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University of Otago: New Zealand’s first university

Written by University of Otago, June 2017

As New Zealand's first university, founded in 1869, the University of Otago has earned an international reputation for the quality of its research and teaching.

Quality of Education

Among the top 3% of universities in the world and New Zealand's top-ranked university for research, Otago attracts the best and brightest students from within New Zealand and around the globe. Based on national data, we have the best performance indicators for any university in the country due to the rigour of our academic programmes.

Achieving high approval ratings in employer surveys, Otago graduates are sought after and appreciated with many occupying influential positions in industry, government and within their communities across the world.

We strongly encourage students to undertake postgraduate study at Otago; we have a higher proportion of PhD students than any other university in New Zealand.

Our academic staff hold more national teaching awards and produce more highly cited papers per capita than any other university in the country.

Otago has the highest concentration of internationally trained staff anywhere in New Zealand and the fifth highest concentration of internationally trained staff in the world. 70% of Otago’s academic staff are foreign born or are New Zealanders who have gained their PhD overseas. Otago’s staff are truly world class.

Campus life

Dunedin is the only true university city in New Zealand and Australia with more than 21,000 young people coming not only to learn, but also to live in our beautiful coastal city. In 2013, the Huffington Post listed the University of Otago as one of the fifteen most beautiful university campuses in the world.

Located on the edge of the Dunedin Botanic Garden, Otago’s stunning campus offers students an unrivalled campus experience and vibrant cultural life. Situated just a few blocks from the city centre, almost all students live within walking distance of the campus and key facilities. Most undergraduates study at the main campus in Dunedin and stay at one of our 15 residential colleges or in character-filled flats/apartments close to campus.

Otago has world-class teaching facilities and libraries and our state-of-the-art gymnasium enables students to get fit and stay fit while they study. Our students are also spoilt to live in New Zealand’s first ‘Gigatown’, meaning that the city has access to the fastest internet in the Southern Hemisphere.

Home to a large number of internationally ranked departments, Otago ranks among the top 100 in the world in 12 different subject areas with four of those falling in the top 50. That’s an amazing accomplishment for a moderately sized university located at the bottom of the world.

Otago has particular teaching and research strengths across the areas of Applied Sciences, Accounting and Finance, Biomedical Sciences, Clinical Medicine, Dentistry, Earth Sciences, Economics, Education, English Language and Literature, Food and Nutrition, Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, Philosophy, Physics, Psychology, Public Health, and Tourism. Many of our programmes are the only ones of their kind in New Zealand.

Otago is home to the country’s only dental school, the only school of surveying and the country’s only standalone botany programme. We have the largest science communication programme in the world and the most successful genetics programme in Australasia.

Our law school is regarded as the best in the country and ours is the oldest and largest medical school in New Zealand. Otago’s annual Foreign Policy School continues to attract leading national and international speakers. For more than two decades, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs has used the school to train the new cohorts of New Zealand diplomats.

  • Ranked 169th in the world (QS World Rankings 2016)

  • Ranked 201-250 in the world (Times Higher World Rankings 2017)

  • Ranked 7th in the world for Physical Education, 24th Anatomy 29th Dentistry, 42nd Archaeology and 44th Development Studies (QS 2017),

  • Ranked in the top 100 universities in the world for, Anthropology, Accounting & Finance, Business & Management, Earth & Marine Studies, Education, English Language and Literature, Geography, History, Law, Medicine, Performing Arts, Politics, Psychology, and International Studies (QS 2017)

  • The oldest University in New Zealand, est 1869

  • Highest number of national teaching awards

  • Otago has one of the highest numbers of PhD completions in the country

  • 70% of Otago’s academic staff were identified as internationally or nationally distinguished

For further information on the University of Otago and our programmes, visit

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