keep the Victoria in Victoria, was raised again. A member of the Council, Hugo Manson, moved in 1992 that Victoria be dropped from the university’s name because it signified an age of colonialism, imperialism, racism, sexism, paternalism and élitism. This, he seemed a little surprised to discover, ‘touched some deeply held feelings about the University’. There was no support on the Council, nor from the Academic Board. Victoria was here to stay (although there has been a recent move to officially nickname it, for promotional purposes, ‘Vic’).”

    If you read my submission – I am not sure you have – you will see that it is the future I am concerned for, not the past. How will a “new” university (University of Wellington is proposed) be identified as being the same as “Victoria University” (as it has been for the last 20 years) or “VUW” (as it has been since I started as a student 55 years ago)? VUW has 120 years of proud history and achievement, known internationally, valued locally.

    How do you justify changing this and spending millions of dollars to try to do better than just stand still? Failure to even achieve that much is much more likely than success.

    If you changed your own name to another one, how would anyone know the new you was the old you?

    Lastly, given your current position with Sotheby’s NZ, how is your campaign to rid that business of its colonial, imperial and elitist name getting on? Or does its history actually mean something?

     
  32. greeny, 27. July 2018, 14:59

    @Hugo:
    >I failed in an attempt to drop the ridiculous reference to a long-gone foreign colonial queen
    But continuing the reference to a long-gone foreign colonial general is fine…..

     
  33. Farmer Bill, 27. July 2018, 16:04

    I see Sotheby’s Holdings, Incorporated (now based in Delaware) shortened its name to Sotheby’s in 2006.

     
  34. Victoria University, 27. July 2018, 20:35

    The University Council has agreed in principle to simplify the university’s name to University of Wellington. [via twitter at 7.27pm]

     
  35. Marion Leader, 28. July 2018, 9:26

    I recall many visits to Sotheby’s in London. They have been situated in splendid premises in New Bond Street for over a century.
    I am certain they would not dream of changing their name especially since people like me are proud to be able to say: “I bought it at Sotheby’s”.
    Q. E. D.

     
  36. Kristin Strickland, 28. July 2018, 11:21

    Hugo Manson’s arguments about “Victoria” representing out-moded ideas of colonialism and its attendant evils overlooks the fact that when the title was given it was done in the spirit of the age. We are no longer beholden to that era but Victoria University of Wellington is a completely distinct name as is its more familiar “Vic”. There are many other “Wellingtons” and many other “Victorias” but none in distinctive conjunction – we have here our own entity – long may it reign.

     
  37. David Mackenzie, 30. July 2018, 9:33

    If VUW needs to change its brand, why not change the horribly nasty logo it uses instead of a proper coat of arms through the college of heralds? Registering a coat of arms would be cheaper (probably) and bring more kudos than simply changing name without good cause.

     
  38. Tony Loorparg, 8. August 2018, 15:09

    There must be something in the water that some University Council’s are drinking these days before they decide/make crucial decisions for their respective Institutions.
    Recently there has been:
    1. the welcoming of Chinese Government funding for opening Confucius Institutes promoting their (communist) ideology as a form of “softpower” which is the antithesis of what our New Zealand Universities stand for. (see inthenameofconfuciusmovie.com/.)
    2.The surreptitious manner in which the VUW name change is taking place, admirably outlined for us by Hugh Rennie.
    3. The outrageous cancelling of Don Brash’s invite to Massey University by their Vice Chancellor on the basis of some spurious “security”threat unconfirmed by their security staff and Police.

    No doubt there will be other examples as well.

    We would do well to remember that former staff member of Canterbury University philosopher Karl Popper, who in the 1930s drafted his World renowned book here,”The Open Society and its Enemies”. I only hope that the Vice Chancellor of my Alma Mater doesn’t write off my musings being “dated” as well!