Wellington nix the Vic for better identity

You might enrol at Victoria next year, but following a planned name change you are likely to end up graduating from Wellington.

In September the university’s governing council voted to change the name of the institution from Victoria University of Wellington (‘Vic’ to many) to University of Wellington.

The university council also agreed to a new Māori name for the University, Te Herenga Waka (the mooring place of canoes). This is also the name of the university’s marae, the first established at an NZ university.

Why the change of name?

There are a number of reasons offered. Firstly there’s the confusion factor. There are 6 other Victoria Universities around the world, and at least 6 other colleges with Victoria in their name.

The university believes that this confusion means they may not be getting the credit in the academic world it deserves for its research or its teaching. In turn, this can have an effect on the income from research and colabs the university is capable of generating.

Aligning the university directly with the capital city is the other major reason offered for the change. Vice Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford outlines: “Great cities have great universities that share their name and this common bond allows the achievements of one to build the reputation of the other.”

Stick with Vic became the catchcry

Not surprisingly the proposed name change has upset some, mainly current or former staff and some alumni. ‘Stick with Vic’ became the social crusade to resist the change. However, it’s not as if their degrees suddenly become invalid, and many objections focussed on the historical importance of the name.

The cost is another issue for objectors. Estimates are that the name change will cost around $1 million through the next 12 months as the new identity is applied everywhere from on campus signage to their huge web presence.

Victoria in the name refers to Queen Victoria who ruled England from 1837 till her death in 1901. This was a time of significant industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and saw a great expansion of the British Empire. The colonies (which we were definitely one) honoured her by naming statues, cities, lakes, waterfalls and provinces for her. And in Wellington’s case, a university.

Been there before with name changes

It’s not the first name change for University of Wellington. In 1899 the place opened in Kelburn as Victoria College, becoming Victoria University of Wellington six decades later in 1962. Six more decades on and we see the latest change, but for a long time to come the University of Wellington will still be referred to and acknowledged as it has been from the start. It’s Vic.

The University of Wellington ranks within the top 2 percent of the world’s 16,000 universities and is in the top 100 universities in the world for 10 subjects. These are Law, Social Policy and Administration, English Language and Literature, History, Linguistics, Accounting and Finance, Development Studies, Education, Geography and Psychology.