The VUW name change

Reed Fleming is one of many upset at the Council voting to change the name of Victoria University of Wellington.

There is a petition against the name change which has over 1,500 signatures to date. The Minister should only approve the name change is there is demonstrable support and in fact most submissions were against the name change. I note lots of well known lecturers have signed.

I’ve had a look at some of the research for the name change and it is fairly underwhelming.

If I wanted to do some high quality research on whether a name change would increase international student numbers I’d do an A/B test where you market the university as “Victoria University of Wellington” in half the countries you target and as “University of Wellington” in the other half. Then you can compare the change in enrolment numbers to the previous year to measure if a changed name has any impact.

That made me think though that if you can use a different name for marketing in half the countries, you could do it for all of them – without changing the name domestically. It’s what you call a trading name. Keep the name domestically as VUW but when you market the university globally you can call it University of Wellington, and just have VUW in the small print. That is the best of both worlds.

The consultation has been pretty substandard also. Changing the name of a university is a huge issue. It impacts every student, staff and graduate. Just allowing people to do a submission isn’t enough.

If I was Chris Hipkins I would refuse a name change (if one is made, the decision by Council is draft) unless VUW does the following:

  1. A survey of all current students on their preferred name
  2. A survey of all current staff on their preferred name
  3. A survey of all graduates they have an e-mail address of, on their preferred name

This can be done for just a few thousand dollars online. The survey results should not be the only factor in the decision, but they should be influential.  If 80% of staff, students and graduates were opposed, it would be folly to continue. But if say only 10% were opposed, then it might be all steam ahead.

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