Wellington Scoop

VUW no longer – university votes to change its name, for “global branding”

News from VUW
A proposal to change the University’s name to ‘University of Wellington’ has today been approved by the Victoria University of Wellington Council.

The University Council has voted in favour of making a recommendation to the Minister of Education to approve University of Wellington as the new legal name and adopt a new Māori name of Te Herenga Waka.

The Council has also confirmed its commitment to the ongoing use of the word ‘Victoria’ to ensure its heritage is honoured and maintained.

Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith says the decision is one key step towards achieving the University community’s shared vision to become a world-leading capital city university and one of the great global-civic universities.

“The name University of Wellington contributes to that vision by helping to differentiate us internationally from all the other institutions with Victoria in their name. It also firmly aligns our destiny with that of Wellington and captures our role as New Zealand’s globally ranked capital city university.”

Mr Paviour-Smith says the decision has been a challenging one for Council members, who are acutely aware of the attachment some members of the University community have to the current name. “I would like to thank everyone who has provided feedback and acknowledge the care and attention that has gone into many of the submissions. They highlight the pride and loyalty people have in this University. We now embark on a new chapter in the University’s development and we encourage everyone in our community to be part of that future.”

Pro-Chancellor of the University Dame Therese Walsh says Council members have given full consideration to all issues raised during the wider name change discussion. “There is significant breadth and depth of experience around the Council table and our communities and the public can have confidence in the rigour with which we considered the information presented.”

Council member Robyn Bargh says it has been pleasing to see the support for the adoption of Te Herenga Waka as the University’s new Māori name. “It is not iwi specific and reflects all the different peoples who come here to study or to work. It is a name we can be proud of.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford says: “Great cities have great universities that share their name and this common bond allows the achievements of one to build the reputation of the other. We are proud to be training and attracting the talent that Wellington needs to thrive long-term.” He says the name change will be a cornerstone of a wider programme of work to build the University’s international reputation. “Our financial sustainability and long-term viability — let alone our ambition to be one of the great global-civic universities
— cannot be assured on domestic tuition fees and Government funding alone. We must build an even greater global reputation. One that strengthens our international competitiveness and that thereby reduces the likelihood that the current financial pressures and disruptions affecting the tertiary sector will set us on a path to mediocrity. To strengthen our global reputation, we must have a distinctive name that stands on its own in the more than 100 countries from which we recruit our staff and students, and in which our graduates work.”

Report from RNZ
The Victoria University council has this afternoon voted to change its name to University of Wellington – dropping the reference to the former monarch. The council voted 9-2 in favour of the change.

Victoria University vice-chancellor Grant Guilford recommended the name change to the university’s council. He said it would align better with Wellington city, as the connection between the two was lost, and university would have a decent good global brand.

Mr Guilford declared a conflict of interest today and did not place a vote.

More than 2000 submissions were received, with 75 percent opposing the change.

Alumni and students were strongly against, staff gave mixed feedback and the university stockholders – which includes regional mayors – were predominantly in favour.

There are 15 tertiary providers around the world with Victoria in their name and the name change is an attempt to distinguish the university from them.

In July the council agreed in principle to remove Victoria from its name, also adopting a new Māori name of Te Herenga Waka.

The name change still requires approval from the Minister of Education.

News from VUW – September 20
A draft decision has been made by the Victoria University of Wellington Council to change the University’s legal name to ‘University of Wellington’.

The Agenda for the September meeting of the Council is now available. The papers include information and recommendations on the proposal that the Council approve making a recommendation to the Minister of Education to change the University’s name to University of Wellington and adopt a new Māori name of Te Herenga Waka.

This matter will be discussed in the public part of the Council meeting on Monday, starting at 12.30 pm in the Council Chamber, Level Two of the Hunter Building.

A summary of the opportunity created by the move to University of Wellington.

In New Zealand, the change to University of Wellington:

Emphasises ‘Wellington’ – the name we share with our city and region
Creates an enduring sense of partnership and engagement with Wellington (we are a global-civic university)
Enhances our role as New Zealand’s globally ranked capital city university (our point of difference)
Allows the achievements of the University to build the reputation of the city and vice versa
Contributes to a vibrant and successful Wellington that offers an outstanding enhanced student experience—this is critical to the University’s future.

