Its original campus was in the Christchurch Central City, but in 1961 it became an independent university and began moving out of its original neo-gothic buildings, which were re-purposed as the Christchurch Arts Centre. The move was completed on 1 May 1975 and the university now operates its main campus in the Christchurch suburb of Ilam.
College House, a student dormitory that maintains its old tradition by adopting the Oxbridge college system, broke away from Christ's College in 1957 and relocated to the Ilam suburb of Christchurch in 1966 as a hall of residence at the University of Canterbury. In 1957 the name changed again to the University of Canterbury.
Independence of the University of Canterbury, 1961–2010
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. Lincoln College became independent in 1990 as a full university in its own right and is now known as Lincoln University.
Ivey Hall at Lincoln University formerly a constituent college of the University of Canterbury.
Coat of arms
An Oamaru stone carving of the university coat of arms can be viewed at the eastern entrance of the Matariki Building (Registry).
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."
As an institution of learning, the university's coat of arms does not have a helmet, crest or mantling.
The university's unofficial coat of arms was accompanied by the Latin motto "Ergo tua rura manebunt," which means "therefore may your fields prosper" (or: "remain unto you"). Because of the land holdings with which the Provincial Government endowed the early University, this was appropriate. When the coat of arms was redesigned, the motto was removed and now the motto is only used unofficially.
Relocation to Ilam campus
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. 1973 saw the university celebrate its centenary, during which the neo-gothic buildings of the old campus were gifted to the City of Christchurch, which became the site of the Christchurch Arts Centre, a hub for arts, crafts and entertainment in Christchurch. 1974 also marked the opening of the James Hight Library, which at the time, was New Zealand's largest university building. Ilam's three university halls of residence were renamed University Hall in 1974, and the student dormitory was used as the Athletes Village dormitory for the 1974 British Commonwealth Games hosted in Christchurch.
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.
On 4 September 2010 at 4:35 am local time an earthquake struck the South Island of New Zealand with a moment magnitude of 7.1 several aftershocks followed the main event, the strongest of which was a magnitude 6.3 shock known as the Christchurch earthquake that occurred nearly six months later on 22 February 2011. Although there was no serious injuries to staff or students on campus and only minor damage to buildings, the initial quake closed the university for a week, and the library was shut for months while shelves were repaired and half a million books placed back on shelves. The Student Volunteer Army was a group of around 10,000 university students and others who worked over a period of months to help clean up liquefaction.
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 were a major source of revenue, dropped by 30 per cent. In October 2011, staff were encouraged to take voluntary redundancies. As well in September 2011, plans were announced to demolish some University buildings that were damaged from an earthquake.
The original Chemistry and Physics Laboratory at Canterbury College, Christchurch, NZ. Rutherford worked here as a student under the late Prof. Bickerton.
By 2013, the university had lost 22 per cent of its students. However, a record number of 886 PhD students were enrolled at the University of Canterbury as of 2013. 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 were finding it difficult to study there. In 2013 the New Zealand Government also agreed to provide $260m to support the university's rebuild programme.
Student numbers were steadily on the rise, with a 4.5% increase in students enrolled from 2013 to 2016. International numbers also increased, nearing pre-earthquake figures at 1,134 enrolled in 2016.
In March 2016, Vice-Chancellor Dr Rod Carr said in The Press newspaper: "In 2014, [students] wanted to leave Christchurch and went to Wellington, Otago and into the workforce. Now we're retaining Christchurch school leavers and we're getting our fair share of provincial students, as well as attracting greater numbers from the Auckland region." "Living on or near the UC campus, and having a lifestyle that can take you from lectures to skifields in 90 minutes or the beach in 20 minutes, is much more appealing and affordable than living in Auckland."
In January 2017, the University of Canterbury released its campus master plan – 50 building and landscape projects proposed over three stages by 2045, the cost could exceed $2bn. In a comment to The Press, Rod Carr said that the plans were proof the university was moving away from the falling enrolments post-earthquake.
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. The council is chaired by a chancellor. The Council includes representatives from the faculties, students and general staff, as well as local industry, employer and trade union representatives.
The original composition of the board of governors was defined in the Canterbury College Ordinance 1873, 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. 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."
