Frequently Asked Questions

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Our decision

What is going to change?

The changes include a new tohu (symbol) and a new te reo Māori name to represent the University of Otago.

Is the name changing?

No, our official name will remain the University of Otago.

What is the new te reo Māori name?

Our te reo Māori name will be changed from Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo to Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka (a metaphor meaning A Place of Many Firsts). This name was developed in collaboration with mana whenua and better speaks to our heritage and place in the world.

When will these changes be made?

The new brand and te reo Māori name will be rolled out from May 2024.

Why is this happening now?

We are proposing these changes now for two key reasons. The first is the launch of our new strategy this year, Vision 2040, which encourages us to better represent the shared whakapapa (heritage) of our university. The second is to look to the future, as we continue to welcome increasingly diverse cohorts of students. 

Is the motto changing?

No. It will continue to be Sapere Aude.

Was feedback made during consultation taken on board?

Yes. We have addressed four key areas of concern.

Concerns were raised during consultation that the heritage of the University was no longer visible in the proposed new identity. To address this, a stylised version of the Coat of Arms will be incorporated into the design system as a clear visual cue towards the heritage of the University. This stylised Coat of Arms will be seen in alumni digital communications and international marketing. The University’s current Coat of Arms will continue to be used in alumni publications, in graduation certificates and ceremonies, and will stay as part of the decorative features of our heritage buildings around campus. Our Colleges, Clubs and Societies and sports teams can continue to use their current brands and identities.

Feedback was also received about the accessibility of the font. This has been altered to improve readability of the letter ‘a’ and consecutive ‘f’s and ‘t’s.

Some were concerned about the language hierarchy of the English and te reo Māori logos. The English version will be the primary logo, while te reo Māori logo will be used in spaces, communications or campaigns which directly celebrate or promote kaupapa Māori.

The timing of implementation was another theme of concern, so Council decided to approve the new brand, but push implementation of changes out to May 2024 and January 2025.

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When and where will I first get to see or use the new brand?

A phased implementation of the new brand will start with changes to marketing, communications, and digital channels from May 2024.

Guidelines as to how to use the new branding will be made available to staff before launch.

Replacement of physical signage and other assets will occur from January 2025.

Why can’t I use it now?

The University of Otago will work alongside mana whenua around the appropriate tikaka (practices) to be observed in order for us to meaningfully adopt the new tohu and te reo Māori name.

We appreciate there is considerable interest in adopting both as soon as possible, but we kindly ask stakeholders to refrain from using it until we have finalised our approach to adopting these taoka (treasures) in partnership with mana whenua.

How long will the changes take to be made?

The roll-out of the new branding will be spread over two financial years.

When will the different language versions be used?

The English language version will be our primary brand, used in all external communication and marketing, as well as on all signage.

Exceptions to this will be in spaces, communications or campaigns which directly celebrate or promote kaupapa Māori, where our te reo Māori version will be used.

Discretionary uses will be for staff email signatures, business cards, and merchandise.

What will happen to the current Coat of Arms?

The current Coat of Arms will remain in use as a clear visual cue to the heritage of the University. It will remain on printed Alumni publications, in our graduation certificates and ceremonies, in our Colleges, Clubs and Societies as well as sports teams. The two main areas where the new stylised Coat of Arms will be introduced are in alumni digital communications and in international marketing.

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About the project

What is Tuakiritaka?

Tuakiritaka means identity in te reo Māori. This is the name of the project under which we reviewed the University of Otago brand, in line with our strategy, Vision 2040.

What is Vision 2040?

Vision 2040 is a long-term plan for the University of Otago that sets out ambitious goals, including being a Te Tiriti-led organisation that works in partnership with mana whenua. Vision 2040 is informed by substantial consultation with the University community.

Read Vision 2040 document.

Who has been involved in the process?

This project was a collaboration between the University of Otago and representatives of mana whenua, with additional oversight from a dedicated steering group and the University of Otago Council at key points in the process.

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International recognition

Would this make the University more, or less, recognisable in international markets – would it affect our rankings?

The University of Otago name will not change, and we will be working with our international partners and agents to ensure the changes are well understood. We do not expect this to impact our rankings.

A stylised version of the Coat of Arms will also be used in international marketing.

What work would be done to make these changes a positive for our international marketing, given Pae Tata – Strategy to 2030 requires us to grow international student numbers?

One of the intentions of the proposed branding is to have a tohu (symbol) which is clearly inclusive. We would work with our international partners and agents to explain our changes and we hope they would be seen as a sign of inclusiveness to our international students as well.

We will use the primary, English version of our branding in international marketing, alongside our stylised Coat of Arms.

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Associated costs

What will this cost?

Implementation is predicted to cost $1.3 million over two years. This includes changes in the operational and digital space, signage and vehicle assets.

How can the University justify this spending at this time?

Universities across New Zealand are facing financial difficulties caused by government underfunding and falling enrolments.

