University of Otago consults on visual identity proposal

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

The University’s identity project follows the launch of the University’s new strategy Vision 2040 last month. At the heart of this long-term plan is the desire to become a Te Tiriti-led organisation, working in partnership with mana whenua.

The proposal includes a new Māori name and tohu (symbol), created in collaboration with mana whenua.

While the name University of Otago will remain, 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.

Two alternative presentations of the proposed new University of Otago tohu and te reo Māori name alongside the English name
The tohutō (macron) is a nod to a waka, which we collectively paddle as one.

The tohu (symbol) is a visual representation of the Ōtākou channel in the Otago harbour, where Māori and European settlers arrived to the region.

Our proposed new Māori name is a metaphor meaning, “A Place of Many Firsts”.

The dual streams symbolise the reciprocity of learning and partnership between teachers and students, and between our University and the rest of the world.

The three strokes represent our past, present and future, and combined curve towards the centre as an expression of the channel and its life force.

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.

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 the coat of arms’ use retained in ceremonial settings such as graduation events and in locations such as University Colleges.

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

The consultation period runs from Wednesday, March 15 to Sunday, April 16, following which University Council will make a decision on whether to progress with the proposed changes.