Professor Roy Sharp assumed the position of Vice-Chancellor on 1 March 2003. 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) which he took up on 4 August 2008. 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 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.
The University of Canterbury has three campuses spread throughout the city of Christchurch:
Ilam: 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. The Ilam campus maintains three 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 Ilam campus is where the Faculties of Education, Health, Science, Engineering, Business, Law and Arts are based. The University of Canterbury Students' Association is based there in the Haere roa building. The Ilam Campus is home to cafes and restaurants as well as a pharmacy, bookshop, the UC rec centre and the UC Health centre.
Dovedale: The Dovedale Campus is 11 hectares (27 acres) and became a part of the University of Canterbury when the Christchurch College of Education (a specialist teacher training institution) merged on 1 January 2007. The Dovedale campus is located adjacent to the Ilam campus and is off Dovedale avenue. The campus consists of the old Henry Field Library, The Christchurch College of English, Ilam early Learning Centre and Hayashi and Sonada student residences. The Faculty of Education also maintains a presence here.
City: The Christchurch City Campus is made up of the Christchurch Arts Centre and the Manawa building which is a part of the Faculty of Health. Music and classics are again taught from the Christchurch Arts Centre in the old chemistry building, and within the new Manawa building in Christchurch city health and education are taught. The city campus also includes the Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities – home of the James Logie Memorial Collection.
The UC Library was first established at Canterbury College in 1879. Today there are three libraries on campus each covering different subject areas.
The 11-storey, Puaka-James Hight library at the University of Canterbury
The Central Library (Māori: Te Puna Mātauraka o Waitaha) – is housed in the iconic Puaka-James Hight Building which is designed in the brutalist style architecture. In 1974, the old City campus library moved to the Ilam campus and was housed in the newly constructed James Hight building, originally named after former Canterbury professor James Hight. The building was renamed Puaka-James Hight in 2014, after the brightest star in the cluster Matariki, 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. The University of Canterbury Central Library is the largest university library in New Zealand. The Central Library has collections of over 2 million physical items including books, archives, journals and a miscellany of other items that support research and teaching in Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Commerce, Music, Fine Arts and Antarctic Studies.
The Henry Field Library (named for the New Zealand Educationalist Henry Edward Field) on the old Christchurch College of Education site joined the fold when the university and Christchurch College of Education merged. However, the Education collection was incorporated into the collections within the Puaka-James Hight building, and Henry Field is now a library store at the campus off Dovedale Avenue.
A separate Law library was established within the James Hight building, it was then relocated to the new Law building (Mere Mere). However, after the 2011 Christchurch earthquake it returned to the Puaka-James Hight Building and integrated into the Central Library collection. The Mere Mere Building still operates as the Law and Business Building however it is no longer home to the law library.
2nd and 3rd Floor of Puaka-James Hight Building, in 2008.
The EPS Library (Engineering and Physical Sciences Library, Māori: Kā Puna Pūkahataka me te Pūtaiao) supports research and teaching in Engineering, Forestry and Sciences. With the move to the Ilam campus, the Library was split. First the Engineering Library, and later the Physical Sciences Library, moving to the new campus however the old Physical Sciences Library closed and its collections moved to the Engineering Library now called the EPS Library.
Macmillian Brown Library
The Macmillan Brown Library (Māori: Te Puna Rakahau o Macmillan Brown) is a research library, archive, and art gallery that specializes in collecting items related to New Zealand and Pacific Islands history. 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 over 5,000 works, making it one of the largest collections in the Canterbury Region. Some notable items in its collections include copies of Māori Land Court Records, official and government documents from various Pacific Islands states, trade union records, and the personal papers of various Members of Parliament and government ministers. The library is named after John Macmillan Brown, a prominent Canterbury academic who helped found the library, allocated a large proportion of his fortune to the Macmillan Brown Library.
Grounds of Ilam Apartments at the University of Canterbury.
