Wellington Scoop

VUW considering judicial review of vetoed plan for name change

Report from RNZ
Victoria University of Wellington isn’t ruling out the option of a judicial review after it received independent legal advice about its vetoed plan to change its name.

The university’s council received two legal opinions on the Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decision to veto the council’s wish to change its name to the University of Wellington. The university has since considered a judicial review and is concerned that the decision sets an unpalatable precedent.

At this morning’s meeting the substance of the newly-received legal advice was discussed behind closed doors, but in public vice-chancellor Grant Guildford said Mr Hipkins may have “misdirected himself”.

“The opinions said that in assessing the recommendations the minister is entitled to say no but he must do so in a way that both reflects his role and accords with the law, and unfortunately in the view of both opinions he may have misdirected himself under the law.”

He said that left the university in a challenging position.

Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith said he had spoken with other universities about the minister’s decision and they were also concerned. “They have confirmed their willingness to join us if a meeting with the Minister was able to be established. Their concerns are around autonomy, which of course is dear to the heart of universities.”

Mr Paviour-Smith said he had requested a meeting with Mr Hipkins multiple times but had yet to receive a response.

Other council members voiced their concerns about the publicity the name-change issue was generating.

Traci Houpapa said she was disappointed to see comments from Mr Guildford in the media criticising the decision and said they had potentially put the council “on a collision course with the minister”.

“I don’t think by taking the rest of the universities with us or seeking support from external stakeholders that that is the smartest strategic move here.”

“I think that rebuilding, or attempting to regain trust and confidence with our university community would have been the smart first step. Not going to media.”

“I think we have under-delivered woefully.”

The name change was to distinguish the university from 15 other tertiary providers around the world with Victoria in their name.

RNZ has approached Mr Hipkins for comment and a response is expected this afternoon.


  1. Andy Foster, 25. March 2019, 16:10

    I sat in on the University Council meeting this morning, and it was good to hear the comments of University Councillors Traci Houpapa, Farib Sos and Kate Hunter, all stressing that the University would be better to ditch the name change proposal, and seek to rebuild relationships and partnerships, particularly with students and alumni, and with the Minister of Education. Doing that would improve the University’s reputation. I hope that the University Council, and Vice Chancellor will heed that wise advice.

  2. Michael Gibson, 25. March 2019, 18:20

    I look forward to Wednesday’s WCC Meeting and Andy’s Notice of Motion on the subject.
    Am pleased the Mayor is supportive of Andy’s approach especially because of my dismay at his stance when the name-change scheme was first adopted.