The university has agreed in principle request education minister Chris Hipkins allow it to simplify its name to “University of Wellington”, as well as adopt a new Māori name, Te Herenga Waka; a decision driven primarily by concerns that prospective students and research collaborators were confusing it for different, non-affiliated universities.
In its rationale paper, the university identified seven other tertiary education providers with similar names, including Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia, the University of Victoria in Victoria, Canada, and Victoria University of Bangladesh in Dhaka.
“Council members are agreed that the proposed change is an important action looking to the University’s future,” VUW’s chancellor Neil Paviour-Smith said.
“It will allow the university to better align with the city of Wellington, support our commitment to being a global-civic university and, over time, help improve our international reputation through better clarity and recognition of the university’s name.”
Currently under consultation until mid-August, the decision has not come without controversy, with several members of the VUW community expressing concern, prompting a grassroots online campaign #StickwithVic and a change.org petition against the proposal which has so far attracted over 4,800 signatures.
Among the criticisms, some have argued the change is driven only by a desire to attract more international students through online searches.
According to documents obtained by Stuff.co.nz under the Official Information Act, if implemented, the change could also cost the university NZ$1m over the next few years, which students have said could be better spent on services.
“Students at Victoria University currently wait on average for four weeks to see a counsellor, meanwhile the Vice Chancellor wants to spend $960,000 on taking a word out of the university’s name,” VUW alumnus Reed Fleming wrote on Twitter.
Some faculty staff have also expressed dismay at the initial meeting not being open to public consultation, while others from Massey University, also located in Wellington, have noted the change could impact their ability to recruit students.
Named after Queen Victoria, VUW plans to acknowledge its heritage and maintain the name ‘Victoria’ in a meaningful way, but how that would occur is not specified in its proposal.