The University of Canterbury was founded in 1873 in the city centre by Oxford scholars but by the 1960s, the university had outgrown its Victorian buildings and the campus moved to the leafy green pastures of nearby Ilam (now an inner city suburb of Christchurch). Because of such foresight, the campus is not competing with inner city traffic and the campus has a sense of space and a variety of purpose built, award winning, modern buildings.. The city is only a 10 minute bus/bike ride from campus via beautiful Hagley Park, and with a population of 350,000, is the biggest city in the South Island. In 2011, the inner city was the epicenter of a major earthquake, and the last decade has seen an innovative rebuild including bike lanes, fun play spaces, cool startup hubs and cafes, a rebuild that is still underway.

The University of Canterbury serves over 16,000 students including graduate and undergraduate students, and is a research-based university in disciplines ranging from engineering and forestry, to fine arts and business entrepreneurship. The university has a special endowment, the Erskine Fellowship, which makes it possible for staff from prestigious universities around the world to visit and teach at Canterbury. The University has around 70 such visitors each year, giving a further significant enrichment to its teaching programs.