The university has ten student residences throughout its Ilam and Dovedale campuses: five fully-catered halls of residence exclusively for first-year undergraduate student: Arcady, College House, Rochester and Rutherford, Tupuānuku and University Hall; and five other self-catered student accommodation houses which are home to both undergraduate and postgraduate students: Sonda Christchurch Campus, Hayashi, Kirkwood Avenue, Waimairi Village and Ilam Apartments. The largest, Ilam Apartments, houses 831 students during the academic year. Some of the halls at UC have storied history's, Tupuānuku is named for the star of the same name that is connected to food grown in the ground in the cluster Matariki in Māori Mythology; Rochester and Rutherford is named for former alumni Ernest Rutherford and John Fisher Bishop of Rochester; while Arcady, previously Bishop Julius Hall, was founded by the first Archbishop of New Zealand, Churchill Julius; additionally College house is the oldest residential college in New Zealand.
The grounds at Sonoda, taken in October 2019.
The University of Canterbury has the most field stations of any New Zealand University. The Field Facilities Centre administers four of these field-stations:
Cass Field Station – 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 – Access to native forests, streams
Westport Field Station – for study of the West Coast of New Zealand, particularly mining
Kaikoura Field Station – Kaikoura represents an important transition zone for flora and fauna, particularly in the marine environment, with Kowhai bush and associated rich bird life close by.
Mount John University of Canterbury Observatory, Opened 1965.
The university and its project-partners also operate an additional field-station in the Nigerian Montane Forests Project – this field station stands on the Ngel Nyaki forest edge in Nigeria.
The Department of Physical and Chemical Sciences runs its own field laboratories:
Clock Tower, Great Hall and Classics buildings in the North Quad
The University of Canterbury Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities opened in May 2017, and showcases the James Logie Memorial Collection, a collection of Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern artefacts in New Zealand. The Teece Museum is run as a part of the faculty of Arts. The museum is named for University of Canterbury Alumni Professor David Teece and his wife Leigh Teece, who donated a substantial amount of money to the city for earthquake recovery. The money was used by the university to install the classics and music school in the Old Chemistry building at the Christchurch Arts Centre.
The James Logie Memorial Collection was established in 1957 as a result of Miss Marion Steven, a Classics faculty member, donating Greek pottery to Canterbury University College. Steven established the James Logie Memorial Collection to honour her husband, who served as registrar of the college from 1950 until his death in 1956.
The University of Canterbury Students' Association (UCSA) operates out of the Student Union Building named Haere-roa which serves as the main student activity centre. The original UCSA Building was damaged in the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes and was subsequently torn down, it was rebuilt and completed in 2019, it is located on the Ilam Campus. The building is home to two bars, "The Foundry" and "Bentleys". The Association also runs several cafes and restaurants around campus. Located in Haere-roa is the Ngaio Marsh Theatre named for the former alumni of the same name. Haere-roa hosts a number of student societies and organization offices.
The university's student population operates the main student magazine, Canta, established in 1930. There are 12 issues per year, which are distributed around the UC campus every second Monday during the academic year. The newspaper's offices are in the Haere-roa building. Canterbury's student population runs a radio station which began to broadcast and operate as RDU in 1976; it began FM frequency broadcasting in 1986. RDU acquired its present frequency 98.5 in 2003.
Orientation Week or 'O. Week' is the Canterbury equivalent of student orientation, held in the first week of the academic year at the university. 'O. Week' is organised by the University of Canterbury Students' Association and involves events, including various concerts, a comedy night, clubs day and usually a Crusaders rugby game scheduled during the week.
Engineering Society (ENSOC) Logo.
The university has over 140 academic, sporting, recreational and cultural societies and clubs. The most prominent of these include the Student Volunteer Army, the University of Canterbury Engineering Society (ENSOC), the University of Canterbury Law Society (LAWSOC), the University of Canterbury Commerce Society (UCOM) as well as the largest non-faculty clubs such as PongSoc (University of Canterbury Pong Society), Motosoc (Motorsports Society), Lads without Labels, CUBA (Canterbury University Boardriders' Association), CurrySoc, Opsoc, The Gentlemen's Club. CUSSC (Canterbury University Snow Sports Club, formerly the CU Ski Club prior to 1997) 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. 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.
In 2011 the SVA was established in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. A student at the University of Canterbury, Sam Johnson, rallied fellow students to help support the clean-up from the devastation. The club has grown and today is the largest club at the University of Canterbury. In 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the SVA supported the vulnerable with their shopping during the lockdown.
