UC VC invited to speak at Oxford University

As part of marking her university’s 150th anniversary, UC Tumu Whakarae | Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey has given a speech at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford University, England.

UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Cheryl de la Rey, the Very Reverend Professor Sarah Foot, Dean of the college of Christ Church, Oxford, and UC Chancellor Honourable Amy Adams. Photo credit: Hugh Warwick

To strengthen the historic relationship with Oxford – the oldest university in the English-speaking world – Professor De la Rey spoke about the long-standing connections between the universities, including the significance of Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury’s ceremonial mace. 

UC’s foundation in 1873 owes much to the graduates of Oxford University’s cathedral/college Christ Church. As well as celebrating UC’s sesquicentenary, Professor De la Rey aims to strengthen relationships and reinforce historic Oxford ties.   

The association between the two institutions dates to the design of the University’s original campus (now home to The Arts Centre) in central Ōtautahi Christchurch, the donation of books to College House (a residential student hall), and a series of distinguished University of Oxford visitors to Waitaha Canterbury over the years.  

The most tangible symbol of these links is the University Mace, which is still a ceremonial feature of all UC graduation celebrations. This symbol of institutional authority was presented to UC in 1957 by a representative of the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, in recognition of the close relationship between the college and Ōtautahi Christchurch, New Zealand. It was designed and made at Christ Church and the shaft was created using part of an oak beam originally part of the college’s Tom Tower built in 1680, which was removed when the tower’s bell was being rehung. Even in 1680, when the beam was installed in the Sir Christopher Wren-designed Tower, the timber was described as ‘well-seasoned’. Since 1957, the mace has been used at every University graduation ceremony, during the procession of graduands and staff. 

Also speaking in the Freind Room, Christ Church, Oxford, UC’s Chancellor Hon Amy Adams said: “It’s impossible to be here and not feel a real sense of the history of this place, one of the world’s oldest universities. By comparison, the University of Canterbury’s 150th anniversary being celebrated this year seems positively youthful, but for us, it is a major milestone.”  

Alongside the Vice-Chancellor and Chancellor, Pou Whakarae Professor Te Maire Tau (Ngai Tahu), and Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist also represented the University in England.  

There has been a longstanding exchange of ideas and knowledge between universities enabled by UC’s Erskine Fellowship since 1963, and more recently, a reciprocal visitor exchange programme between the two universities. The Oxford-Canterbury academic exchange programme was established in 2002, with the first Oxford Fellowship visits occurring in 2003. 

  • The University of Canterbury is the second oldest university in Aotearoa New Zealand. It was established on the Oxford and Cambridge models in 1873. The whakatauki, or saying, adopted for UC’s 150th year is Ka titiro whakamuri, ki te anga whakamua, which means Guided by the Past, Shaping the Future. 
  • VC Oxford