Is it a branding refresh or name change by stealth? The VUW Vice Chancellor Grant Guildford should not be surprised many are deeply suspicious of his so called branding refresh. In respect of the name issue there is widespread lack of confidence in his judgment both inside and outside the university.
What we are witnessing is a master class in mismanagement. The VC has converted a small problem into a monumental one. The small problem is that for prospective Asian students, the full name – Victoria University of Wellington – is necessary for them to associate VUW with Wellington, New Zealand. Adding the words New Zealand on the end solves any remaining doubt. VUW should not have wasted tens of thousands of dollars on Colmar Brunton dollars on proving the obvious.
What is truly amazing to me that VUW is so disconnected from central government, just a few weeks ago it triggered a unanimous fast tracked change to the Education Act, requiring any university that wanted to change its name to get a Parliamentary vote. That would not have happened but for the outrage caused by VUW’s attempt at a name change. In my many years dealing with the Government as a consultant I cannot recall anything like this.
When the VUW Council decided a few days before that to abandon the name change it said there would instead be a brand refresh and we now have some details on what’s proposed.
The VC appears to have an obsession with “Queen Victoria”, who along with another nineteenth century Brit, the “Duke of Wellington”, has strong links to our capital city. Having failed with a “big bang” approach it seems the VC wants to achieve his objective with many small steps to make “Victoria” simply fade away, leaving us with Mount Victoria, a CBD street and one statue of her on Cambridge Terrace, while still keeping the Duke’s name.
All the damaging angst and major costs of the past 18 months could have been avoided by making sure the full name is always used when promoting itself overseas, as well as the country name, because Wellington is not nearly well enough known internationally as the capital of this country. Whatever logic they may have, the other costly and confusing sub-brand and URL changes etc are unnecessary and most should be abandoned.
Ironically twenty years ago VUW minimised the word Wellington in its branding so it could claim national status. All other universities have added “New Zealand” to their names because independent research shows it is important.
Let’s see whether the VUW Council reins in this VC who chooses, I am told, keeps his primary residence in Auckland.