Internationally, the change to University of Wellington:

Gives us an authentic and distinctive name that needs no further explanation in the over 100 countries in which our students and graduates live and work
Helps us build our global reputation through having a distinctive name
Enhances our ability to forge high quality international partnerships, recruit world-leading staff, grow the number of international students, and more effectively compete for international research funding and philanthropy as a result of a stronger global reputation
Makes our brand stronger, enhancing our ability to compete against the international elite university brands (and their new models of delivery).


  1. Nicola Willis, 20. September 2018, 12:22

    This fight is far from over. The Minister of Education can not sign-off on this plan. With 75% of submissions opposed, the University has failed to show “demonstrable support” from staff, students and graduates. It must not go ahead. [via twitter]

  2. Michael Gibson, 20. September 2018, 12:33

    Last week I went to a very good talk on super-conductivity and the world-leading work being done in that arena by VUW. Emphasis was placed on the name “Viclink” as a brand which was recognised internationally. What do the VUW Council propose to do to keep this name with its well-recognised importance? Answer before Monday please!

  3. Ross McComish, 20. September 2018, 13:18

    Council’s discussion and vote on the Vice-Chancellor’s proposal will be in the public business part of Monday’s meeting – item 10 on the order paper. Professor Guilford, presumably acting on legal advice, will not be participating in the discussion. The Council meeting has prompted a Facebook event called ‘Show Them You Care’, co-hosted (at this stage) by VUW International Students, VUW Law Students’ Society, VUW Pasifika Law Students’ Society, Wellington Singaporean Students’ Association, Cr. Nicola Young, Stick With Vic, and the ever-popular Bad Memes for Suffering Victoria University Teens.

    We are encouraging as many people as possible to attend the meeting to show their opposition to the proposal. Whatever the outcome, let them not say that none of us cared enough to attend this one.

    You can find details of the event on the Facebook pages of all the co-hosts. Please feel free to share them with your friends.

  4. greenwelly, 20. September 2018, 13:31

    I simply cannot see how the Minister of Education can consider changing the name of an institution that exists because of parliamentary statute, the Victoria University of Wellington Act 1961 that clearly states,
    “(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.”
    I look forward to seeing the legal advice that says parliamentary legislation can be overwritten with the flick of a Minister’s Pen.

  5. Cecil Roads, 20. September 2018, 14:46

    Won’t Chris Hipkins have to ask NZ First leader Winston Peters for directions on this? His advice could be invaluable given Winston has a law degree and has worked at Russell McVeagh.

  6. James S, 20. September 2018, 15:27

    The Minister has the power under Section 162(5)of the Education Act 1989:

    The Minister may, on the recommendation of the council of the institution concerned, change the name of an institution by notice published in the Gazette.

  7. greenwelly, 20. September 2018, 16:06

    @james, Yes, but whether it’s constitutional is debatable see Rennie QC’s comment here:

    “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.”

  8. TrevorH, 20. September 2018, 17:47

    @ greenwelly, good point, I have also been wondering how a Minister can change an Act without Parliament’s agreement. Perhaps a learned colleague out there can elucidate?

  9. Pauline, 22. September 2018, 23:13

    How many times do Wellingtonians have to say leave it alone…the majority have said it is Victoria University.

  10. Andy Foster, 23. September 2018, 8:25

    University management’s approach to consultation has been poor. While additional time was given which is good, it is really hard to see any degree of open mindedness by management. At least the VC has recognised he is an advocate for name change and shouldn’t be part of the decision. What is also not good in the process is that the decision makers – the University Council – do not engage with people making submissions. People often criticize the City Council’s consultation processes but at least we take great effort to allow submitters to speak directly to us as decision makers, and to be able to read submissions without having a management filter in between. We also often change proposals as a result.

    In terms of the substance of the proposal. If you have read all the papers from the VC and now the paper to the University Council, those about name change increasing international recognition of the University are fragile, and in many cases clearly wrong. The thing that really angers me though is the one about ’emphasising Wellington’ and ‘creating an enduring sense of partnership and engagement with Wellington (we are a global-civic university)’ etc.

    Firstly it’s pretty clear the vast majority of us submitters do not support name change. How does ignoring that feeling bring the University closer to us ?

