University of Canterbury

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This article is about the New Zealand university. For the University of Kent, see University of Kent. For Canterbury Christ Church University, see Canterbury Christ Church University. For Canterbury University in Seychelles, see Canterbury University (Seychelles).
University of Canterbury
Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
University of Canterbury Coat of Arms.png
Coat of Arms of the University of Canterbury
Former names
Canterbury College
Type Public
Established 1873 (1873)
Chancellor John Wood
Vice-Chancellor Rod Carr
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 14,872[1]
Undergraduates 10,119[1]
Postgraduates 2,061[1]
Location Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
43°31′24″S 172°34′55″E / 43.523333°S 172.581944°E / -43.523333; 172.581944Coordinates: 43°31′24″S 172°34′55″E / 43.523333°S 172.581944°E / -43.523333; 172.581944
Campus Urban
University of Canterbury logo

The University of Canterbury (Māori: Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha; postnominal abbreviation Cantuar. or Cant. for Cantuariensis, the Latin name for Canterbury) in Christchurch is New Zealand's second oldest university. It was founded in 1873 as Canterbury College, the first constituent college of the University of New Zealand. Its original campus was in the central city, but in 1961 when it became an independent university it also began moving out of its original neo-gothic buildings, which were re-purposed as the Christchurch Arts Centre. The university now operates its main campus in the suburb of Ilam and offers degrees in Arts, Commerce, Education (physical education), Engineering, Fine Arts, Forestry, Health Sciences, Law, Music, Social Work, Speech and Language Pathology, Science, Sports Coaching and Teaching.


Former University of Canterbury campus in the city centre, today the Christchurch Arts Centre

The University originated in 1873 in the centre of Christchurch as Canterbury College, the first constituent college of the University of New Zealand. It became the second institution in New Zealand providing tertiary-level education (following the University of Otago, established in 1869), and the fourth in Australasia.[citation needed] Its foundation professors arrived in 1874, namely, Charles Cook (Mathematics, University of Melbourne, St John's College, Cambridge), Alexander Bickerton (Chemistry and Physics, School of Mining, London), and John Macmillan Brown (University of Glasgow, Balliol College, Oxford).[2] In 1933, the name changed from Canterbury College to Canterbury University College. In 1957 the name changed again to the present University of Canterbury.[3]

Until 1961, the University formed part of the University of New Zealand (UNZ), and issued degrees in its name. That year saw the dissolution of the federal system of tertiary education in New Zealand, and the University of Canterbury became an independent University awarding its own degrees. Upon the UNZ's demise, Canterbury Agricultural College became a constituent college of the University of Canterbury, as Lincoln College.[4] Lincoln College became independent in 1990 as a full university in its own right.[5]

Over the period from 1961 to 1974, the university campus relocated from the centre of the city to its much larger current site in the suburb of Ilam. The neo-gothic buildings of the old campus became the site of the Christchurch Arts Centre, a hub for arts, crafts and entertainment in Christchurch.[citation needed]

In 2004, the University underwent restructuring into four Colleges and a School of Law, administering a number of schools and departments (though a number of departments have involvement in cross-teaching in numerous academic faculties). For many years the university worked closely with the Christchurch College of Education, leading to a full merger in 2007, establishing a fifth College.[citation needed]

In September 2011, plans were announced to demolish some University buildings that were damaged from an earthquake.[6] In the months following the earthquake, the University lost 25 per cent of its first-year students and 8 per cent of continuing students. The number of international students, who pay much higher fees and are a major source of revenue, dropped by 30 per cent.[7][8] By 2013, the University had lost 22 per cent of its students.[9] However, a record number of 886 PhD students are enrolled at the University of Canterbury as of 2013.[10]

Other New Zealand universities, apparently defying an informal agreement, launched billboard and print advertising campaigns in the earthquake-ravaged city to recruit University of Canterbury students who are finding it difficult to study there.[11] In October 2011, staff were encouraged to take voluntary redundancies.[12]


The university was first governed by a board of governors (1873–1933), then by a college council (1933–1957), and since 1957 by a university council.[13] The council is chaired by a chancellor.[14] The Council includes representatives from the faculties, students and general staff, as well as local industry, employer and trade union representatives.[15]

The original composition of the board of governors was defined in the Canterbury College Ordinance 1873,[16] which was passed by the Canterbury Provincial Council and named 23 members who might serve for life. Initially, the board was given power to fill their own vacancies, and this power transferred to graduates once their number exceeded 30.[17] At the time, there were discussions about the abolition of provincial government (which did happen in 1876), and the governance structure was set up to give board members "prestige, power and permanence", and "provincial authority and its membership and resources were safely perpetuated, beyond the reach of grasping hands in Wellington."[18]

