Heritage and Traditions

As the first college established at New Zealand's oldest university, Selwyn College has a unique and rich heritage. The College cherishes traditions that go back many generations and that reflect its core values of inclusivity, respect and mutual care.


Named after Bishop Selwyn, the College was founded by Bishop Nevill in 1893 and began as a Theological Residential Hall. Bishop Nevill fought for funding in the UK to make this a place to remember the work of Bishop Selwyn. Selwyn College, Cambridge won the funding battle, but we nevertheless still maintain a strong connection with our English namesake. The annual College Record has been kept since 1930 and is produced by the Selwyn College Students Association (SCSA) for the residents. Women were first admitted to the College in 1983 and now comprise approximately 60% of our residents.

Selwyn’s hallmark intense community spirit and sense of shared identity results in life-long friendships and remembered and cherished experiences.


Selwyn College is a true community of scholars, providing its members with a unique educational opportunity known as The Selwyn College Experience. The College aims to produce well-rounded leaders of the future committed to making a disproportionate difference for good in the world. Selwyn is a small, close-knit community where it is easy to belong. Diversity, creativity and contribution are highly valued in addition to the primary goal of achieving academic excellence.  

As an independent college we are able to invite members to apply for a second year in residence. Selwyn strives to be a self-regulating community and relies on its returning residents to pass on college values, organise social, sporting and cultural events, and to provide essential peer support to new members. Its smallness makes Selwyn an intimate place where residents know and care for each other. Selwyn’s hallmark intense community spirit and sense of shared identity results in life-long friendships and remembered and cherished experiences. When residents leave the College they are encouraged to join the Selwyn College Ex- Resident Association and then, once they’ve graduated, the illustrious Selwyn Alumni.

College House Exchange

In 1930 Selwyn College and College House (a college at the University of Canterbury) began an annual sporting and cultural exchange. This tradition continues to the present day, with competition for the Principal's Cup (Culture) and Warden's Cup (Sport) being both fierce and good natured.

The Selwyn Ballet

Having been first convened in 1928, the Selwyn Ballet is the second oldest amateur ballet troupe in the world, and certainly the oldest all-male one! It began as a Capping Show performance intended to take-off popular London musicals of the time but by 1937 the ballet had become a tradition of the College and more of a spoof of classical ballet. The Selwyn Ballet has also performed prior to international rugby matches at the Dunedin stadium.

The Leith Run

The Run was inaugurated in 1935 as part of college initiation. Dressed in football gear and carrying a flaming torch, students were taken to the Leith footbridge before running down the Leith River to the Dundas St bridge, being pelted with flour and eggs by ex-residents for the duration. The flaming torch has since been replaced by a "borrowed" bath from Knox College. The Run, now proceeded by a muddy tug of war, is a tradition which has evolved over time. In recent decades it has become traditional for the daughters of alumni to carry the bath for the first stretch, followed by the sons of alumni. Finally, everybody shares the effort of bringing the bath home. The symbolism of this event — the community bearing a shared load — is made all the richer by the fact that it is a tradition new residents each year rekindle, modify and own.


The Cameron Shield

The Shield was established in 1932, to commemorate the life of the Very Rev. Dr Andrew Cameron, who is recognised as the founder of Knox College. The members of both the Knox College Students’ Club and the Selwyn College Students' Association agreed to fulfil his ideals by raising funds to purchase a commemorative shield. It is competed for on an annual basis and is held by the winning College. Unfortunately, Knox is currently the home of this esteemed shield but this year’s Selwyn students are hoping to change this.

Nevill Cup

The Nevill Cup was introduced in 1997 and presented by the Selwyn College Board. It takes its name from Bishop Samuel Tarrat Nevill, founder of Selwyn College and the first Bishop of Dunedin (1871-1919). The Cup is for cultural contests held between Knox College and Selwyn College. Selwyn College has held the Nevill Cup for the past two years.

Nev Cup2