By 1949 the University had announced its decision to relocate from the town campus. The difficulties created by overcrowding and the cost of upgrading and maintaining the old stone buildings had convinced University authorities that rebuilding in Ilam was necessary. A momentous shift such as this could not take place overnight however. It was not until 1957 that the first department officially relocated to Ilam, and the last transfer of staff was not completed until 1975. With the University on the move, the buildings of the old College were at risk. A new purpose would be needed to ensure their survival.
At the closing of the Provincial Government in 1897, a Canterbury College student had wondered “While of the old Provincial Council which once seemed to approach even the Imperial Parliament in eloquence and dignity, nothing now remains, but its empty shell, so to speak; and the voices of women in ‘National Council’ assembled now echo through the lofty hall where once only man was heard. Shall we live to see our College buildings, too, used for purposes as much unlike those of its founders? Will the Chemical Laboratory become a communal home, and the Lecture Rooms be turned into bicycle schools, and we live to see it? Who knows?”