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University of Otago

Established:  1869

Location:  Dunedin

Student Population:  21,000

As New Zealand’s first university, founded in 1869, Otago has an international reputation for excellence in research and teaching.

The University is in Dunedin, a city in the lower South Island with a population of 130,000; around 21,000 of whom are students. Education is the main industry of Dunedin, making it the true ‘student city’ of Australasia. The compact campus has a vibrant, social student culture and offers an unrivalled experience, with world-class teaching and research labs, a marine studies centre, libraries, performance spaces, study areas, and sports facilities, including a state-of-the-art recreation facility.

Everything you need to know


Undergraduate study


Otago offers bachelors degrees in applied science, medicine, law, arts and humanities, biomedical science, business, dentistry, oral health, pharmacy, music, medical laboratory science, physiotherapy, physical education, theology, sciences, surveying, and teaching.

The undergraduate experience at Otago is unique, with 85% of students coming from outside Dunedin. Otago’s 14 residential colleges, each with its own identity, history and traditions, provide an environment that gives new students an opportunity to develop their independence, build a social network and succeed in their academic endeavours. Many international students choose to enrich their experience by living in a University Flat with a Kiwi host as a flatmate. Everything is close, with most accommodation within a ten minute walk of campus, and the city centre within 15 minutes’ walk.


Postgraduate study


Otago is a research-led university. Research supervision for masters and PhD students is provided by academic staff who are at the cutting edge of research in their disciplines. Postgraduate qualifications are offered in all the subject areas listed above.

The University also offers specialist postgraduate programmes in health sciences; science communication (including natural history filmmaking); entrepreneurship; tourism; MBA; wildlife management; peace and conflict studies; international studies; business data science; and bioengineering.

Making a difference


We believe in channelling staff and student creativity and vision and insights to help transform lives, communities, and the environment. Otago was the first New Zealand university to formally pursue the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2018. We are committed to innovative approaches to sustainability.

There are many ways for students to contribute, including our ‘Green your Scene’ programme and Sustainability Neighbourhood. Otago’s Social Impact Studio empowers students to create change through volunteering and leadership. Students can engage to make positive contributions to community, or to enhance their leadership, community engagement and employability skills.



Our many support services include a dedicated international support team; disability support; campus healthcare; accommodation; and campus watch staff who are there 24/7 to offer help and advice.

The natural environment


The beauty surrounding Dunedin has to be seen to be believed. The harbour is popular for kayaking, rowing, windsurfing, fishing and yachting or for cycling along the scenic cycleways. Dunedin is New Zealand’s wildlife capital and while surfing at renowned breaks you may find yourself among endemic, rare species like the New Zealand Sea Lion and the Yellow Eyed Penguin.

Southern Right Whales and orca can be seen travelling up the surrounding coastline or even entering the harbour. Mountain bike tracks and walking routes are dotted throughout and around the city and the surrounding hills are full of the sounds and sights of beautiful New Zealand birdlife.


Why study at Otago?


1. Otago graduate attributes are globally employable
95% of our students go into work or on to further study, and we have a reputation for producing well rounded, practical, adaptable and resilient students. Otago students don’t just focus on academic pursuits, they learn life skills, creative thinking, problem solving, relationship and team dynamics. Outside of study they are involved in a wide range of sporting, cultural and community activities.

2. Academic excellence
Otago is New Zealand’s top university for educational performance (NZ Tertiary Education Commission). For six of the past nine years, Otago teachers have won the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for Teaching Excellence, a record unmatched by any other NZ university. Not only will you be taught by some of the best lecturers and professors in the country, you will also find our academics friendly, approachable, and inclusive.

3. Globally conscious
At Otago, we believe people and knowledge can transform individual lives, communities, and the environment, locally and globally. The University actively contributes to the UN Sustainable Development Goals through research, activities, and programmes. Otago is internationally recognised in the Health Sciences and produces leading research into reducing social, health and economic inequalities, and partners with industry to develop efficient and sustainable technologies and solutions.

4. Manaakitanga
Loosely translated as hospitality, the concept of ‘manaakitanga’ plays a key role in M¯aori and New Zealand society but its meaning is broader; it is about nurturing people and showing mutual respect. Manaakitanga is key to how we, as hosts, welcome and look after our visitors.

5. Adventure
There’s plenty to do and explore in Dunedin, surrounded as it is by forest covered hills, beaches, wildlife and a beautiful natural harbour. A two-hour drive will take you to the spectacular Central Otago region, including world famous Queenstown and Wanaka for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Or grab a surfboard and be prepared to get up close and personal with New Zealand nature in the Catlins area.