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For the first time in 154 years, the University of Otago will substantially change its brand.

With the strong support of its community, following the largest stakeholder consultation the University has ever undertaken, the University Council today announced changes to take effect from May 2024.

The name, The University of Otago, will remain the same.

Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka – University of Otago new brand image

A new te reo Māori name and tohu (symbol), created in collaboration with mana whenua, will be introduced to create a new brand.

Chancellor Stephen Higgs says the University undertook an extensive consultation process with its community – students, staff, alumni, prospective students, parents, international partners and rankings agencies.

“We have listened to the submissions from that consultation – there is strong support for this change.

“We are continuing Otago's proud history, as New Zealand's first university, of continuing to dare to lead the way.

“We are particularly privileged to have created this new brand in collaboration with mana whenua and the Council would like to thank Te Rūnanga o Ōtākou and Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki.”

Almost three quarters of those surveyed by the University supported the proposed brand as reflecting the University's future direction. More than two-thirds supported both the English and te reo Māori version initially proposed.

“We have also made changes as a result of hearing from our community,” Mr Higgs adds.

“Our heritage and our future are both key elements to our future success. Therefore, our present Coat of Arms and a newly-created stylised version of our Coat of Arms will continue to be used in a wide variety of situations.”

The new brand won't be used until May next year as the Council balances the desire for change with the current financial situation of the University. It is planned to roll out the changes over 12 months and across two financial years at a cost of $1.3 million.

Mr Higgs says cost was one of the subjects of a robust, healthy debate by the Council over several meetings before the decision was made.

“We are confident that, despite alternative views, some strongly held, this decision is in the best interests of the University. The results of the consultation were, of course, a key factor in our decision.

“We believe the new brand reflects the shared view of Council, and the vast majority of our community, of the importance of our relationship with mana whenua and our goal to be Te Tiriti-led. It reflects both the University today and our shared vision for the future, outlined in Vision 2040.

“It also represents the other elements of Vision 2040 and the priority domains in our strategic plan, Pae Tata, to remain leaders in tertiary teaching, in world-class research, in student experience, in international connectedness, and in celebrating the success of all our staff, all supported by a contemporary, efficient, and responsive University.”

The changes were outlined following a University Council meeting today:

  • While the name University of Otago will remain, the current te reo name will change from Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo, to Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka – a metaphor meaning A Place of Many Firsts
  • The new tohu draws inspiration from Ōtākou channel, in Otago Harbour, which brings water, kai and life to and from the region – just as the University brings and shares knowledge across Aotearoa New Zealand. It emphasises the importance of relationships, reciprocity and the transmission of knowledge between generations
  • The brand will be supported by a te reo Māori version used in spaces, communications or campaigns which directly celebrate or promote kaupapa Māori
  • The present Coat of Arms will continue to be used in a range of applications
  • In addition, a stylised version of our Coat of Arms has also been designed to be used in international marketing and alumni communications to reflect our history.

Mr Higgs is proud of how the University and wider community provided input and embraced the proposed changes after they were announced in March, and thanks everyone who took the time to provide their open and honest feedback.

More than 9,000 staff, students, and alumni undertook a survey on the proposed changes. A full report on the consultation is being released to the community today.

For more information please contact:

Matiu Workman
Senior Strategic Adviser Māori (External Engagement)
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 288 7447

Ellie Rowley
Communications Adviser
University of Otago
Mob +64 21 278 8200

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