Important update on December’s graduation ceremonies

It is with heavy hearts we confirm the cancellation of the University of Canterbury’s December graduation celebrations.

The University is monitoring the Covid-19 Alert Levels closely and in response, our teams worked closely with Venues Ōtautahi to ensure our graduation ceremonies incorporated event safety considerations under Covid-19 Alert Level Two, and in anticipation of the ‘Orange’ category of the incoming Covid-19 Protection Framework.

It seems however, that even the strongest plans are no match for the unknown, which include the opening of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s borders, the recent community cases in Ōtautahi Christchurch and that guidance around incoming Covid-19 restrictions is not confirmed.

This decision is reinforced by ngā uara | our values and the practice of Tiakitanga, which underpins the importance of integrity and doing what’s right while demonstrating care and protection of others. Our individual and collective safety is of utmost importance.

What does this mean for our graduating students?
Our graduands are welcome to either graduate in absentia, or they can defer their graduation until a future date, e.g., April 2022. They will be asked to contact the Graduation Office by 1 December to confirm their decision.

We appreciate this outcome will be disappointing to many, and hope you understand that ensuring the safety of our graduands, staff and the wider University of Canterbury community, including our friends and whānau, was of utmost importance in making this decision.

If you have any questions or concerns, email

Ilam 2021 Open Studio Exhibition

From 20 Nov through to 25 Nov you are welcome to come along and visit the Ilam Studios to check out the incredible artwork 3rd year, 4th year, HONS and MFA students have been working on during 2021.

No need to book a ticket, just pop along between 10am-4pm.

We will be following covid guidelines so please wear a mask and contact trace when you are visiting.

Find more information here:

Congratulations to the 2021 UC Council Medal winners

The awards will be presented at the Celebrating Excellence Pō Whakamānawa event on Wednesday 24 November. Look out for more information and video interviews with the successful academics on UC News next week.

2021 UC Research Medal – Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Alex James and Professor Michael Plank

Associate Professor James and Professor Plank are recognised for their ground-breaking work developing a series of mathematical models that have informed the Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in New Zealand.

As key members of the national team of scientists at award-winning research centre Te Pūnaha Matatini, their modelling expertise has been used to understand the potential impact of the virus on Aotearoa’s most at-risk communities.

Associate Professor James and Professor Plank’s clear communication with the Government has had significant health and social impacts and they have also shared their knowledge with the public through articles and media interviews. 

2021 UC Research Medal – Professor of Business Markus Milne

Professor Milne has been researching ways to count the social and environmental cost of business for 30 years. He is known as a pioneer of social and environmental accounting, a field that is gaining international recognition as awareness of climate change grows.

He has spoken out about the need for businesses to be more transparent and accountable in measuring their carbon emissions, resource use and other environmental consequences.

The Research Medal is UC’s highest award for excellence in research over a sustained career and Professor Milne is placed first in Aotearoa for academic citation across all areas of accounting.

2021 UC Teaching Medal – Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Rua Murray

Associate Professor Murray has been awarded this prestigious medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to teaching and teaching leadership at UC and in the wider community.

He consistently receives positive feedback from students for his enthusiasm, clarity and organisation, with one describing him as “the Ashley Bloomfield of math lecturers”.

Associate Professor Murray has led Academic Board discussions on Teaching Quality and this year has been involved in a Royal Society Te Apārangi expert panel advising the Ministry of Education on maths literacy for New Zealand schools.

He has previously won a UC Teaching Award (2009) and an Ako Aotearoa Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching Award (2013), and is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Vale Phan Vong

When we said goodbye as we left for our most recent lockdown, we thought at most it would be for a few weeks. Not forever. Sadly, within a few days of the lockdown Phan was in hospital with the terrible news that she only had a few weeks to live, and that any treatment was not going to prolong her life.

True to Phan’s fighting spirit she was then on a mission to get everything in her life in order as well as she could for her son Max. Most days she had a new task for the team, even the leech mission was tackled! 

Phan was extremely grateful for the very quick way so many people across UC arranged for her exit so she could focus on spending the little time she had left with Max.

Thankfully those few weeks Phan stretched into a few months and she came to peace. Over that time we had the opportunity to share with each other stories of Phan’s infectious, raucous laugh. Her fruit collection. Her amazing ability to get so much done in a day – much like the duck analogy – graceful on the outside but madly paddling under the water. Her quiet demeanour punctuated sometimes with fierceness when someone or something she believed strongly in was challenged.

So many people across UC will have worked with Phan. She was the one who you contacted for web support. She quietly just fixed your issue or she might have even trained you on using T4 yourself. She was here so long, that it is hard to imagine life without her. Thankfully, not that long ago we celebrated her long service with a morning tea, where she had a chance to reflect on the many people she had worked with and share stories.

We are sad that Phan has left us too soon. But we are grateful that she was in our lives.

Vale Phan Vong.

Keeping UC staff informed