At the same time, the University needs to continue forward, to ensure enrolments both domestically and internationally grow.

We also have a new strategic direction which challenges us to develop the University in key directions – which may require a change in funding use. The decision to review our brand was based in part on the need to have a modern identity which works in today’s markets and digital environments. However, it was also timely to align it with our Vision for the next decade and a half.

Therefore, this is seen as a prudent expenditure to work towards the future we are seeking.

The decision to adopt the new brand, but not implement changes until May 2024 and spread them over two years, will help mitigate some of these issues.

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Consultation process and survey

How was the University community consulted?

Staff, students and alumni were invited through a range of engagement activities, to formally engage in a conversation about these proposed changes through in-person forums, briefings, and a survey.

More than 9,000 people completed the survey, with 75 per cent of them agreeing they had a fair opportunity to express their opinions.

What were the survey results?

Of the more than 9,000 people who completed the survey, nearly two-thirds agreed the proposed brand reflects the future of the University. Half believed the design was both iconic and reflected our whakapapa; and more than half felt the timing was right to make the changes.

The full results can be found here: Tuakiritaka Consultation Findings.

Why don’t the survey results reflect what has been reported by some media?

While members of the public have varying opinions on Tuakiritaka, some of which have been expressed in the media, the University is focused on the views of its community – staff, students, and alumni. The University community was invited to participate in the survey; nearly two-thirds agreed the proposed brand reflects Otago’s future.

Is the data robust?

Yes. Personalised links were used to distribute the survey, and the number of responses provided gives statistical confidence (of 95 per cent) that the information collated represents the views of the University community.

University culture and support

There have been concerns raised about racism and culture at Otago. Is Otago ready for this change?

We are working towards addressing the issues raised over time. The University has made a decisive statement in its 2040 Vision strategy that is wishes to be Te Tiriti-led and to partner with iwi and its wider community to achieve that. The conversation about our identity forms just one step in the mahi towards that goal. Further steps have been outlined in our Pae Tata – Strategy to 2030 document.

Recent recommendations and changes to the Human Resources Division also provide additional support to staff facing or dealing with issues such as these in the workplace, and the Compass project is also engaged in this area.

Is this just window dressing/tokenism?

Our connection with mana whenua is genuine and we have worked in full partnership to create this proposed identity.

What part does this have to play in the journey towards reconciliation and partnership? 

We choose to demonstrate our commitment to our goals and having a conversation with our community about our visual identity forms part of our path forward.

Is this a step towards co-governance?

This proposal addresses only the visual identity of the University of Otago, not its operating structure.

Is there going to be support for tauira and kaimahi Māori(Māori students and staff) as these changes are made?

We would hope that this proposal is received by our community in the same generosity of spirit that created it. However, we are aware that our tauira and kaimahi Māori may need additional support and are working with these groups to provide it.

Is the University walking away from its founding roots and intergenerational heritage?

The University of Otago is immensely proud of its past. While recognising and embracing our heritage, including our Scottish founders, the University also acknowledges the desire to build on the strength of our history. Our new strategic direction turns us to our present and future, one in which we recognise the critical importance of mātauraka Māori – the knowledge and wisdom of those who were here before us – our place, and our culture in AotearoaNew Zealand.

We believe the new tohu reflects the shared whakapapa (genealogy) of all those who have contributed to the University’s heritage until this point, and into the future.

Using the concept of the channel in Otago Harbour, which is named Ōtākou and is the source of the original name of our region, we have proposed a tohu which symbolises the two-way life force (channel) of our harbour. Much like the reciprocity between teachers and students, and the University and its community, the channel is a representation of all those who have settled at Otago and contributed to the University, whether in Dunedin or on our other campuses.

Where is Scottish heritage is incorporated in the proposed brand identity?

We believe these changes reflect the whakapapa of all those who have contributed to the University’s heritage until this point, and into the future. The concept of the Ōtākou channel in the Otago Harbour, which forms the heart of the tohu, reflects on the arrival of our European settlers as well those who came before.

As noted above, we will continue to use our Coat of Arms in ceremonial settings such as graduation events and in other locations for the foreseeable future. We are also looking at using the stars from the Coat of Arms in other University designs across the University such as signage.

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Would my degree have the new visual identity on it?

We will continue to use our Coat of Arms in ceremonial settings such as graduation events. The existing branding will remain on our degrees until further notice.

I would like to finish my degree under the branding I started with – can I have the old branding on my degree instead?

We will continue to use our Coat of Arms in ceremonial settings such as graduation events.

Consideration will be given to allow existing students to choose their degree certificate.

Would employers recognise Otago with these changes – will I have to change the name on my CV?

The name of the University of Otago will not change, only our te reo Māori name.

Would all Otago’s clubs and societies, sports teams and colleges have to change their branding too?

Our many and varied clubs and societies are independent entities and would be able to make their own decisions about their branding.

What does OUSA think?

The leadership of OUSA has been consulted throughout this process. They will make their own statements about the changes.

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