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Otago Establishes NZ Chair in Scottish Studies

30 November 2006

Otago Establishes First NZ Chair in Scottish Studies

It's guid to be merry and wise,
It's guid to be honest and true,
It's guid to support Caledonia's cause,
And bide by the buff and the blue!

Here’s a Health to Them that’s Awa’. - Robert Burns

The University of Otago is establishing New Zealand’s first Professorial Chair in Scottish Studies – a move made possible by a generous donation from the Stuart Residence Halls Council.

The new Chair will be officially announced at a University function today, which is Scotland’s national day, St Andrew’s Day. Among the guests will be the British High Commissioner to New Zealand, His Excellency Mr George Fergusson.

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Skegg says the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies is a welcome and fitting development, given the Scottish heritage of the University and of southern New Zealand.

“New Zealand’s first university was founded in the early days of the Otago settlement, a move which reflected the Scottish settlers’ strong belief in higher education as an uplifting social force. I am delighted that this generous endowment will allow us to recognise and further that vision through this Chair.”

The Council’s $1.5m donation has been made as part of the University's Leading Thinkers Initiative and will be matched under the Government’s Partnerships for Excellence scheme, lifting the total to $3m.

Humanities Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Alistair Fox said the new professor, to be appointed after an international search for a senior scholar, would pursue research and teaching into Scottish history, culture and society and its considerable impact on New Zealand’s identity and development.

Professor Fox says some census estimates indicate people born in Scotland accounted for up to 25 per cent of migrants to New Zealand between 1850 and 1950.

“The professor’s tasks will include fostering research partnerships with scholars and institutions both here and abroad, developing Scottish exchange partnerships for staff and students and responding to and developing community interest in Scottish Studies,” he says.

The new professor will establish a multi-disciplinary Scottish Studies programme which builds upon existing expertise at the University. The programme’s two strands will cover Scottish history, politics and economics and Scottish literature, music and culture, he says.

The rich range of materials held in Dunedin institutions, such as holdings in the Hocken Collections, the Dunedin Public Library, Knox College and the Otago Settlers’ Museum could sustain undergraduate, postgraduate and staff research for many years, Professor Fox says.

The new Chair is the second Leading Thinkers initiative that the Stuart Residence Halls Council has endowed after recently divesting its property portfolio. The Council’s support for a Chair in Science Communication was announced in September.

Council Chair Martin Anderson says the idea of supporting the Scottish Chair appealed strongly.

“This was a very easy decision for us – it’s a very good fit given the Council’s history, and a worthwhile initiative that closely complements the University’s recently-appointed Chair in Irish Studies,” says Mr Anderson.

The Stuart Residence Halls Council was originally formed in the 1940s by a group of Dunedin businessmen of Scottish ancestry to support initiatives that addressed student accommodation shortages. The Council was named after Knox Church’s first minister, Reverend Donald Stuart, who was also a long-serving Chancellor of the University (1879-1894).

Notes to the Editor:

A function celebrating the endowment of the Stuart Chair in Scottish Studies will be held at the University Council Chambers at 5:00pm on Thursday 30 November. Entertainment will be provided by a group of local dancers from the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society New Zealand Branch, and a local piper. Refreshments will include a wee dram of Scotch. Media are welcome to attend.

ENDS

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