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

  • Continued successes underline our No.1 ranking for intensity of high-quality research (Performance-Based Research Fund)
  • Best year ever for Marsden Fund grants in terms of both number—27—and value—more than $16m—and over $26m from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to our Robinson Research Institute for its ground-breaking research
  • Total external research income of $86.8m
  • Strong resilience in the face of COVID-19 and its impacts and a leading role in New Zealand’s COVID-19 vaccine research and evaluation
  • Resounding vote of confidence for the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, hosted by the University, with its fourth consecutive designation as a Centre of Research Excellence
  • Awards for Professor Rawinia Higgins and Associate Professor Maria Bargh from the Royal Society Te Aparangi acknowledging their respective contributions to te reo Māori revitalisation and te ao Māori and the Prime Minister’s Science Prize for our Antarctic Research Centre’s Melting Ice and Rising Seas team
  • Open access research repository launched to make it easier for government, businesses, and other organisations to benefit from our expertise

Teaching and learning

  • Most university courses offered online as well as face-to-face to mitigate impact of COVID-19
  • Comprehensive support for current students impacted by COVID-19 through technology and hardship grants, accommodation discounts, flexibility in managing workload and assessments, and extension of course withdrawal dates
  • Fees scholarships provided to more than 420 people whose work and life had been disrupted by COVID-19 for study in Trimester 2
  • Improved scores in student evaluation of courses and teachers, despite the challenges presented by COVID-19
  • Continued expansion of our Trimester 3 offering to cater for current and new students
  • Established Wellington Uni-Professional to ensure growth in non-degree teaching, including short courses, micro-credentials, and professional development
  • Dr Awanui Te Huia from Te Kawa a Māui won a 2020 Tertiary Teaching Excellence Award, one of just nine awarded nationally


  • Continued to rank among the top 2 percent of the world’s 18,000 universities overall and in the top 100 universities in the world for 12 subjects
  • Sustainability leadership reflected in ranking among the top 40 universities in the world for Sustainable Development Goals social impact and commitment
  • Partnerships continued to flourish despite the challenges of COVID-19. Examples include an agreement signed for a joint programme with Communications University of Zhejiang in Hangzhou, China, and a Memorandum of Understanding with California State University, Stanislaus
  • Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban received the 2020 Women of Influence Lifetime Achievement award for service to the Pacific community, both in politics (she was the first Pacific Island woman to be elected to the New Zealand Parliament) and at a grassroots level
  • Wellington University International honoured in the Internationalisation Award—Workplace category of the Wellington International Student Excellence Awards for its support for international students and graduates

Ensuring a sustainable future

  • Comprehensive university-wide response to the financial challenges delivered by COVID-19 including wide-ranging efforts by staff, ranging from reducing annual leave balances to salary sacrifices to accepting voluntary redundancy
  • Te Herenga Waka Resilience Programme, consisting of seven workstreams to improve organisational resilience
  • Years of planning came to fruition with a resource consent granted for the Living Pā marae complex redevelopment and approval from the University Council to begin construction in 2021
  • Continued to deliver on our commitment to sustainability through teaching, research, and emissions reductions and a partnership with Wellington City Council to plant carbon-removing new native forest on the Outer Green Belt
  • Confirmation of establishment of a Fale Male meeting house, New Zealand’s first national Pasifika place of belonging
  • Campus Master Plan setting a vision for the University until 2030
  • Developed a Māori Language Plan for the University for the next five years to increase the visibility and use of te reo Māori across the University