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The University of Waikato - Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
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The University of Waikato

The University of Waikato/Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato had its origins in 1956, when a small group of visionary individuals began working towards the founding of a university for the people of the South Auckland region. In 1959 a College was established in Hamilton, as a branch of the University of Auckland, and in 1964 the new University of Waikato enrolled its first students. The official opening ceremony for the University took place in 1965, in the presence of the Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson (later Lord Ballantrae).

From these modest beginnings, on what was largely farmland and with only a handful of staff and temporary buildings, the University now provides over 80 qualifications in 200 different subjects to a student population of approximately 12,500, of whom more than 3,700 complete a qualification annually. In 1998 the University of Waikato began to make papers available in Tauranga, and now offers 12 full degree programmes in collaboration with the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic and Whakatane-based Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi through the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership.

Today, the University employs approximately 1,500 staff and makes a major contribution to the social and cultural life, as well as the economy, of the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions. A recent study has shown that the University is a major driver of Waikato’s prosperity, generating 4.5% total regional revenue and more than $836 million for the New Zealand economy as a whole. In the core Waikato region, economic activity by the University accounts for 4.4% of overall revenue - this means that every dollar spent by the University in 2011 resulted in $1.22 of flow-on revenue. The study also shows that every job at the University generates another 0.65 jobs in New Zealand, with almost 88% of these flow-on jobs located in the core Waikato region.

It is widely recognised that future economic growth and wealth in the Waikato and the Bay of Plenty depend heavily on the educational success of the people, and the creation of knowledge to drive innovation. These in turn depend on strong connections between the University and the communities we serve. Located as we are in the heart of Waikato Tainui country and on Tainui land, we are committed to working in partnership with Maori and towards the needs of iwi. As part of the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Education Partnership, we are progressing plans to build a new tertiary education and research facility in the Tauranga CBD to increase its capacity to deliver targeted research and tertiary education.

The University has embarked on the delivery of an ambitious new Vision for the future. The key themes of the Vision are Excellence, Distinctiveness and International Connectedness. We are committed to delivering a world-class education and research portfolio, providing a full and dynamic university experience which is distinctive in character, and pursuing strong local and international linkages to advance knowledge.

The University of Waikato is building for the future on a foundation of excellence in teaching and research. Our students are taught in a research-intensive environment, by world leaders in their fields. We foster excellence in learning and scholarship, and as the creators of world-changing knowledge, we encourage our students to be leaders and innovators. We produce critical thinking, future-focused graduates who are globally competitive by ensuring that our academic staff are internationally connected and benchmarked against the best in the world.

Excellence with regard to educational and research outcomes relies on the recruitment, retention and support of world-class staff and the provision of world-class facilities. Academic leadership and a culture of high performance are therefore among the highest investment priorities for the University. We are also committed to increasing our focus on interdisciplinary programmes and professionally oriented programmes.

We are now starting to reap the rewards of our focus on excellence. In 2012, the UK-based Times Higher Education rankings of the top 100 universities under 50 years old placed the University of Waikato top in New Zealand and seventh in the southern hemisphere. The University of Waikato also improved its overall world ranking to 302 in the 2012-2013 Times Higher Education ranking. It is the University's highest ranking ever, up from 318 in 2011.

The University has a strong reputation for its excellent and innovative approach to student learning support and a track-record of effectiveness in supporting students in the transition into university study. We are committed to strengthening pathways from schools to university, and working closely with polytechnics and wananga to increase progression into degree-level study. As well as offering effective learning support to all students, Waikato Pathways College, in the Faculty of Education, offers English language and foundation programmes that are specially tailored to the needs of international students.

The University of Waikato invests heavily in the pastoral care of our students. The campus environment in Hamilton is shared with the wider community, and we work closely with the Hamilton City Council and other local government agencies in the region to foster a dynamic student culture. The development and well-being of every student as an individual, and as a 'whole person', is an important dimension of the University's uniqueness. The Halls of Residence on campus, where pass rates of students are significantly higher than average, are a clear example of the University's focus on a supportive learning environment.

Between 2008 and 2011, the University invested more than $122 million in a capital programme to support learning, teaching and research, designed to enhance the student learning experience. The new Student Centre opened in 2011 and provides a ‘one-stop-shop’ for services to students, and a five-year refurbishment programme for the Halls of Residence got underway in 2012. In addition, the University of Waikato has entered into a partnership with the locally-based National Cycling Centre of Excellence which will give staff and students access to top-level sports facilities and enhanced research and consultancy opportunities.

The University of Waikato is distinctive in three respects. Firstly, we offer teaching and research excellence across a broad range of subjects. Top national research rankings in the areas of Computer Science, Management, Education and the Sciences clearly demonstrate national leadership. Secondly, we have a unique reputation for being student-centred, for treating students as individuals, and demonstrating a genuine concern for their well-being. Thirdly, the University offers a genuinely Aotearoa/New Zealand identity, which extends beyond the excellence of teaching and research and student focus, and is unique in New Zealand.

The third leg of our Vision is International Connectedness, and the University is pursuing strong international linkages to advance knowledge that is not only world class but also world changing. We are investing in the establishment of a small number of elite international alliances, through which we are enhancing our international reputation and profile, building staff capability through academic collaboration, enhancing student learning through shared curriculum development and student exchanges, and collaborating in quality assurance, best practice and benchmarking. International strategic links bring opportunities to increase research and commercialisation revenue. We also use these strategic links to support our efforts, in collaboration with our regional business stakeholders, to achieve economic development and transformation outcomes.

Increasing external research investment, from national and international organisations, into the University is fundamental to growing our research capability, capacity and reputation. Beginning in 2011, the University has established a number of research institute sand centres designed to foster inter-institutional and international research collaborations. These new research platforms in areas of strategic importance for the University allow us to effectively engage with industry partners, both directly and through collaborative government-funded research, and provide leverage for commercialisation activities and contract research for other customers and in other fields. Through its Research Office, the University is proactive in bringing external investment into University research, and through WaikatoLink we engage with relevant industries to develop research programmes which offer opportunitites for commercial development.

The University of Waikato sits at the heart of a strong regional economy and takes pride in the extent to which we reflect and serve the strengths and interests of our region. Through strong links with iwi and our stakeholders, we ensure that our graduates and researchers have skills, knowledge and understandings that contribute to the ongoing prosperity and economic sustainability of the nation.

As we move towards our 50th Anniversiary in 2014, the future for the University of Waikato is exciting. Our financial base is sound and we have mapped out for ourselves a clear and agreed framework for well-informed strategic investment decisions over the medium-term. Decisions about the University's future will be underpinned by the Vision and the key themes of Excellence, Distinctiveness and International Connectedness. We will continue to work closely with our stakeholders and play an increasingly distinctive role at the centre of a network of provision across our region. We are proud of our evolution into a truly New Zealand institution which, as our motto reflects, supports our country's nation-building policies and reflects our nation's identity - Ko Te Tāngata ('For the People').