Wellington Scoop

“Significant opposition:” Minister rejects VUW’s name change

News from NZ Government
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has declined Victoria University of Wellington Council’s application for a legal name change.

The Council formally made an application to change the institution’s name to the University of Wellington on 27 September 2018.

“I have considered the University’s recommendation and supporting information along with advice received from officials,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Council identified benefits that it considered would follow a name change and its consultation process which, although the subject of some criticism, brought out a wide range of views.

“The Council’s consultation showed that staff were divided on the name change, and there was significant opposition from alumni and students who responded. This opposition is also reflected in surveys conducted by the Victoria University of Wellington Students’ Association and the VUW Law Students’ Society, and to a lesser extent one from the Tertiary Education Union.

“I also received more than 450 pieces of correspondence on the name change question from students, alumni and others mostly opposed to the name change. Many of these referred to a change.org petition with more than 10,000 signatories listed as opposing the name change.

“While Victoria University of Wellington, like other universities, has significant autonomy in making academic, operational and management decisions, it is accountable to its community and the groups that make up the University.

“I am not convinced that the University engaged sufficiently with the views of those stakeholders who should have their views considered. Given the level of opposition to the University’s recommendation, including by its own staff, students and alumni, I am not persuaded that the recommendation is consistent with the demands of accountability and the national interest.

“In the interests of transparency, I am releasing the advice I have received to inform my decision on the application for a name change,” Chris Hipkins said.


  1. greenwelly, 18. December 2018, 17:23

    Will the University seek a judicial review? or will they decide that discretion is the better park of Valour…

  2. Rick Zwaan, 18. December 2018, 17:34

    Great decision by VicUniWgtn alum and former VUWSA President Chris Hipkins [via twitter]

  3. aom, 18. December 2018, 17:48

    greenwelly – the grounds for Judicial Review of a ministerial:
    “The most likely grounds for review of a ministerial decision are that, in making the decision in question, the Minister:
    acted outside the scope of the power or discretion; misinterpreted the applicable law; did not make up his or her own mind on the matter that he or she was called on by law to determine (acted “under dictation”); took into account irrelevant considerations; failed to take account of relevant considerations; or
    did not act “fairly” in that he or she failed to hear from or consult with persons or groups who would be affected by, or otherwise had an interest in, the particular decision.”

    Consequently, it is doubtful that the Vice Chancellor or the Board could proceed. That said, there is a figure of over $1m floating around for the costs of the name change so far, so what is another couple of hundred thousand for a tilt at self-justification of the name change?

  4. Gwynn Compton, 18. December 2018, 18:13

    I’ve emailed Chris Hipkins to express thanks on behalf of the more than 10,000 people who signed the petition. There’s a real sense of relief and appreciation that they’ve finally been listened to. [via twitter]

  5. Andy Foster, 18. December 2018, 18:17

    Fantastic decision by Chris Hipkins. Thank you. Over 13,000 people made submissions or signed a petition – and over 94% of us opposed the proposed name change. Pretty hard then to show that there was ‘demonstrable support’ for the proposal !
    On top of that was the recent Ross McComish petition of 2302 signatures, supported by Sir Kenneth Keith and Sir Geoffrey Palmer pointing out that it is questionable that the Education Minister could actually approve name change under the Education Act 1989, as it would still leave unchanged the Victoria University of Wellington Act of 1961.
    I also recently sent Chris a long letter setting out why I personally opposed name change (based on an earlier one to the University Council) – and attached a Notice of Motion to the Wellington City Council opposing a name change with 9 councillors’ signatures on it. The reason for that is that the University had implied that the Council supported name change. We didn’t. Thanks again to Chris Hipkins.

  6. Hugh Rennie, 18. December 2018, 18:26

    A great outcome, at the cost of a great deal of work by a great many people – literally round the world. I do hope that the decision secures the history and the future of the university and that we can now move on to unite its members in achieving even more for this world-recognised university. That is where the Council should now focus.

  7. Trevor H, 18. December 2018, 18:34

    Excellent news. Congratulations to all those who did the heavy lifting and to the Minister. The VC should consider resigning

  8. Felix Geiringer, 18. December 2018, 19:01

    I think chris hipkins made the right call here. This is a decision that favours people and proper process over purported (probably pretend) profits. [via twitter]

  9. Neil Douglas, 18. December 2018, 21:04

    Well I’m glad King Edward VII had the where-with-all to change my University’s name from the Federal Victoria University in 1903 otherwise my doctorate at Leeds University might have been tainted with the red rose universities of Liverpool and Manchester.

  10. Tony Jansen, 19. December 2018, 10:47

    We should be calling for Guilford’s resignation as well as a restructure of the VUW Council.

  11. Marion Leader, 19. December 2018, 15:22

    Minister Hipkins has just told Parliament that he expects that his name-change decision will be reopened next year. Does anyone know why?