The University Of Canterbury Opened – 6th June 1873

On 6th June 1873, the Canterbury College was opened, welcoming students from both sexes, all classes and denominations. Today we know this institution as the University of Canterbury.

It had been the dream of the Canterbury Association that Christchurch’s Cathedral and college be at the heart of the new settlement. Rev. Henry Jacobs had been promised work by the Canterbury Association as a Classical Professor for the proposed new college of Christchurch.  But he was under no illusion. He knew that there would be no church or school awaiting him upon his arrival in Canterbury.

With the arrival of the New Zealand Anglican Bishop, George Augustus Selwyn, on 3rd January 1851 in Lyttelton, Jacobs opened his school with the Bishop’s blessing in the Immigration Barracks. He had twelve pupils and this was the humble beginnings of Christ’s College and its spin-off, the University of Canterbury.

By the 1870’s, those involved with Christ’s College, Canterbury Museum , and the Canterbury Public Library began to discuss the opening of a tertiary-level educational option for the secondary students of Canterbury. After land was sourced on Worchester Street, provincial architect Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (known for his design of the Canterbury Provincial Chambers at that time) began on his designs for the Canterbury College – now our Arts Centre. With the combined talents of Charles Cook (mathematics), Alexander Bickerton (chemistry and physics) and John MacMillian Brown (english, classics and great supporter of education for women), the Canterbury College was founded.

The Canterbury College opened even though the buildings weren’t completed. The Clock Tower section of the Arts Centre was its first structure with necessary additions being made by fellow architects, Samuel Hurst Seager and William Barnett. The last building – the Engineering Block – was finished in 1923. In 1933, the Canterbury College became known as the Canterbury University College and then in 1957, the University of Canterbury.

In 1950, two farms (Ilam and Okeover) were purchased at the edge of the city. From 1961, the University began to make the move to their Ilam campus. This was completed by 1977. Now situated on 76 hectares, the University teaches seventy subjects and runs five colleges: Arts, Education, Science, Business and Law. There are around twelve thousand enrollments very year.

The University of Canterbury was the first constituent college in the University of New Zealand and is New Zealand’s second oldest University.  It was also the second institution in New Zealand providing tertiary-level education and the fourth in Australasia.

*Image courtesy of A Dutch Corner in New Zealand –*

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