News: The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Duke

Victoria University of Wellington will likely now be known as the University of Wellington. In a meeting on Monday this week, the University Council voted 9-2 in favour of the name change. The Council agreed in principle to the change back in July, as well as to adopt the new Māori name Te Herenga Waka (previously Te Whare Wānanga o Te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Māui). Now all that remains is for the Minister of Education to approve the proposal. The change is ostensibly for the sake of branding – to better align the University’s name with its actual location, and distinguish it from other universities with “Victoria” in their name.

The University received more than two thousand submissions on the matter, of which seventy five per cent were in opposition. Students and alumni were strongly against the proposal, whilst staff opinions were mixed. Stockholders (including regional mayors) were mostly supportive however. At the time of writing, a petition on Change.org had collected nearly seven thousand signatures opposing the decision. Many students and alumni have also commented online, notably Hugh Rennie QC who alleged there was a lack of transparency during the consultation process. Rennie offered evidence contradicting the usefulness of the name change.

The New Zealand Taxpayer’s Union has estimated the cost of the change at  $962,000. While the full fallout from the decision remains to be seen, it is likely that this will provoke further discussion about the increasing corporatisation of the tertiary sector. New Zealand universities already face issues such as affordability of tuition, lack of job security for academics, and cuts to funding and programs. The University’s expenditure of resources for the sake of such an exercise has hit a raw nerve among many.