The establishment of Lincoln College
In their 1848 association charter Canterbury settlers set aside land for educational endowments. By 1873, 321,761 acres (130,212 hectares) had been set aside specifically for funding university education, about a third of which was earmarked for agricultural education.
However, although a university college was founded in Canterbury in 1873, it did not teach agriculture and there was increasing pressure for a school that did. At the end of 1877 the Canterbury College board bought land near the town of Lincoln for an agricultural college and the following year it appointed W. E. Ivey to oversee its establishment.
In 1880 the Lincoln School of Agriculture opened with 16 students. It was the first agricultural college to be established in the southern hemisphere.
Although the school had been informally known as Lincoln College for many years, the name was not officially adopted until 1961, when it was made a constituent of the University of Canterbury. This relationship continued until 1990, when the college became Lincoln University, New Zealand’s sixth independent, self-governing university.
Vying for the vet school
Lincoln and Massey competed to be the site for the planned national veterinary school. In 1960, when Governor-General Lord Cobham was invited to open the new library at Lincoln, some students attempted a stunt to get him to lay the ‘foundation’ stone for the new vet school and thereby pre-empt Massey’s claim. They diverted Cobham’s car away from the official opening site, but either Cobham or his driver realised something was amiss and they found their way back to the library opening. Massey got the vet school.
Under the terms of the original endowment, Lincoln was required to teach practical farming and related sciences. Accordingly, it set up a 163-hectare farm to be used for training and research.
By the mid-1960s the school’s farming area had increased to nearly 900 hectares, on which cropping, dairying and sheep farming were practised. In 2007 the university farms included six properties, five of which were commercial farms totalling 3,462 hectares.
Expanding the range of courses
Initially, the only course that Lincoln offered was a Diploma in Agriculture, and it was slow to develop new programmes. It was not until 1913 that the college produced its first graduate with a degree in agriculture. In 1936 the college had only 33 students studying at diploma level and 14 in the Bachelor of Agricultural Science course, with none at postgraduate level.
After the Second World War the range of courses was broadened and in 1958 Lincoln began teaching full degrees (before this, degree students had to do a preliminary year at another university).
From the mid-1960s there was a marked increase in students attending Lincoln. It was recognised for its courses in sheep and beef farming, and arable farming, whereas Massey tended to specialise in dairying.
In 2007 about 4,500 students were enrolled, many of them in subjects covering land use and resource management.