About UCSA

Nau Mai Ki Te Rōpū Akonga ō Te Whare Wānanga ō Waitaha

Welcome to The University of Canterbury Students’ Association.

Established in 1894, we’re a registered not-for-profit organisation that supports UC students to succeed and belong.

Our organisation is governed by an elected Student Executive, and we employ over 200 staff. Together, we dish up a range of student-focused services, including: advocacy and welfare, representation, subsidised dental and optometry, early learning centres, club support, events, and media.

To help fund our work, we also provide approximately 4,000 lunches daily to primary and secondary schools across Christchurch (Ka Ora, Ka Ako | Healthy School Lunches). We also operate a catering business (OnCampus), an event equipment hire company (The Hire Store) and own a 50% share of the University Bookshop. The UCSA also owns many of the best cafés and bars on campus, including The Foundry.

With all this going on, we’ve grown into a diverse organisation with an annual turnover of around $16 million and net assets valued at approximately $12 million.

How we're governed

Elected UC students as well as a co-opted student representative from Te Akatoki make up the governing body of the UCSA. 

Their core role is to provide strategic and overall governance of the UCSA, and to protect and enhance the value of the organisation's assets and services in the interests of UC's current and future students. 

The Executive also represent students across UC, and members sit on close to 50 boards and committees across the university. 

How we're funded

The Students’ Association is partially funded through a portion of your Student Levy – a compulsory part of your university fees. 

For more information about the levy, watch this handy guide and visit the UC website

Even if you choose to opt out of UCSA membership, you still have to pay the full Student Levy. There's no financial advantage to not being a UCSA member.    

The Student Life and Services Advisory Board advises the Vice-Chancellor on how the Levy would be best spent each year. The UCSA is funded only for the services it provides students – like advocacy and welfare, student events, and the dental scheme. The remainder of the Levy is allocated to UC departments and other providers. 

A History of the UCSA


Canterbury College was established in 1873. Unlike many other colleges around the world, Canterbury admitted male and female students from the day it opened. 

The college resided within the buildings in the central city block of Worcester, Montreal, Hereford and Rolleston, now known as the Arts Centre. These Gothic Revival buildings, typical of Canterbury architecture at the time, would be home for the college for decades to come. 

As the student population grew, the role of clubs and societies became essential in the creation of a sense of community and identity within the college. In 1894, the Canterbury College Students Association (CSSA) was established as a body of representation for students in academic and recreational matters. In attempts to bolster student identity and sense of belonging, the CCSA gave existing clubs and societies a chance to be represented in College and Association discussions. 

In 1897 the Canterbury College Review began publishing as a voice of students, clubs and staff. This began the ongoing tradition of student-run publications. 

The turn of the century saw the development of the CCSA from a voluntary comradery between clubs to an organised and structured Association with a public profile in Canterbury and tangible power in College matters. 

1914-1919 brought World War One, and with it, great challenges for the College and Association. Hundred of past and present college men went to war, shifting the demographic and quantity of Canterbury students. The aftermath of the war also began a shift towards political and social activism on the part of young people in New Zealand. 

The first election of nominated candidates from student membership to the Student Executive occurred in 1923. A vital change in the organisation and functioning of the Association, democracy and engagement now played a large part in daily student life. This was soon followed, in 1928, by membership of students to the CCSA becoming compulsory. While many questioned this change, the CCSA saw it as a chance to fully represent the student body. 

Despite the fast and drastic growth of the Association, the organisation was still without a physical headquarters. After proposing such to the University for years, a plan was put in place to award the Association with its first home. 


Designed by Francis William Petre in 1883, Llanmaes House was of the Mock-Tudor style. The home passed through very few owners before the Canterbury College purchased it in 1926 to act as the Rector's residence. 

After the swift growth of the CCSA and its clear purpose in student life, the College gifted the house, which neighboured the College on the corner of Montreal and Hereford Streets, to the Association. The first building solely occupied by the Association opened to students on the 5th October, 1929. 

In 1930, CANTA began publishing as an alternative to Review. Many felt that Review was not political or social enough, and often lacked humour that students sought out. CANTA was able to be satirical, critical and more broadly attentive to students' lives. 

Just as had happened in the early 1900s, World War Two severely impacted the student numbers and concerns from 1939 to 1945. It was clear in following years that student focus had been further cemented in social humanitarian concerns, leading to decades of student-led protest, activism and dissent. 