Original members of the Board of Governors were:[19] Charles Bowen, Rev James Buller,[20][21][22] William Patten Cowlishaw,[23] John Davies Enys,[24] Charles Fraser, George Gould Sr,[25] Henry Barnes Gresson,[26] William Habens, John Hall, Henry Harper, John Inglis,[27] Walter Kennaway,[28] Arthur C. Knight,[29] Thomas William Maude,[30] William Montgomery, Thomas Potts, William Rolleston, John Studholme, Henry Tancred, James Somerville Turnbull,[31] Henry Richard Webb, Joshua Williams, and Rev William Wellington Willock.[32]

Professor Roy Sharp assumed the position of Vice-Chancellor on 1 March 2003.[33] In May 2008 he announced his imminent resignation from the position, following his acceptance of the chief executive position at the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC)[34][35] which he took up on 4 August 2008.[36] The then current Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Town, assumed the role of acting Vice-Chancellor on 1 July 2008. On 15 October 2008 the University announced that Dr Rod Carr, a former banker and the CEO of a local software company, would begin a five-year appointment as Vice-Chancellor on 1 February 2009.[37] Under Carr's leadership, UC's position in the QS World University Rankings has steadily declined by about 30%, as of September 2014 (for detail, see section headed 'League Tables', below).

Council member and former Pro-Chancellor, Rex Williams, became Chancellor in 2009.[38] Council member Dr John Wood became the new Pro-Chancellor. On 1 January 2012, Dr Wood became Chancellor after Williams retired from the role.[38]

Chairmen of the Board of Governors[edit]

Chairmen of the Board of Governors were:[19]

Chairmen of the College Council[edit]

Chairmen of the College Council were:[19]

  • Christopher Thomas Aschman (1933–1938)
  • Arthur Edward Flower[44] (1938–1944)
  • John Henry Erle Schroder[45] (1944–1946)
  • Walter Cuthbert Colee (1946–1948)
  • Joseph George Davidson Ward[46] (1946–1951)
  • William John Cartwright (1951–1954)
  • Donald William Bain (1954–1957)


Terry McCombs in 1935.

The current Chancellor is John Wood. Previous Chancellors were:


The Puaka-James Hight building at the University of Canterbury

The University has a main campus of 76 hectares (190 acres) at Ilam, a suburb of Christchurch about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) from the centre of the city. Adjacent to the main campus stands the University's College of Education, with its own sports-fields and grounds. The University maintains four libraries, with the Central Library (Māori: Te Puna Mātauraka o Waitaha) housed in the tallest building on campus, the 11-storey Puaka-James Hight building.

The University's College of Education maintains additional small campuses in Nelson, Tauranga and Timaru, and "teaching centres" in Greymouth, New Plymouth, Rotorua and Timaru. The University has staff in regional information offices in Nelson, Timaru, and Auckland.

Canterbury University has six halls of residence housing around 1800 students.[50] The largest of these are Ilam Apartments and University Hall with 850 residents and 550 residents, respectively. Three of these halls (Ilam Apartments, University Hall and Sonoda Christchurch Campus) are managed by UC Accommodation, a subsidiary of Campus Living Villages, while the university maintains ownership of the property and buildings. Sonoda Christchurch Campus has a close relationship with Sonoda Women's University in Amagasaki, Japan. Bishop Julius, College House and Rochester and Rutherford are run independently.

The six halls of residence are:

  • Bishop Julius Hall – 169 rooms[51]
  • Ilam Apartments – 847 rooms[51]
  • College House – 159 rooms[51]
  • Rochester and Rutherford Hall – 178 rooms[51]
  • Sonoda Christchurch Campus – 114 rooms[51]
  • University Hall – 555 rooms[51]
The Science Lecture Theatre complex with the top of the Rutherford building in the background
View of campus buildings from the Central Library

The Field Facilities Centre[52] administers three field-stations:

  • Cass Field Station[53] – Provides a wide range of environments: montane grasslands, scrub, riverbed, scree, beech forest, swamp, bog, lake, stream and alpine habitats; all accessible by day-trips on foot
  • Harihari Field Station[54] – Access to native forests, streams
  • Westport Field Station[55] – for study of the West Coast of New Zealand, particularly mining

The University and its project-partners also operate an additional field-station in the Nigerian Montane Forests Project[56] – this field station stands on the Ngel Nyaki forest edge in Nigeria.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy runs its own field laboratories:

The Department of Physics and Astronomy also has involvement in the Southern African Large Telescope[61] and is a member of the IceCube collaboration which is installing a neutrino telescope at the South Pole.[62][63]


There are four[64] libraries on campus each covering different subject areas.

