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May 14, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Potential New Name for VUW

Grant Guilford, Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington, spoke with students and staff in The Hub on Monday 7 May to discuss the potential renaming of the University.

Guilford said that confusion with other universities was the primary reason for the proposed name change. As one of a number of Victoria Universities around the world, Guilford said VUW experiences a “very frequent lack of name recognition”.

Despite a strong domestic reputation, Guilford claimed that the University’s name is to blame for its “less than satisfactory international prominence”. The most likely suggestion at this stage according to Guilford is The University of Wellington, however he is open to incorporating a Māori element, stating that it is “important to find ways to honour our heritage if we do make a change”. Toihuarewa, Victoria’s forum for Māori academic interests, has proposed Te Herenga Waka, also the name of Victoria’s marae.

The VUWSA executive were consulted a week before the announcement, and President Marlon Drake is excited about the opportunity for VUWSA’s own name change. “It made me realise that we can definitely be a bit more creative about how we do things, and jumping straight to UWSA might not be that option.” Ngāi Tauira, VUW’s Māori Students’ Association, were disappointed to have not been consulted alongside VUWSA, however they are in support the proposed Māori name, Te Herenga Waka. As the name of the University’s marae, Ngāi Tauira co-President Nikayla Jonas felt that the name was already relevant to the campus, and much shorter and more likely to be used than Te Whare Wānanga o Te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Māui, Victoria’s current Māori name.

Green MP and former Victoria student Gareth Hughes also supports the use of te reo, but is concerned about the about the status of older degrees. “Graduates will be asking if their qualifications will still be respected, when prospective employers find out Victoria University [of ] Wellington no longer exists.”

While Guilford said that staff are “strongly supportive of the change,” student opinion on the issue is divided. One student told Salient that the proposed change is “part of a worrying trend of NZ universities prioritising profit above all else,” with another saying that they supported a name change but were sceptical of the University’s motives: “they are obviously doing it this [sic] as a cynical marketing move to attract international students.”

Some students felt that any association with Queen Victoria was outdated, with one saying that “the commemoration of Queen Victoria in the name signals our colonial history without criticism. If that was what the name change was about I could get behind it — would be cool and bold if the Māori name was not only changed to Te Herenga Waka, but became the primary name of the uni [sic]”. Another student felt that “the university’s name has acquired its own mana across the years – personally, I don’t think of a long-dead German when I hear Vic Uni”.

VUW alumni have already been consulted on the name change, with more student consultations to follow online and through VUWSA. Guilford’s recommendation to the University Council could be made within a month or two, with the “outside spectrum” for his recommendation being by the end of the year. If you have thoughts or feedback about the proposed name change, you can email students@vuw.ac.nz. Submissions will be accepted until the end of the day on Friday 8 June.

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