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Source: University of Canterbury

The founders of the University of Canterbury 147 years ago were progressive, but could never have imagined the diverse, multi-cultural, gender-balanced leadership of today’s university. UC is the first, and remains the only, Aotearoa New Zealand university to be led by four women; in the Vice-Chancellor, Chancellor, student association President and Vice-President roles.

Since the inaugural address at the founding of the Canterbury Collegiate Union in 1872, this university has stood for accessible higher education, service to community, and the encouragement of talent without barriers of distance, wealth, class, gender or ethnicity.

Henry John Tancred was the first Chancellor of the University of New Zealand (as University of Canterbury was first known). In his inaugural address launching the Canterbury Collegiate Union he propounded his view that the new college should be entirely inclusive:

“It is of the greatest importance to the well-being of the whole that this influence should be felt in every part and among all classes, that high as well as low, rich as well as poor, should have every opportunity afforded to them of cultivating and developing the higher faculties in such a manner as will fit them for occupying worthily the highest position in the State.” – Henry John Tancred (1872)

More recently Ūpoko o Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Dr Te Maire Tau said he was pleased UC will be moving on a range of tribal initiatives this year.

“Ngāi Tahu appreciates the core values that underpin the University of Canterbury and the teaching of open contestable knowledge,” Dr Tau said.

“Knowledge, its creation, production and distribution within an open society that has learnt to be tolerant and appreciative of difference is why Ngāi Tahu supports this University.”

In 2023, UC will mark its 150th anniversary as an opportunity to celebrate past achievements and set a course that looks ahead to its second centenary – Tangata Tū, Tangata Ora | Engaged, empowered, making a difference.

The University continues to stand for these principles and explicitly aims to produce graduates who are engaged with their communities, empowered to act for good and determined to make a difference in the world.

UC supports academic staff taking the role of critic and conscience of society and an active role in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand society.

The University has adapted and changed to meet external challenges for nearly 150 years, but also holds true to the principles upon which it was founded. This university was formed first as the Canterbury Collegiate Union in 1872, and became the Canterbury College in 1873, the first constituent college of the University of New Zealand. It was the second institution in New Zealand to provide tertiary-level education, and the fourth in Australasia. In 1961, the federated University of New Zealand was split and the University of Canterbury was created as an independent university.

UC Legends include:

·         Sir Āpirana Ngata (1874–1950) a prominent researcher, lawyer, politician and leader was the first Māori scholar to graduate from a University in New Zealand in 1893. He further received an LLB from UC in 1897, followed by his MA in 1921.

·         Mathematician Roy Kerr (1934–) is best known for his discovery of the exact solution to the Einstein field equation of general relativity. Attending UC from 1951-54, he received his BSc on 4 May 1954 and his MSc on 10 May 1955.

·         Dame Ngaio Marsh (1895–1982) is best known as one of four original “Queens of Crime” novelists. Dame Ngaio studied fine arts at UC and was also a renowned artist, playwright, actor and director.

·         Helen Connon (1859–1903) first graduated with a BA in 1880, followed by an MA with first class honours in English and Latin in 1881. She was the first woman to receive a degree with honours in the British Empire.

·         Beatrice Tinsley (1941–1981) was one of the most creative and significant theoreticians in modern astronomy. A senior scholar, her BSc was conferred on 4 May 1961 (under her maiden name of Hill).

·         Sir Karl Popper (1902–1994) is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century. His MA from UC was conferred in 1938.

·         Rita Angus (1908–1970), a pioneer of modern painting, was a leading figure in twentieth century New Zealand art. She studied at UC from 1927–33, and was awarded a DipFA.

·         Nobel Laureate, Lord Rutherford (1871–1937) became known as “the father of the atom” for his discovery of atomic structure. At UC Lord Rutherford achieved a BA, MA and BSc by 1895, his DSc in 1901 (by thesis) and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 1931.

·         Born in Tabuaeran, Line Islands, Anote Tong (1952–) was President of Kiribati from 2003 until 2016 and is mainly known for his efforts to raise global awareness of the threat posed by climate change. He attended UC between 1971-1975, receiving his BSc on 28 October 1975.