    Then VUW management could not have been less civic minded if they tried during their process to sell the Karori Teachers College site last year. They repeatedly rebuffed City Council requests to master plan the site together with the Ministry of Education. From what I understand, they hampered Heritage New Zealand’s listing process. They also told everyone that it wasn’t about money because they had invested significantly in the site. Anybody who’s known the site for years knew that wasn’t true. Their response to my OIA request proved that. The University made a windfall profit with total sale proceeds of approximately $33,000,000. They ‘bought’ it for just $10, and during the University’s time of occupation (2005-17) spent $11,559,000 on the property, of which $4,812,000 was for ‘utilities’ and $4,669,000 for maintenance and refurbishment (ie running costs), leaving just $2,119,000 for ‘capital expenditure’, much of which was creating a bigger carpark, and maybe some prefabs for the purposes of running an educational facility. During those 12 years they also received operational funding from the Government (us as taxpayers) and students – which would have in part gone towards the costs of running the buildings.

  11. Citizen Joe, 23. September 2018, 9:59

    I wonder who helped Vic Uni buy Gordon Wilson flats and sanction demolition so they could land bank the site for 10 years and make a tidy profit. Oh I know, the Wellington City Council!

  12. Andy Foster, 23. September 2018, 12:46

    Citizen Joe – it never ceases to amaze me how people can take one issue and make it into another !

    No – and a totally different issue. VUW bought GW building from Housing NZ. You may recall HNZ was upgrading the building – spent a good $1 million on it, and then bits of concrete started falling off, as ‘concrete cancer’ emerged. HNZ promptly evacuated tenants and subsequently sold the building to VUW. Unlike the Karori Campus (several major differences) the GW flats were paid for by VUW with real money, the GW building was in very poor shape, and VUW bought it with at least the strategic intention to do something with the site at some stage. None of those applied for the Karori campus.

  13. Michael Gibson, 23. September 2018, 13:30

    Might I say, as a constituent, that Andy Foster’s two contributions above are very interesting and worthwhile?
    Am also pleased to see that Nicola Willis will be joining Grant Robertson (hopefully) to work on the Minister of Education if the worst comes to the worst.

  14. Citizen Joe, 23. September 2018, 15:27

    VUW bought Gordon Wilson Flats, which was a heritage building building, with the intention of demolishing and the Wellington City Council took VUW’s side as I recall. Only the Architecture Centre saved the building from becoming just another corporate land banking site by appealing the change in the listing. Which thankfully they won. Echoes of Erskine College?

  15. Gwynn Compton, 24. September 2018, 13:47

    I’m at home sick today. But watching for news of what @VicUniWgtn’s council decides with regards to #StickWithVic. Hopeful that reason prevails and the name change is stopped and the uni gets back to focusing on the things that actually drive student numbers – teaching + research. [via twitter]

  16. Dave Armstrong, 24. September 2018, 16:34

    Chris Hipkins, here is your chance to be Wellington’s most popular politician (unless Twyford gazzumps you and fires the GWRC over the buses). #stickwithvic

  17. Reed Fleming, 24. September 2018, 16:36


  18. Andrew, 24. September 2018, 17:05

    So the VC gets his John Key moment… And I’m not referring to the three way handshake.

  19. Eric Blair, 24. September 2018, 17:30

    The expungement of Victorian enlightenment continues.

  20. Gwynn, 24. September 2018, 19:02

    Despite the university already presumptively running social media ads triumphing the decision, this isn’t a done deal by any stretch. The decision still needs the approval of Education Minister Chris Hipkins, and I’ll be sharing with the Minister the updated list of petitioners opposing the name change. Nearly 7,000 people are telling the university to stick with Vic!

  21. Nicola Willis, 25. September 2018, 9:07

    Hold up! This change isn’t final until the Minister of Ed signs it off. The criteria for such a sign-off include “demonstrable support” from the university community – students, staff and graduates. That is missing. I’ll be urging the Minister to reject the change. [via twitter]

  22. Andy Mellon, 25. September 2018, 9:45

    What’s the National Party policy on letting Universities make their own decisions, Nicola? Particularly given that the current Councils are generally made up of members appointed during the National Party’s term in office? I believe it was the previous National government that mandated a reduction in University council size from 20 to 12, four to be appointed by the then Minister. As such, doesn’t your party have to take some responsibility for the current position? Would a National Minister reject the proposal, I wonder?

  23. Concerned Wellingtonian, 25. September 2018, 10:30

    The answer to Andy is surely YES. The Minister has to be satisfied that the change has overwhelming support and Grant Robertson and Nicola Willis will be top of the list of people giving their views on this.

  24. Tony Jansen, 25. September 2018, 10:47

    A failure of leadership. Seems to be a recurring (systemic?) problem with senior management in New Zealand. The VC and his cronies are no different. We have seen this in the GWRC, the WCC, the Public Service and so on. Just how does one remove the deadwood that is holding back our economic as well as our social development as a nation?