University of Auckland quad during Orientation Week in the 1980s

University of Auckland 140th Anniversary: Orientation

Celebrate the new academic year

At the beginning of each year, Orientation Week (or O-Week) gives new students a chance to get their bearings, discover what clubs and societies they can join and make new friends. Returning students can reconnect after the long summer break and the disruptions to campus life caused by Covid-19.

To coincide with Orientation Week, Special Collections has put together a display celebrating this important and fun part of the university year. The display, located outside Special Collections on the ground floor of the General Library, is also the first of a series of activities to mark the University of Auckland’s 140th anniversary.

When Auckland University College (AUC) opened in 1883, there were just 75 students.1 By 1933, when AUC celebrated its Golden Jubilee, there were 1,307 students, rising to nearly 5,000 when AUC became the University of Auckland in 1962.2 This year, around 40,000 students will be studying at the University’s five campuses.

Fun for Freshers

Until the 1980s, first-year students were usually called ‘Freshers’. Orientation events hosted by the Auckland University Student Association and student clubs included a Freshers’ Welcome (usually a formal supper dance), a Freshers’ camp, and even a Miss Fresherette competition. In 1962, Miss Sylvia Brooks was crowned Miss Fresherette at the Freshers’ Prom, held at the Peter Pan Cabaret on Queen Street.3 Other popular orientation activities have included movie screenings, theatre performances, debates, and club get-togethers.

More recently, orientation events have expanded to include steins and concerts with impressive line-ups of local bands. Hopefully, the sun will shine for this year’s street party on Alfred Street. If not, you can always take shelter in the Te Herenga Mātauranga Whānui | General Library, and check out how the students before you celebrated orientation.

Discover more

  • Visit the Fun for Freshers display outside Special Collections, Level G, Te Herenga Mātauranga Whānui | General Library until Friday 20 March 2023. 

Katherine Pawley, Special Collections


1Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR). 1884 Session I, E-08, p.2 accessed via AtoJs Online. 

2 AJHR. 1934 Session I, E-07, p. 2 accessed via AtoJs Online.

University students total 4481. (20 March 1962). New Zealand Herald, the 1962-1966 University of Auckland clipping book. MSS & Archives E-3, Vol. 10 

3 Fresherette. (3 March 1962). Auckland Star, from the 1962-1966 University of Auckland clipping book. MSS & Archives E-3, Vol. 10. 

Featured image: Orientation activities in the Quad 1980s. University of Auckland Department of External Relations, Public Relations Division photographic collection. MSS & Archives. 2007/10, folder 9/1/3/1.