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Education Minister declines Victoria University name change

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has declined Victoria University of Wellington Council’s application for a legal name change.

Mr Hipkins didn’t think the university had sufficiently canvassed the opinions of stakeholders.

The Council formally made an application to change the institution’s name to the University of Wellington on 27 September.

While benefits from a name change had been identified, the minister said: “I am not convinced that the University engaged sufficiently with the views of those stakeholders who should have their views considered. Given the level of opposition to the University’s recommendation, including by its own staff, students and alumni, I am not persuaded that the recommendation is consistent with the demands of accountability and the national interest.”

He said staff were split on the change and there was significant opposition from alumni and students during the council consultation.

Hundreds more were in touch with him following that process, Mr Hipkins said.

“I also received more than 450 pieces of correspondence on the name change question from students, alumni and others mostly opposed to the name change.”

There was also a change.org petition with more than 10,000 signatories listed as opposing the name change.

Mr Hipkins made his decision after considering recommendations from the university and advice from officials.

“While Victoria University of Wellington, like other universities, has significant autonomy in making academic, operational and management decisions, it is accountable to its community and the groups that make up the University.”

He did note that his decision did not affect any change to Victoria University of Wellington’s Māori name, as his approval was only required for the university to change its legal name, which was in English.

Victoria University is not ruling out legal action after the bid to change its name was shot down.

The university’s vice chancellor Grant Guilford said the university council now had three options to consider.

He said accepting the minister’s decision was one.

“Noting that he’s not an expert in what’s the best interests of our university, deciding whether to legally challenge based on whether he’s acted illegally or unreasonably or we’ve got undue concern at precedent for this university and others, or we’ll look at altering the name own branding of the university to ensure we can get that distinctiveness that we need offshore.”

The council will make a decision at its next meeting in February, he said.

RNZ