In the 1940s, past student Ngaio Marsh would return to New Zealand after spending time overseas. Marsh became instrumental in the growth of the College Drama Society. Marsh strengthened the College in all areas of the arts, and would go on to be the namesake for the Association's theatre in future years. 

In 1949 the CCSA changed its name to the University of Canterbury Students' Association (UCSA). This followed the College's own decision to rename itself as The Association. This re-brand signaled further growth and strength of the Association, which now sought to extend and renovate the central city building it occupied. Following the war, the University roll had significantly increased. 

There was government support of all of New Zealand's universities to move to the suburbs, with Canterbury being the only institution to do so. UC began to explore alternative sites for their new, suburban campus. 

1950 brought the first ever 'Orientation' celebrations similar to how we know them today. The events at the beginning of the University year encouraged students to look into clubs and social activities alongside their studies, balancing academic, social and recreational activities. 


The Warren & Mahoney designed, Modernist-style Ilam Student Union opened in 1967 as part of the quickly growing Ilam Campus of the University of Canterbury. The building held a cafeteria, theatre (named after Dame Ngaio Marsh), retail and support services. This started a legacy of purpose built, all-encompassing student services on campus. In 1974 the Ilam Union building was officially complete after years of ongoing works. 

Student activism grew even stronger in this era. 1972 brought over 6000 students to the central city to protest the Vietnam War. Two decades of protests followed including the anti-Apartheid and anti-Springbok tours of 1981. In 1988 the Black Wednesday protest mourned 'the death of free education', marked by students carrying a coffin through campus. These protest were nation-wide, but most often led by students. 

RDU, the student-led radio station, first broadcast in 1976 as another channel of communication and recreation for UC students, accompanying the ever-controversial CANTA. 

Supported by the social concerns of students and the introduction of Te Reo teaching at UC in 1972, Te Akatoki (The Maori Students' Association) became an associate to the UCSA in 1988. 

Bentley, the cat who lived at the Ilam Union building, ran for UCSA President in 1993. Students backed their feline rep, who came a close runner-up. The UCSA would honour Bentley's legacy by naming a space in the Ilam building 'Bentley's Lounge'. 

In 1994, the UCSA celebrated its centenary with a large function in the Ilam building, looking back at the history of the Association and looking forward to what may change. 

The UCSA adopted its new logo in 2005, the nucleus design represented the UCSA as a central hub for student life, support and services. 

In 2010 and early 2011, the Canterbury Earthquakes devastated the region. Bringing massive disruption of UC classes and activities, the earthquakes also inspired the establishment of the Student Volunteer Army (SVA). 

After the 2011 earthquake, the Ilam Student Union building closed and would never be reopened. 


For almost a decade, the UCSA operated from offices located in Puaka-James Hight building and from The Foundry, "temporarily" located in the Ilam Road carpark. From 2021-2019 this venue held gigs, functions and operated as the campus student bar, keeping student social spirits alive following the Canterbury Earthquakes.

In 2011, after the February 22nd earthquakes, the SVA shoveled hundreds of thousands of tonnes of silt from the properties of Canterbury, serving the community and beginning a pattern of student-led social, environmental and cultural efforts, often supported by the SVA and the UCSA. 

In July 2012, the infamous Savage concert crowd broke the floor in the temporary events space, and seven years later, in June 2019, Savage returned to The Foundry for its final show. 

The UCSA Subsidised Dental Scheme was introduced in 2013, broadening the health and wellbeing services that the UCSA was able to offer students. The Association's Food and Beverage services on campus was made an entirely in-house system, and the UCSA established an annual ANZAC service organised by the Student Executive and staff. 

The 2016 demolition of the Ilam building formalised this period of a 'homeless' UCSA. University Council approved a business case for the new UCSA building and designs were made for a new student building on the same site. The ground was re-broken in 2017, ready for the construction of a new, improved and modern hub for students on campus. 

2019 – Today

2019 marked the 125th anniversary of the UCSA. Established early in the school year in 1894, the Association has grown in its ability to offer resources and support to all UC students. 

The launch of the new UCSA logo in early 2019 marked the beginning of a new era for the Association. This new logo symbolises movement and purpose, reflecting the Haere-roa river that flows through the UC campus and alongside the brand new Haere-roa building. 

In March 2019, the Christchurch community was shaken by a terror attack, which killed 51 members of the Christchurch Muslim community. The UCSA and UC held a vigil on UC campus, attended by thousands of students. UCMUSA, the UC Muslim Students' Association played, and continue to play an instrumental role in the road to solidarity and support for the Muslim community. 

