Frequently Asked Questions

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About the project

What is Tuakiritaka?

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

What is Vision 2040? 

Vision 2040 is a new 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 has been 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.

What is proposed to be changed?

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

Is the name changing in this proposal?

No, our official name would remain as the University of Otago.

What is the proposed new Māori name?

Our te reo Māori name is proposed to 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.

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.

Does the tohu look too similar to other brand entities, like Whittaker’s Pods and Otago Rugby?

The proposed tohu has several unique elements which make it special and able to stand out in the marketplace. These include the shape and structure of the “o” and the macron or waka above it.

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Consultation process

How am I involved?

Staff, students and alumni are invited to formally engage in conversation about these proposed changes from 15 March to 16 April. We are holding in-person forums and other briefings to explain the proposed changes. A survey is being conducted of our alumni, staff and students.

How am I going to be asked for feedback/consulted on the proposal?

All University of Otago students, alumni and staff are being invited to take part in a survey about the proposed changes.

The survey invitations have been sent to staff and student emails and to the alumni email we have on our database. The email will come from, so please keep an eye out for it (your email server may decide it is spam).

You can send questions to:


Or call us on 0800 80 80 98 to ask a question or get help filling in the survey.

Is the survey anonymous? 

All responses to this survey will be presented without any identifiable features to the Council making the decision. Your feedback is not being collected anonymously, but is confidential to a very small number of people managing the survey. This decision has been made to ensure we are hearing from our staff, students and alumni only, and the data collected is robust and fairly represents the views of our community.

What will be done with feedback?

After the engagement period closes, all feedback will be considered by the University of Otago Council and Tuakiritaka project steering group in May, with a decision made in July. An announcement on what is decided will be made following this.

Is this consultation genuine? A lot of work has clearly been done to this point – what say do alumni, staff, students, have in the final decisions? Will my feedback be genuinely considered and be part of the final decision?

Yes. The University Council and leadership are keen to hear from our community about this proposal. Our key questions are:

  • Does this proposal align with where we are heading together as a University?
  • Is now the right time to undertake this step?

When the feedback period has ended, the University Council will make a decision on the proposal. The options to be considered at that point will depend on the feedback received.

What are the alternative options?

We are putting our preferred design to the community for this conversation about our identity. At present, there are no alternative designs.

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Associated costs

What will this cost?

Consultation on the University’s new brand project, Tuakiritaka is being led by the Vice-Chancellor, supported by the University Council. The University’s Division of External Engagement is assisting with the consultation process. 

The University is investing $126,000 to prepare and undertake extensive consultation on this important proposal.  This includes engagement with our students and staff at our campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Invercargill and Auckland as well as engagement with our large alumni community. 

A total of $670,000, including the consultation budget, has been spent or planned from usual budgets since 2019. If approved, the roll-out of the new branding will be spread over existing budgets and several years as items are replaced.

Universities are cutting jobs in NZ, and staff have been on strike requesting higher pay. How can the University justify this spending at this time?

Universities across New Zealand are facing financial difficulties post-COVID and with rising pressure on wages. The University of Otago has a deficit budgeted for 2023, included in which is a wage increase negotiated by staff unions.

At the same time, the University needs to continue forward, to ensure enrolments both domestically and internationally stay strong. 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 visual identity 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, with the costs spread over a number of years.

Our students are suffering from rising inflation and higher costs of living. Shouldn’t the University be working to assist them through scholarships, lowering fees etc?

The University Council works to ensure its budgets are a prudent balance of growth and costs. We continue to support our students with scholarships and also with Pūtea Tautoko, our fund to support students in need.

Are you putting up the cost of residential colleges and university fees at the same time to fund a rebrand?

No. The costs of any rebrand will be met within existing budgets.

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University culture and support

A 2022 report into culture at Otago raised many significant issues about the University, particularly in the area of racism and culture.  Is this new branding papering over these concerns?

We are working towards addressing the issues raised in the report over time. Since the report was completed, 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.

What other work is being done to address this report?

A new project, Compass, has been launched to address and suggest changes at the University following the report.

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)?

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.

Three years after we celebrated 150 years, is this proposal the Uni walking away from its founding roots and intergenerational cultural artifacts? The proposal is ‘deleting’ our 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 Aotearoa New Zealand.

We believe our proposed tohu or symbol 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.

Our proposal is that we continue to use our Coat of Arms in ceremonial settings such as graduation events, and to use elements of it in other initiatives such as signage on campuses.

Please explain where this Scottish heritage is incorporated in the proposed brand identity.

We believe our proposed changes reflect the whakapapa (genealogy) 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 intend to 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 a proposal to use 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?

Once a final decision is made on our identity, decisions on how it will be implemented, and when, will be made. Our proposal is that we continue to use our Coat of Arms in ceremonial settings such as graduation events. The existing branding will remain on our degrees until decisions are made.

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

Once a final decision is made on our identity and brand, decisions on how it will be implemented, and when, will be made. Our proposal is that we continue to use our Coat of Arms in ceremonial settings such as graduation events. Consideration will be given to allowing 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 name in te reo Māori, if the proposal is accepted.

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 proposed changes.

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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 would not change, and we would be working with our international partners and agents to ensure our proposals were well understood.

What work would be done to make these changes a positive for our international marketing, given the numbers are down post-COVID-19?

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.

Is the University going to run dual brands (domestic and international) along the lines of other universities?

Once a final decision is made on our identity and brand, decisions on how it will be implemented, and when, will be made.