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The Hon Grant Robertson.

The University of Otago is pleased to announce the appointment of former Deputy Prime Minister The Hon Grant Robertson to the role of Vice-Chancellor, effective from 1 July 2024.

“We are delighted to welcome a candidate of Grant’s calibre to this key leadership role, and look forward to working closely with him as we deliver on our strategy,” University of Otago Chancellor Stephen Higgs says.

“Our strategy, Pae Tata, outlines our vision for how the University needs to evolve to meet the expectation of our students, staff, mana whenua, alumni, and other key stakeholders, as a contemporary and financially sustainable institution. We also need to continue as a
University delivering high-quality teaching and research, and creating positive impact for society. Strong leadership will be crucial to achieving these goals,” Mr Higgs says.

“Grant’s extensive senior leadership experience at the highest levels of government, understanding of the machinery of government, deep capability and experience in financial management, strategic thinking and ability to navigate complex issues during challenging
times made him a standout candidate,” he says.

“We believe his proven track record in building effective partnerships, as evidenced by the constructive relationships he has developed across the house during his time in Parliament and more broadly on an international level, will also serve the University well.”

The Council unanimously supported Mr Robertson’s appointment and acknowledged he will be the first non-academic candidate to be appointed to the role, which was a decision the Council considered carefully during a robust and extensive recruitment process.

Mr Robertson has had a long association with the University of Otago, first as a student during a time of strong student voice, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in 1995. He was the President of the Otago University Students’ Association and Co-President of the New Zealand University Students’ Association during this time. He maintained his connection to the institution during his career, including holding a business development role with the University of Otago, which involved working with researchers, investors and businesses to develop and commercialise the University’s world-leading research.

Mr Robertson says he has a deep and strong affinity for the University of Otago, and the Otago region.

”In considering the difficult decision to step away from serving as a Member of Parliament, which has been an immense privilege, I knew that I wanted to seek a role that would enable me to make a meaningful contribution with my skills in the region I love,” Mr Robertson says.

“It was my time at the University of Otago that taught me what a difference education can make to people achieving their potential in life. I am looking forward to supporting the extraordinary people who make up the University to achieve their best and to working closely with the Council to deliver on the University’s strategic plan.

“That plan has a clear vision and focus to provide a compelling educational experience that delivers excellent student outcomes along with focused, high quality, impactful research and innovation. The plan honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and a focus on becoming a more global and connected university, for the benefit of staff, students and the wider community.”

Otago University Students’ Association President Keegan Wells says: “Through his own experience as President of the Otago University Students’ Association, Grant has a deep affinity for the needs of students and we look forward to working with him as the University delivers on Pae Tata.”

Mr Higgs acknowledged the contribution of Professor Helen Nicholson who has been in the role of Acting Vice-Chancellor in recent months.

“The Council wishes to thank Professor Nicholson who has led the University exceptionally well during her time as Acting Vice-Chancellor. It has been a challenging period for all Universities in New Zealand, and more broadly around the world, and Professor Nicholson has been a strong leader for us during this time.”

Mr Higgs also thanked the members of the University’s Staff Advisory Group who provided valuable input and feedback during the recruitment process. The Staff Advisory Group fully supports the appointment of Mr Robertson.

The University of Otago undertook an extensive global search for this role, supported by an independent specialist recruitment firm.

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