National | Education

Otago uni tables reo Māori name change

Otago University could be set to get a new reo Māori name, with its crest being partially retired in favour of a tohu representing the Ōtākou channel. Photo / Supplied

A new name and logo that better embraces Te Ao Māori is on the cards for the country's oldest university, Otago.

A consultation process launched today tables changing the university's current Māori name from Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo, to Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka – a metaphor meaning A Place of Many Firsts.

While the English name would also be retained, the Māori name would take a more central role.

The university’s identity project follows the launch of its new strategy, Vision 2040, last month. At the heart of the plan is the desire to become a Te Tiriti-led organisation, working in partnership with mana whenua.

“Our desire for a new identity is just one part of what we believe needs to happen over the coming decade and a half,” acting vice-chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson says.

A new tohu would replace the university coat of arms in many situations, with a representation of the 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".

Vision 2040 comes just a year after the university was embroiled in allegations of systemic racism, discrimination and bullying, which the university eventually acknowledged.

The Otago University crest (left) would not be completely replaced by a new tohu that embraces te ao Māori. Photo / Supplied

Nicholson says the proposal is a bold change for the University, and about positioning it for the future.

“We want to be a New Zealand university that welcomes all people and works together to help them succeed. We want to reflect modern Aotearoa New Zealand and continue to lead at the forefront of our nation’s progress. And we want our visual identity which speaks to our unique and special place in the world,” Nicholson says.

“In choosing to consider this path, we have reflected our proud history full of transformation, of daring, of choosing to be an institution which prizes education and community, and of doing the right thing rather than the easy thing," she says.

The consultation period runs from Wednesday, March 15 to Wednesday, April 12, following which the University Council will make a decision on whether to progress with the proposed changes.

Alumni, students and staff will be emailed a personalised link to a survey on the proposed changes.

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