  • Central Library (Māori: Te Puna Mātauraka o Waitaha)[64] – is housed in the Puaka-James Hight Building. Originally named after former Canterbury professor James Hight.[65] The building was renamed Puaka-James Hight in 2014, after the brightest star in the constellation Orion, to reflect the growing strength of UC’s relationship with Ngāi Tahu and the mana of Te Ao Māori at the heart of the University’s campus.[66] The Central Library has collections that support research and teaching in Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Commerce, Music, Fine Arts and Antarctic Studies.[64]
  • Education Library (Māori: Te Puna Ako)[64] – is located on the Dovedale Campus[64] to the West of the main Ilam Campus where the other three libraries are located. The library hosts collections that support research and teaching in Education.[64] The building that houses the library is named after Henry Edward Field, who was a prominent educationalist and university professor.[67]
  • EPS Library (Engineering and Physical Sciences Library, Māori: Kā Puna Pūkahataka me te Pūtaiao)[64] – Supports research and teaching in Engineering, Forestry and Sciences.[64]
  • Macmillan Brown Library (Māori: Te Puna Rakahau o Macmillan Brown)[64] – is a research library, archive, and art gallery that specializes in collecting items related to New Zealand and Pacific Islands history.[68][69] It holds over 100,000 published items including books, audio-visual recordings, and various manuscripts, photographs, works of art, architectural drawings and ephemera. The Macmillan Brown Library's art collection also has 3,000 works, making it one of the largest collections in the Canterbury Region.[70] The library is named after John Macmillan Brown, a prominent Canterbury academic who helped found the library.[68][69]


There are three major world university rankings. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) 2016, UC is ranked in the world's top 400 universities.[71] It dropped from the ARWU rankings in 2015 because it was found to have fallen below the world's top 500 universities, and ARWU ranks only as far down as the world's top 500 universities.[72][73] In 2016/17 QS World University Rankings ranked the University of Canterbury 214th overall in the world, and the third highest ranked university in New Zealand.[74][75] Its individual global faculty rankings for 2015/2016 were: 146th in Arts & Humanities, 161st in Engineering & IT, 211th in Natural Sciences, and 94th in Social Sciences and Management.[76] UC's QS ranking has fallen from 2015/16, when it rose to 211th from 242nd in 2014/15. UC has consistently been the third highest ranked New Zealand University since 2012.[74] In the 2016-2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, UC is ranked in the world's top 400 universities,[77] after being downgraded in 2015 to one of the world's top 500 universities.[78][79]

The University was the first in New Zealand to have been granted five stars by QS Stars.[80][81] Unlike the QS World University rankings, QS Stars ratings are only given to universities that pay a fee; the programme is designed to give "...those institutions that are not highly ranked or do not appear in the rankings an opportunity to reach out to their prospect students, to stand out and to be recognised for their excellence.[82][83]

League tables[edit]

2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005
Academic Ranking of World Universities DNQ: Ranked Below World's Top 500 Universities[73] 401-500th[72] 401-500th[84] 401-500th[85] 401-500th[86] 401-500th[87]
QS World University Rankings 211th[88] 242nd[89] 238th[90] 221st[91] 212nd[92] 189th[93] 188th[94] 186th[94] 188th[95] 333rd[96] 333rd[97]
Times Higher Education World University Rankings 401-500th[79] 301-350th[78] 301-350th[98] 301–350th[99] 301–350th[100]

Student association and traditions[edit]

An Undie 500 car decorated as Noah's Ark

The University of Canterbury Students' Association (UCSA)[101] operates on campus with its own radio station (RDU) and magazine (Canta). The Association also runs two bars and several cafes around campus.[102] The popular on-campus bar, "The Foundry", known as "The Common Room" from 2005, has reverted to its former name as promised by 2008 USCA president, Michael Goldstein. Prior to earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the UCSA also ran the now damaged 430-seat Ngaio Marsh Theatre.[103][104]

The University has over 140 academic, sporting, recreational and cultural societies and clubs.[105] The most prominent of these include the University of Canterbury Engineering Society (ENSOC), the Law Society (LAWSOC), the Commerce Society (UCom), as well as the largest non-faculty clubs such as Motosoc (Motorsports Society), BYCSOC (Backyard Cricket Society), CUBA (Canterbury University Boardriders' Association), CurrySoc, JSoc, The Gentlemen's Club, and KAOS (Killing As Organised Sport). CUSSC (Canterbury University Snow Sports Club) is the only university club in New Zealand to own a ski field lodge, located at Temple Basin Ski Field the club runs many events to raise funds for maintenance of their lodge.[106] The University of Canterbury Drama Society (Dramasoc) achieved fame for its 1942–1969 Shakespeare productions under Dame Ngaio Marsh, but regularly performs as an active student- and alumni-run arts fixture in the small Christchurch theatre-scene. The musical theatre society, Musoc,[107] engages in comparable activities.

