The History of the University of Waikato

Waikato University owes its existence to two brave men who fought loudly for eight years, on behalf of the people of Waikato, to establish their own university. Since then we've never been afraid to do things differently.

UOW Campus in 1970

In 1956 a handful of Hamiltonian locals decided they wanted their own university. It seemed reasonable. New Zealand had four universities that had been established in the main centres since the end of last century. Why not the Waikato?

Unfortunately, the powers that be had other ideas. They'd been safely holed up unchallenged for more than 50 years, in the colleges that constituted the University of New Zealand, and were dismissive of a Hamilton based university. Hamilton was a plodding centre for producing farmers and the occasional All Black, certainly no place for higher learning. Luckily two men begged to differ.

After several rebuffs the University of South Auckland society was formed. The society's first founder was Douglas Seymour, a barrister and solicitor reminiscent of Rumpole, who sprinkled his speech with Greek and Latin quotes. Seymour set "out to kill to establish something (he) believed in." Thankfully, it never came to that, but his passion was never in question.

During his five years heading the society, Seymour's zeal and tenacity made a lot of headway... and more than a few enemies. His able and more diplomatic off-sider Anthony Rogers, a Hamilton GP and brother to long-time mayor Denis Rogers, often stepped in to pat down the feathers Seymour had ruffled.

Known by his nickname of Rufus, Rogers succeeded Seymour as president of the society. Together, over eight long years, they made enough noise to make the University of Waikato dream... a reality.

Uow Campus gateway in 1970In 1964 the University of Waikato was officially opened by then Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson (later Lord Ballantrae).

Today Waikato University is home to more than 12,000 students and has continued to be a breeding ground for independent thought and progressive learning. In 1989 (with a little help from NASA) we connected New Zealand to the Internet before going on to become the first University in New Zealand to have cyber-graduates, completing their teaching degrees online.

In 1998 we took a major initiative into Tauranga and formed an alliance with the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic to facilitate teaching in the Western Bay of Plenty. For the first time courses became available taught completely face-to-face in a city outside of Hamilton. In 2001 the first students from The University of Waikato at Tauranga graduated at a ceremony held in Tauranga.

Our campus now covers 65 hectares and is a far cry from its modest beginnings in 1964 on what was largely farmland, with a handful of temporary buildings and a few staff.

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