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Brief history

Short history of New Zealand Universities

  • 1869 - The University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university. In June that year the Otago Provincial Council passed the Otago University Ordinance, creating the University of Otago as a corporate body with powers to grant degrees in arts, medicine, law and music. The university opened in July 1871, with a staff of three professors.
  • September 1870 - The University of New Zealand was created by Act of Parliament and became the examining and degree-granting body for all New Zealand university institutions.
  • Colleges were then established in Christchurch (Canterbury College, 1873), Auckland (1883) and Wellington (Victoria University College, 1897).
  • The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee was established under the Education Act 1961.
  • 1 January 1962 - the University of New Zealand was disestablished and the four university colleges became full universities in their own right.
  • 1 January 1964 - two new universities were created, the University of Waikato and Massey University. The University of Waikato was established to cater for the needs of the area around Hamilton, now New Zealand’s fourth largest city. Massey University in Palmerston North began life as the New Zealand Agricultural College in 1926 (renamed Massey Agricultural College in 1927).
  • 1990 - Lincoln University (near Christchurch in the South Island) was established, although like Massey University, it has a long history. A School of Agriculture was set up in Lincoln in 1878 and in 1896, as the renamed Canterbury Agricultural College, was given the right to award degrees through the University of New Zealand. Renamed Lincoln College in 1961, Lincoln became a constituent college of the University of Canterbury until it subsequently became a full and self-governing university.
  • 2000 – The Auckland University of Technology was established. Like Massey and Lincoln Universities it has a long history. Beginning life as the Auckland Technical School in 1895, in 1960 the secondary school and tertiary functions were separated and the Auckland Technical Institute was set up. The Institute’s name was changed to the Auckland Institute of Technology in 1989 and changed its name again on 1 January 1990 when it gained university status.
  • 2010 The New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee beginning operating under the name Universities New Zealand - Te Pōkai Tara.
  • 2016 Changes were made to the composition of University Councils under the Education Act.

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