One major student tradition, the Undie 500, involved an annual car-rally from Christchurch to Dunedin run by ENSOC. The rules required only the use of a road-legal car costing under $500 with a sober driver. The 2007 event gained international news coverage (including on CNN and BBC World) when it ended in rioting in the student quarter of Dunedin and in North East Valley. ENSOC cancelled the planned 2008 event. The Undie 500 was replaced by the Roundie 500 in 2011. This event has the same principles but follows a route through rural Canterbury, returning to Christchurch the same day.[108]

Coat of arms[edit]

Academic procession at the University of Canterbury graduation ceremony 2004

With the dissolution of the University of New Zealand, the newly independent University of Canterbury devised its own coat of arms, blazoned: "murrey a fleece argent, in base a plough or, and on a chief wavy or an open book proper bound murrey, edged and clasped or between a pall azure charged with four crosses formy fitchy or and a cross flory azure."

In this description, the colour of the shield is the first thing stated. "Murrey" means maroon. This is a colour seldom seen in Heraldry. Next, the objects on the shield and their colour are described. "A fleece" is usually depicted as a whole sheep with a band around its middle and "argent" means silver (or white as it is usually depicted.) "In Base" means at the bottom of the shield, and the object is a hand plough. "Or" means gold so the plough is coloured gold.

A "chief" is a broad stripe across the top of the shield and "wavy" means the line at the base of the chief is like a sine wave. "Or" again means gold so the chief is coloured gold. The objects on the chief are then described. "An open book" is self-explanatory. "Proper" means the object is depicted in its natural colour(s) - as books normally have white pages, this is how it looks. The book is "bound murrey" which means the covers are in maroon. However, the edges of the pages are in gold ("edged or".) The book also has clasps ("clasped") in maroon. A clasp allows the book to be more securely bound after it has been closed. The "between" indicates that the book is between two other objects; in this case a "pall" which is the Y shaped object. "Azure" means it is blue. "Charged" means that the following objects are placed on the pall. The "four crosses" are Christian crosses but "formy" means the arms of the cross flare at the ends and "fitchy” means that the lower arm has a pointed end. Again, "or" means these crosses are gold. The pall is a link between Canterbury, New Zealand, and Canterbury, England as both the pall and the crosses appear on the arms of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The other object is another type of cross. this time all arms are of equal length. "Flory" means that end of each arm is a fleur-de-lys. "Azure" means that this cross is blue.

This replaced the arms formerly used by Canterbury College – an unofficial, simplified version of the Canterbury Province coat of arms.

The fleece symbolises the pastoral, and the plough at the base the agricultural background of the province of Canterbury. The Bishop's Pall and the cross flory represent Canterbury's ecclesiastical connections, and the open book denotes scholarship.

As it relates to an institution of learning, the University's coat of arms does not have a helmet, crest or mantling on its bearings.

A more detailed history of the arms, including their formal heraldic description, appears on the University website.


Size and composition[edit]

The QS Intelligence Unit statistics for 2016/2017 reports that UC has a total of 10,838 students. 81% of these are undergraduates, and 2,014 are international students. UC has a total of 698 academic faculty staff.[109]

Following the earthquakes, the number of students enrolled at UC fell from 18,783 during 2010 to 14,725 during 2014, though the number of new enrolments increased in 2014.

Staff reductions and academic freedom issues[edit]

The University had eliminated over 100 jobs even prior to the earthquakes,[110] losing some prominent scholars. The suggestion has been made that staff eliminations are sometimes based on academic ideology rather than merit.[111] Resignations have occurred by staff who complained about restrictions on academic freedom.[112][113]

The University, in common with some other New Zealand universities, tends to take a litigious approach to managing its staff and, despite increasing its number of human-resources managers, routinely engages lawyers and employment advocates to handle even minor matters.[114] The University's 2006 financial reports list $836,000 as having been paid out as compensation for employment-relationship problems, more than any other New Zealand university.[114] Unlike five other New Zealand universities, the University refused to release to the Association of University Staff records on how much it spends on external lawyers, advocates and consultants for advice and representation.[114] However, in its 2013 annual report, it is stated that the university spent $4.66 million in 2012 and 2013 alone on expenses associated with faculty and staff layoffs (severance pay, legal costs, etc.).[115]

Concerns over student racism[edit]

In 2014, one faculty member chosen to receive a teaching award from the University of Canterbury Students’ Association refused to accept the award because of his concerns about student racism and sexism at UC.[116][117]

Notable staff[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Honorary doctors[edit]

Since 1962, the University of Canterbury has been awarding honorary doctorates. In many years, no awards were made, but in most years, multiple doctorates were awarded. The highest number of honorary doctorates was awarded in 1973, when there were seven recipients.[118]

See also[edit]


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