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University of Otago announces new Chancellor

Tuesday 14 November 2017 3:45pm

The University of Otago has announced its new Chancellor. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

The University of Otago has announced a new Chancellor. Dr Royden Somerville QC will succeed long-serving Chancellor John Ward in January.

Dunedin-based Dr Somerville is currently the Pro-Chancellor of the University of Otago. He joined the University Council in 2010 and became a ministerial appointee in 2012. He is the Chair of the University’s Health & Safety and Ethics Compliance Committee, the Convener of its Appeals Board, and a member of the University’s Capital Development Committee, Audit & Risk Committee, Finance and Budget Committee, and the Honorary Degrees Committee. He is a Trustee of the University of Otago Foundation Trust.

Dr Somerville is a Queen’s Counsel based in Dunedin specialising in public and environmental law.

Dr Royden Somerville QC will be the next University of Otago Chancellor.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne says she is delighted that Dr Somerville has been selected by the University Council for the role.

“The University is extremely fortunate to have someone of the calibre of Dr Somerville in the role of Chancellor. He has a distinguished professional career and a long association with the University of Otago and is dedicated to its success,” she says.

Dr Somerville’s association with the University began as a law student, and later he became a lecturer in environmental law. His wife and children all attended the University of Otago. Dr Somerville also served for a number of years on the Council of Knox College and Salmond College and is a Fellow of Knox College.

He says he is very honoured to become Chancellor of the University of Otago, New Zealand’s first university, which in 2019 is celebrating its establishment 150 years ago.

“I am very aware of the University’s importance, not only for Dunedin and the other centres where it is located, but also for the country and internationally,” he says.

“I consider it a great privilege to continue to serve as the University’s 19th Chancellor. I am looking forward to working with the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne, the newly elected Pro-Chancellor for 2018, Mr Stephen Higgs, and the members of the Council.”

Mr Stephen Higgs has been appointed as Pro-Chancellor for 2018. He was appointed by the Minister of Education to the University Council in 2012.

Mr Higgs is a consultant with Polson Higgs, a firm of business advisers and chartered accountants based in Dunedin.

He is a board member for a range of companies and other organisations. He is a director of Otago Innovation Limited, a member of a number of University committees and a Trustee of the University of Otago Foundation Trust.

Dr Somerville also acknowledges Mr John Ward’s “significant and sterling service” to the University since 2003, as a member of the University Council, as Pro-Chancellor from 2007-2008, and from 2009 as Chancellor.

“The University had greatly benefited from Mr Ward’s expertise in accounting, business and banking. He has been a fine ambassador for this University.”

The Chancellor's most public role is to chair the University Council, and also to confer degrees and diplomas at University graduation ceremonies. The role also involves ceremonial and ambassadorial roles, ensuring the University's high standing is maintained with alumni and the wider community, both in New Zealand and overseas.

Mr Ward will retire from the University Council on 31 December 2017 after 15 years of distinguished service.


Jo Galer
Team leader Media Engagement
University of Otago
Tel: +64 3 479 8263

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