Year in review

How research is thriving and the University is working to ensure a sustainable future are among the things captured by our review of the year.

Research is thriving

  • Significant successes, further consolidating our position as Aotearoa New Zealand’s top ranked University for intensity of high-quality research. This includes:
    • Contributions across a wide range of fields celebrated with 12 researchers being recognised in the 2021 Research Honours Aotearoa Awards.
    • Twenty-two projects receiving funding of over $14 million from the Marsden Fund for projects addressing topics in humanities, social sciences, mātauranga Māori, mathematics, and engineering.
    • Our excellent early-mid career researchers were recognised with four Rutherford Discovery Fellowships and seven Whitinga
  • Total external research income of $88.8 million.
  • Professors James Renwick, Nick Golledge, and Dave Frame played a prominent role in commentary on the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
  • Contributions by staff to diverse fields recognised through various prestigious platforms, including the Marsden Medal for lifetime of  outstanding service to science awarded to Professor Martha Savage and the Prime Minister’s Science Prize awarded to Dr Christopher Cornwall for his research on climate change and ocean studies.
  • Three new start-ups established by Wellington UniVentures, including TasmanIon, a company focusing on developing safe, sustainable aluminium ion batteries for energy storage. Dr Shalini Divya, CEO of TasmanIon, was recognised at the KiwiNet Awards with the Breakthrough Innovator Award.
  • Associate Professor Franck Natali selected as part of an elite group of researchers to join the inaugural Breakthrough Energy Fellows Program, supported by the Bill Gates Foundation, for his work on revolutionising the way ammonia is produced, which could have a global impact on reducing carbon emissions.
  • Ongoing contributions to the global response to the pandemic, including studying the potential effect of vaccination programmes on opening New Zealand’s borders and the psychological impact of lockdown.

Teaching and learning

  • Dual mode delivery continued to ensure students could keep learning through the COVID-19 pandemic and comprehensive support services also offered to all students impacted by the pandemic.
  • Significant improvements to learning and teaching infrastructure now underway including a review of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Curriculum Frameworks, development of a new Curriculum Management System, and preparation for a new Learning Platform.
  • Supported high-school students impacted by COVID-19 to take the first steps towards tertiary education through a new.
    provisional admission process
  • Twelve Māori, Pasifika, and refugee students supported as part of the first year of the Ngā Hoe a Kupe Scholarship pilot scheme, towards
    encouraging first-generation learners to embark on a journey
    with education.
  • Kāpuhipuhi-Wellington Uni-Professional established to offer non-degree teaching that supports development of professional skills and enhances employability, helping to meet the changing needs of the workplace in the Wellington region.
  • First cohort of 16 staff appointed as part of the newly introduced teaching-intensive pathway, aimed at supporting and recognising academic staff in
    permanent teaching roles.

Enhanced student experience

  • Establishment of Tītoko, a Centre for Student Success, which encompasses a new holistic advisory model, a multi-channel student service centre, a new admissions and enrolment process, and modern enabling technologies.
  • Establishment of the new Student Experience and Wellbeing Directorate, bringing together Student Health and Counselling; wellbeing and health promotion services, rainbow and inclusion services, refugee background services, Disability Services, Student Learning; Careers and Employment; Student Interest and Conflict Resolution; international student support and international development scholarships.
  • Co-creation with student representatives of the Student Engagement Framework, articulating processes for student involvement and participation in matters that affect them.
  • Self-review confirmed we are already compliant with key requirements of the new Pastoral Care Code of Practice, relating to student safety and wellbeing and fostering learning environments to support positive learning experiences.


  • Six alumni selected as Distinguished Alumni Award recipients for 2021, recognising their contributions to fields ranging from justice and climate change activism, to Māori business, philanthropy, and international diplomacy.
  • Members of our community won six of the eight annual awards at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.
  • Memorandum of Understanding signed between Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, Whitireia Community Polytechnic Ltd (Whitireia), and Wellington Institute of Technology Ltd (WelTec) towards providing expanded academic pathways for students across a range of disciplines.
  • Increased capacity to deliver our programmes to students across the world through partnershipswith world-class institutions in China and India, the establishment of a student learning centre in China, and the launch of Educating for the Future Centre of Excellence across Indonesia and Australia.
  • $7.2 million received in philanthropic donations.
  • Significant progress towards achieving our goal of being net carbon zero by 2030 with a 37% reduction in carbon emissions from 2017.
  • Ranked 17th for our work on clean energy and 40th for climate action out of 1,100 universities around the world in the Times Higher Education Impact rankings.
  • Partnered with Wellington City Council to plant 23,000 native trees to provide biodiversity and carbon benefits as part of our Zero Carbon Plan.

Growing our iho

  • A refreshed Mai i te Iho ki te Pae, Māori strategic outcomes framework, outlines our goals for meeting the needs and interests of Māori staff and students as well as the pae or wider university.
  • An aspiration to be a truly place based institution, with real biculturalism that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi, articulated in the Ngā Herenga section in the University’s Futures Report He moana pukepuke e ekengia e te waka—Navigating choppy waters: Te Herenga Waka to 2025.
  • More than 2,000 Māori full-time students were enrolled with us this year, the largest in the history of the University.
  • Across the year, we distributed 300 matched funding scholarships, established 10 new Taihonoa partnerships with iwi and Māori organisations, and facilitated 24 internships across 13 organisations, namely Toi Māori Aotearoa, Te Manatū Aorere—MFAT, Māori Education Trust, Kahui Legal, Te Ohu Kai Moana, Te Arawhiti, Tuia Group, Ministry of Social Development, NZQA, Heritage New Zealand, GNS Science, Te Kōtahitanga o Taranaki, and Te Korowai o Ngāruahine
  • Awarded $250,000 from the National Science Challenge: Deep South Challenge: Changing with our Climate Te Taura fund to the 'He Pā Mataora—Learning to live with the Living Pā' research project
  • Over 600 staff members completed Te Hāpai courses and over 500 registered for the Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori webinars as part of their professional development
  • Confirmed commitment to investing up to $45 million in development of the Living Pā, which will be one of the world’s most environmentally responsible buildings and a new icon for Wellington and Aotearoa. Over 300 students, staff, alumni, iwi, and community members attended the whakamoe ceremony to officially close down 42–50 Kelburn as part of the preparation of the site of the Living Pā.