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Grant Robertson Is Otago University's New Vice-Chancellor

Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Former Finance Minister Grant Robertson officially confirmed today what he referred to as '‘the worst-kept secret in the South Island’’ — his appointment as the new vice-chancellor of the University of Otago.

Expressing his enthusiasm for the new role, he told Otago Daily Times, "It is a dream job for me in many ways. I had a great experience as a student at the University of Otago; it set me up for my life, and the opportunity to come back and create those kinds of opportunities for future students is just huge."

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Having earned a BA in political studies during his time at Otago, Robertson also served as the president of the Otago University Students Association and co-president of the New Zealand University Students' Association.

When asked about the transition from being a student leader to a university executive, he said, "I don’t know about that; it has been 31 years since I was the student president, so an awful lot has happened in that time. But I have always felt a deep connection to the university, the city, and the province. I have never not been an Otago boy, and it feels good to be coming home."

Robertson, originally from South Dunedin, had a career that spanned various roles. After working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), he ventured into politics, working in the offices of Labour MPs and eventually serving as Finance Minister for six years under Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Reflecting on his political career, he said, "I have given a huge part of my life to politics, and so it is a wrench leaving here, but I am super excited for the role."

Robertson is set to assume his new position on July 1, with plans to remain in Parliament for a few weeks to assist his successor in the finance spokesperson role and prepare for a valedictory speech. Labour leader Chris Hipkins will announce a reshuffled line-up following Robertson’s departure.

University Chancellor Stephen Higgs expressed delight in welcoming someone of Robertson’s caliber to a key leadership role, citing his extensive leadership experience, understanding of government processes, financial management skills, and ability to navigate complex issues as standout qualities. Higgs also emphasized Robertson's proven track record in building effective partnerships, both domestically and internationally, as an asset for the university.

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