NZ: education minister rejects VUW name change

Published 23/12/2018

New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington has been left to consider its options after the government rejected a bid to change its name to the University of Wellington and avoid confusion with similarly named universities.

“[The minister is] not an expert in what’s in the best interest of the university”

The decision, made by education minister Chris Hipkins, is the latest development in the proposed change, which has already seen a contentious public consultation period.

“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,” Hipkins said.

“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.”

Among some of the criticisms, VUW staff, students and alumni accused the university’s council of submitting the name change proposal without proper public consultation, prompting the grassroots #StickwithVic campaign.

Others argued the change was prompted only to improve online search results by international students.

In a statement after the announcement, VUW said it would consider its options before commenting, but in a later interview with radio station Newstalk ZB, vice-chancellor Grant Guilford called it an “unusual decision” and provided possible ways forward for the university.

“We’ve got a number of options. One is to accept the minister’s and just leave it there; we could do that, but of course he’s not an expert in what’s in the best interest of the university,” he said.

“That’s the council’s job, and they’ve made their decision.”

Guilford added the university could also proceed with legal action or chose to trade under a different name from their legal one, citing Stanford University, whose legal name is Leland Stanford Junior University.

There are currently seven tertiary providers worldwide that use “Victoria” as part of its name, including institutions in Australia, Canada, India and Bangladesh.

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