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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


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 allows new students to develop their independence, build a social network and succeed in their academic endeavours. What’s more, most Otago degrees are incredibly flexible. Almost every undergraduate degree is unique and can be tailored specifically to your interests and career goals.

Many international students choose to further enrich their experience by living in a University Flat with a Kiwi host as a flatmate. Everything is close by, with most accommodation within a 10-minute walk of campus, and the city centre within a 15-minute walk.


Postgraduate study


Otago is a research-led university that attracts the best and brightest students from within New Zealand and around the globe. Research supervision for masters and PhD students is provided by academic staff who are at the cutting edge of research in their disciplines. Of the 4,700 postgraduate students and 1,600 doctoral candidates currently at Otago, 50% are international.

The University has postgraduate campuses in Christchurch, Wellington, and Invercargill, with specialist facilities in Auckland. Specialist postgraduate programmes available at Otago include business data science; bioengineering; wildlife management; entrepreneurship; international studies; MBA; peace and conflict studies; tourism; and science communication (including natural history filmmaking).


Explore Dunedin


No other city in New Zealand offers the same opportunities to get out and explore. Dunedin is surrounded by fantastic beaches, hills and harbour waters that offer opportunities for a range of activities, from surfing and kayaking to mountain biking and paddleboarding. World-class ski resorts are also only a few hours’ drive away – including the popular city of Queenstown.

Dunedin is New Zealand’s wildlife capital, full of the sounds and sights of beautiful native birds, and home to 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 Otago Harbour. The beauty surrounding Dunedin has to be seen to be believed.

Get involved


Volunteering and good citizenship are a part of the culture at the University. Opportunities through volunteering allow students to find ways to connect and understand the role of active citizenship in the community while developing skills that can only be found outside of lecture theatres. These experiences offer students many ways to become socially and environmentally responsible global citizens. Getting involved in social projects has many benefits. You’ll be contributing to positive change in the community while gaining valuable work experience and strengthening your future career prospects.

Student support


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.


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. Our students don’t just focus on academic skills, they learn creative thinking, team dynamics, problem-solving, relationships and life skills. Outside of study, they are involved in a wide variety of sporting, cultural, and community activities.

2. Academic excellence
Otago is ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world with the highest international quality rating from QS Stars. It is also New Zealand’s top university for educational performance (NZ Tertiary Education Commission). For seven of the past ten years, Otago academics 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 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 teaching. Otago is internationally recognised in health sciences and produces leading research into reducing social, health and economic inequalities. It 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 Māori and New Zealand society but its meaning is broader; it is about nurturing people, showing mutual respect. Manaakitanga is key to how we in New Zealand, 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 natural harbour. A two-hour drive will take you to the spectacular Central Otago region, including Queenstown and Wanaka for skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Or grab a surfboard and get up close and personal with New Zealand nature in the Catlins area.