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New University of Canterbury report reveals community impact

22 March 2023

150 years on, Canterbury's unwavering commitment to higher education persists.


UC excels at supporting young professionals to develop their best and brightest ideas, incubating 372 start-ups, social enterprises and spinoffs since 2018, according to a new Community Impact Report.

This is the finding of the first independent and comprehensive assessment of the community impact of a New Zealand university, released today. It found that 80 percent of local residents who responded to a survey by Christchurch City Council believe Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury is important to them.

“One of the defining features of Canterbury is its belief in education and what it contributes to its communities and the economy through students and discovery - our first 150 years have shown that. I am excited about what we can do together for the next 150 years to support our citizens through education, health and wellbeing, culture and sustainability while at the same time growing 21st century industries,” Tumu Whakarae | Vice-Chancellor Cheryl de la Rey says.

UC’s influence is far reaching, the report shows.

  • UC acts as a talent magnet, with an annual intake equivalent to 5% of the city’s population. Half of UC students are from the region and half choose to join the local labour force following graduation.
  • The University excels at supporting young professionals to develop their best and brightest ideas, incubating 372 start-ups, social enterprises and spinoffs since 2018.
  • Among many new graduates, UC educates 450 new teachers per year.
  • Economically, UC is Ōtautahi Christchurch’s second largest employer, and its community contributed $790 million to the local economy in 2021. 

UC’s Amokapua | Assistant Vice-Chancellor Engagement Brett Berquist says a core principle of community engagement is reciprocity, learning from and with the local community, collaborating and sharing expertise.

“This report was an extensive listening exercise to understand what our community values and what people expect from the University of Canterbury,” he says.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, according to the research team behind it. “In my many years of doing this work with UK universities, I’ve never seen such consistently positive feedback,” Jonathan Simons from Public First says.

At the same time, the community indicated it wants to hear more about UC’s priorities, strengths, and future direction.

Looking ahead, the institution is marking its sesquicentennial with a new, equity-based accessible education initiative, the Te Kakau a Māui scholarships, which cover full degree course fees for 300 students from lower-decile South Island schools.

UC is also building a new digital screen campus, investing $131 million over the next four years to create a Canterbury hub for film production, game development and cross-reality projects.

Using surveys, focus groups, and leader interviews, UK-based Public First worked with local company Research First to discover how UC engages with Waitaha Canterbury across a range of categories. 

The report explores six domains of economic, social, health/wellbeing, cultural/creative, leadership and environmental impact and sets benchmarks for the University’s engagement with its communities throughout its 150th anniversary year and into the future.

Read the report summary here

  • The year 2023 marks UC’s sesquicentenary with the theme: Ka titiro whakamuri, ki te anga whakamua | Guided by the Past, Shaping the Future. UC has a full calendar of celebrations and initiatives planned to celebrate its 150th anniversary – the details are here. An introduction to UC’s 150th year appeared in Stuff here.

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