Throughout May and June, during the final weeks leading up to the opening of Haere-roa, UCSA staff and Executive took clubs and supporters for tours of the construction site to prepare for the new chapter in the Association's history. 

In mid-July 2019, the UCSA officially moved into Haere-roa. This building housed Semester 2 Re-Ori week, MONO gigs, clubs events and performances all within the first three months of opening. 

On 27th September 2019, a large group of students gathered at Haere-roa and marched into the city centre for the School Strike for Climate, reflecting a history of student-led activism on environmental, social and ethical issues. 

Haere-roa is establishing itself as the student hub on campus, offering the chance for all of the UC and Canterbury community to have a venue for events and activities. 

Most importantly, Haere-roa is a home to students, to feel supported, welcomed, and engaged with their time at UC. The UCSA continues to offer the services it has developed over the years, now with a new, purpose-built facility that students can call their own. 


Sustainability is one of the key challenges of our time, and we can all do our part to look after the environment. That's why the UCSA's been on a journey to reduce our environmental impact.

Read UCSA's Sustainability Policy.
Food and Beverage
Other Initiatives


Haere-roa is heated with renewable energy in the form of a ground-source heat-pump system. These pumps draw stable, latent heat from the ground through the building.

The building has interior and exterior ‘Innowood’ cladding (a low VOC formaldehyde emission, recycled product).

Carpet tiles are made from recycled material, in no recognisable pattern allowing partial replacements without need for full replacement.

Haere-roa cleaners have switched to pro-biotic cleaning products.

5,782 native plants were planted around Haere-roa between late-2019 and early-2020 in collaboration with the Christchurch City Council’s waterways partnership. This has helped improve the ecological health, indigenous biodiversity and the amenity value of our local urban waterways.

A respectful relationship to the landscape was formed by engagement with UC Mana Whenua Cultural Narrative. We incorporated ecological enhancements of native flora and fauna to ensure Haere-roa is a place where respect for water, land and people are acknowledged.

Recycling and waste stations are located around the building, and signage includes protocols for their use.

Montana Early Learning Centre

Montana Early Learning Centre has solar panels installed, which improves their energy efficiency.

UCSA Outlets

Our UCSA outlets have phased out plastic straws.

We offer financial incentives to BYO coffee cups at UCSA outlets.

We've introduced compostable cutlery and packaging at UCSA eateries.

We supported UC to become recognised as one of two NZ Fair Trade Universities. We sit on the University’s Fair Trade Steering Committee. The accreditation requires that we stock Fair Trade products and provide regular reporting.

In 2021 the UCSA diverted a total of 71,782kg of waste from landfill. Average waste diverted from landfill increased from 39.6% to 70.44%

Outlets 'Oishii' sushi, and 'Otto' pizza sell by the piece. Oishii’s menu was designed as ‘pick your own’ to eliminate the need for plastic packaging, while ‘Otto’ uses only compostable packaging.

Edmonton Kitchen

The compost generated from our Edmonton Kitchen is used by local Canterbury farmers, replacing the need for synthetic fertilisers due to the high nutrient value of the compost. The carbon saving emission of this programme is approx. 5.28 tonne per month, or the equivalent of 13 cars being taken off the road.

We buy bakery products for school lunches from our next door neighbour.

We use an electric vehicle for catering deliveries.

Recycling Day (2021)

UCSA held a Recycling Day where we: Worked alongside UC Sustainability, Christchurch City Council, EcoCentral, Habitat for Humanity, Metal Man and Total Waste;

Used the event as an education opportunity for students;

Provided an opportunity for students to recycle; and

Worked to prevent fly-tipping on local streets.

Major events like Tea Party

We're working with Total Waste Solutions to sort our waste on site into its different streams.

We serve food and drinks in compostable, recyclable or reusable containers.

When serving water, we use drinking-fountain-style water trailers that do away with the need for cups.

We do a community clean up around the area to grab anything that students have dropped along the way.

Other initiatives

We've promoted bamboo toothbrushes at Wellness Days, and bamboo toothburshes are provided by the Advocacy & Welfare team as part of their care packages.

Electronic board papers are used for UCSA board meetings, reducing reliance on paper and fossil fuels used in delivery.

We operate a borrow-a-bike scheme in partnership with UC Sustainability, enabling students to use a more environmentally friendly mode of transport free of charge.