Victoria University of Wellington has caused controversy with its proposal to change its name to the University of Wellington. The University Council has made the draft decision to recommend the ‘simplification’ of the University’s name, as well as adopt the new Maori name Te Herenga Waka.
The University Council made the decision to adopt the name in order to distinguish it from other schools in hopes it will improve the international standing of the University. The Wellington Victoria is one of 10 schools internationally to bear the name ‘Victoria’, and one of six ‘Victoria’ Universities, including most notably the Universities in the Australian state of Victoria and the Canadian city of Victoria. Vice-Chancellor Grant Guilford says that confusion with other Universities that have poorer academic performances have “sullied” VUW’s reputation. However, critics have called the name change “superficial” and “an expensive exercise in branding”.
The decision to move forward with the renaming proposal has received a public backlash from alumni, students, and the general community. Two Victoria University alumni penned their opposition, with Hugh Rennie’s two-part piece published on Scoop.co.nz and Dave Armstrong’s opinion piece published in the Dominion Post and Stuff website. A petition was started on the website Change.org by Gwynn Compton urging the University to keep the name, amassing almost 2000 signatures at time of writing. However, the most prominent online campaign has been the “Stick with Vic” Facebook page. With over 1000 likes at time of writing, posts made to the page express concerns from the time frame allowed for the public consultation process (two weeks compared to VUW’s 18 months of preparation) to the proposed budget for the name change (a cool $964k). National Party’s representative for Wellington Central electorate Nicola Willis has been tagged in posts and comments on the page in hopes to draw her attention to their issues with the process. The page has also encouraged making submissions to Chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith and sending copies to Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson and Education Minister Chris Hipkins, who must ultimately approve the change.
Although there is now an outpour of support for VUW’s name, a report from Stuff in early July noted that when Victoria University first began to take submissions before the draft proposal, only six people attended a public meeting held in Wellington, while only two of 220 stakeholders invited attended a meeting. A further 400 submissions were made via email at the time. The final decision on the name change is expected to be announced on August 27th.