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The University of Otago is renaming City College the Caroline Freeman College, after the university's first female graduate, a ''strong, pioneering woman''.
Miss Freeman enrolled at the university in 1878, as a part-time adult student, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree on August 27, 1885.
She studied classics, English and Latin, and failed several subjects during her studies, including history.
She also won the Bowen essay prize, which was open to all New Zealand undergraduates.
Announcing the college name change, university vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said Otago was the first university in this part of the world where women could study.
Renaming the college recognised that proud history, she said.
Born to an English farming family near Halifax, in England, Miss Freeman emigrated to Otago as a child in 1858, and the family farmed at Abbotsford.
She attended Green Island School, where she was dux in 1866 and then served as the single-room, rural school's first pupil teacher (1868-72).
She had no secondary education but kept studying and became infant mistress at the expanding urban Caversham School in 1872.
She studied for the matriculation exam to gain admission to university and passed in 1877, enrolling at Otago the next year.
Miss Freeman walked more than 11km to the university and back to Green Island each day during her studies, and also supported herself by teaching and tutoring.
She later founded her own private secondary schools in Dunedin and Christchurch, both named Girton College.
She died of a heart attack at her home in Christchurch on August 16, 1914 aged about 58.
The name change at the 210-bed City College, which originally housed students from both the university and Otago Polytechnic, will take effect on January 1.
The university will take full ownership of the college then, after buying the third share previously owned by the polytechnic.
The new arrangement will make 70 more beds available for scholarship students.