Topic: The University of Waikato - A Brief History

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In 2014 the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. This is a brief history of one of our city's most significant institutions.

In 1956 solicitor Douglas Seymour and Dr Anthony Rogers organised a meeting to discuss the possibility of a university in Hamilton. It was well attended by influential Hamilton citizens, who were of the opinion that the region needed a tertiary institution. From this the University of South Auckland Society was formed, and it campaigned for a university for several years. Their early efforts met with resistance from Auckland based academics and administrators not wanting to lose funding, staff or students.

In 1960 a branch of the University of Auckland was set up where the Melville High School now stands, only to be threatened with closure within a couple of years. The Society fought for its continuation, and in 1964 the completely new University of Waikato, sited in Hillcrest, was founded, with Don Llewellyn as the first vice chancellor, and Dr Denis Rogers as first chancellor.

In this extract Dr Anthony Rogers talks about the visit of Jack Llewellyn, the Chairman of the Grants Committee. This extract is 2 minutes and 38 seconds in length. Click here to listen (Hamilton City LIbraries OH0369).

University of Waikato 1966
Hamilton Teachers College and B Block, July 1966 (HCL_03262

At first there were only two Schools of Studies, those of Humanities and Social Sciences, and limited subjects could be offered to the 150 students. The campus was shared by the Hamilton Teachers College, which later became the Waikato College of Teacher Education. When the School of Education was introduced, the two institutions shared resources and programmes. 

The School of Science was added in 1970, and two years later the School of Management Studies was inaugurated. The next addition was the School of Computing and Mathematical Studies, which was followed by the last department, the School of Law, in 1990.

The School of Maaori and Pacific Development grew from the Centre for Maaori Studies and Research. The lands that the University is situated on are in the centre of traditional Tainui lands, which were returned to Maaori in the Raupatu Settlement. The situation places the University in an ideal position for Maaori study and research. In 1970 Timoti Karetu, later to become Professor of Maaori, was appointed as part time teacher of basic Maaori language. In the second year a cultural course was added, and then an advanced language course. Later an MA course and a Certificate in Maaori Studies were introduced. In 1974 a cultural group called "Te Reo Rangatira" was formed; this later expanded and became the "Te Whare Wanaga o Waikato".

Other facilities were gradually added; the halls of residence were built in stages, with help from the Bryant Trust, who also assisted with a residence for the first chaplain, Dr Phyllis Guthard.  The Student Union building was completed in 1980, and an Indoor Sports Centre was opened eight years later.

The Centre for Continuing Education was set up in the 1970s to provide resources for the whole community. The Centre has grown enormously over the years, and provides a wide range of courses, which are often the first step in participants enrolling in formal studies. 

In 2001 the WEL Energy Trust Academy of the Performing Arts was opened to provide a venue for music concerts, theatre and dance performances, art and photography exhibitions, festivals, conferences and private functions.

As of 2012 the University offers 80 qualifications covering over 200 subjects to around 12,500 students.

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The University of Waikato - A Brief History by Susy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License