Lads without Labels is a not-for-profit charity dedicated to improving men's mental health in and around campus. On 5–8 October 2021 Lads without labels started the Project 72 fundraiser, a 72-hour relay on the University of Canterbury campus, which raised $12,000 for men's mental health; as well in 2021 Lads without labels organised a 24-hour backyard cricket marathon raising $45,000.
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.
The University of Canterbury offers 147 undergraduate majors and 61 graduate degrees. For the 2020 academic year, the university granted 2,257 bachelor's degrees, 1,003 graduate degrees, and 384 honours degrees. To graduate with a full-time undergraduate degree in the usual three years, undergraduates normally take four courses per semester. In most majors, an honors degree requires advanced coursework and a thesis – this usually takes an extra year. However, some undergraduate degrees that are also professional degrees, such as the Bachelor of Laws (LLB), Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) and Bachelor of Forestry Science (BForSc), typically take four years.
At the university, students may choose to study towards two bachelor's degrees in parallel and graduate. Working on two separate degrees at the same time – a double degree – allows you to finish some combinations in four to five years. The University of Canterbury also provides conjoint degree options, which combine two set degrees into a single bachelor's degree in four years of study. Conjoint degrees should not be confused with double majors, where students will earn a double major if their two majors lead to the same degree name and a double degree if their two majors lead to different degrees.
According to the UC Annual Report, at 31 December 2019 the university has a total of 18,364 students (14,891 equivalent full-time students). 11,621 of these are undergraduates, and 1,869 are international students. UC has a total of 826 academic faculty staff.
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. In 2016 enrolled student numbers rose to 15,564. Enrolment as of 2020 has reached pre-earthquake levels with a 18,364 students enrolled at UC.
Staff reductions and academic freedom issues
One resignation, which occurred in 2003, was by a staff member who complained about restrictions on academic freedom. In 2006, New Zealand's Green Party suggested staff eliminations were based on the university's profit targets rather than merit. The university eliminated over 100 jobs in 2010, the year prior to the earthquakes.
In 2007, New Zealand universities including the University of Canterbury were accused of taking an increasingly litigious approach to managing its staff and, despite having an array of human-resources managers, routinely engaged lawyers and employment advocates to handle even minor matters. The university's 2006 financial reports list $836,000 as having been paid out as compensation for employment-relationship problems. However, in its 2013 annual report (two years after the 2011 Canterbury Earthquakes), 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.).
Supporting equity and diversity
In July 2019 the appointment of the role Rainbow Advisor provided support to the LGBTQ community. In 2020 the appointment of Darryn Russell was announced to manage a broader portfolio of Amokapua Pākākano | AVC Māori, Pacific & Equity.
However, 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.
In the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), UC was dropped completely from the world's top 500 universities. In the 2017 QS World University Rankings, UC was rated 214th overall in the world, and third highest among New Zealand universities. 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. By 2018, these faculty rankings had all fallen considerably, and as of the release of the 2019 world university rankings, the three major university ranking organisations, ARWU, QS and THE, had all placed UC squarely in the middle of the pack of NZ universities at fourth place overall out of eight institutions, and in one case just two numerical positions above NZ's fifth-place university in the nation's lower division. In the 2016–2017 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, UC was ranked in the world's top 400 universities, up from being in just the world's top 500 universities in 2015. By 2021, however, UC had fallen back into just the top 600. Similarly, ARWU dropped UC from the top 400 universities in 2018 to just the top 500 in 2019, where it has remained ever since.
The university was the first in New Zealand to be granted five stars by QS Stars. 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."
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.
Heavenly Creatures (1994) Based on the Parker–Hulme murder case, Juliet Hulme (later known as Ann Perry) was the daughter of Henry Hulme, the rector of the University of Canterbury, and she and Pauline Parker murdered Honorah Parker, Pauline's mother. During this period Juliet and her family lived on campus in the Ilam homestead (now the University of Canterbury Staff Club), where filming for the movie took place.
The Ilam Homestead, home of the University of Canterbury Staff Club. The home of Juliet Hulme, during the 1950s.