University of Otago branding could change for first time in decades

Proposed English logo for the University of Otago.

For the first time in three decades, changes could be made to the University of Otago brand.

The university has today launched stakeholder consultation on a visual identity proposal, designed to better reflect its aspirations for the future.

It's part of a new strategy called Vision 2040 that's been in progress for four years.

Vision 2040 is a long-term plan that sets out ambitious goals, including being a Te Tiriti-led organisation that works in partnership with mana whenua.

It follows a 2022 report which raised many significant issues about the university, particularly around racism and culture.

The proposal includes changing the current Māori name from Te Whare Wānanga o Otāgo, to Ōtākou Whakaihu Waka – a metaphor meaning A Place of Many Firsts.

Proposed te reo logo for the University of Otago.

The name University of Otago will remain.

The only proposed changes are a new Māori name and tohu (symbol), created in collaboration with mana whenua.

The colour palette of blue and gold, coat of arms in ceremonial events, and the university motto Sapere Aude will also stay.

Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Helen Nicholson says it will take substantial mahi to achieve the various strategic and operational ambitions within Vision 2040.

“Our desire for a new identity is just one part of what we believe needs to happen over the coming decade and a half,” she says.

An explanation of the design of the proposed new logo.

The proposed tohu is a representation of the Ōtākou channel, in Otago Harbour, which brings water, kai and life to and from the region – just as the University brings and shares knowledge across Aotearoa.

Professor Nicholson acknowledges the proposal is a bold change for the university.

“In choosing to consider this path, we have reflected our proud history full of transformation, of daring, of choosing to be an institution which prizes education and community, and of doing the right thing rather than the easy thing.

“We want to be a New Zealand university which welcomes all people and works together to help them succeed. We want to reflect modern Aotearoa New Zealand and continue to lead at the forefront of our nation’s progress. And we want our visual identity which speaks to our unique and special place in the world,” she says.

Vision 2040 was developed after substantial consultation with the wider university community.

A review of the university’s visual identity has been underway since 2019.

This tohu would replace the existing university coat of arms in many situations, with coat of arms’ use retained in ceremonial settings such as graduation events and in locations such as University Colleges.

Current logo for the University of Otago.

The University is encouraging staff, students and alumni to provide feedback on the proposal through a survey.

In-person forums and other briefings to explain the proposed changes will also be held.

The consultation period, which is the biggest in the university's history, will run until April 16.

The University Council will then make a decision on whether to progress with the proposed changes.

The university is investing $126,000 to prepare and undertake extensive consultation on this proposal.

This includes engagement with students and staff at campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Invercargill and Auckland as well as engagement with alumni.

If approved, funding will be spread across several years.

A final decision is expected mid-May.


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