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A New History: The University of Canterbury 1873-2023

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John Wilson
December 2023
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A century and a half now separate us from the founding of Canterbury College, the institution from which the University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wananga o Waitaha evolved. In 'A New History: The University of Canterbury 1873-2023', historian John Wilson offers a fresh interpretation of an institution that has played a central role in shaping the development of research culture and university education in Aotearoa New Zealand and that has been at the forefront of the shift to a postcolonial university world. This account positions the University of Canterbury as a new window into the changing nature of both university education and wider New Zealand society. Wilson's exploration of the University's history ranges widely, from establishing its origins to tracing the consequences of the educational reforms of the 1980s, while also considering the impact of the Canterbury earthquakes and the Covid-19 pandemic. Focused through the lens of two key themes, the book situates the University within a continuing debate concerning the purpose of tertiary education in New Zealand and the challenges and opportunities presented by a unique bicultural environment. In examining the University's development, Wilson highlights how the institution evolved as part of the community it continues to serve, while offering city, province and Aotearoa as a whole leadership and, on occasion, challenging expectations. The book also presents honest reflections on the University's engagements with tangata whenua and Pacific peoples, arguing that in its recent efforts it has established a template for postcolonial universities. Dr Wilson is joined by the University's vice-chancellor, Professor Chery de la Rey, its pou whakarae, Professor Te Maire Tau, and representatives of the Pacific community led by Distinguished Professor Steven Ratuva, each of whom provides further reflections on topics and issues raised by the book's themes, exploring the past but also considering what this unique institution may offer the future. A prologue by Dr Chris Jones introduces the project and explores the challenges of writing university histories.