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University of Otago

Otago University is the oldest university in New Zealand. It was founded in 1869 when the South Island was colonised by people from Scotland.

Accreditations, ranking and awards

The University of Otago is in second place in the country for the number of academic researchers and in first place for the quality of research.
In International Rating QSna 2013 Otago holds 155th place. Once in the top 120, Otago is working hard to regain their former position.


Otago University is located in the South Island, and the main campus is based in the ancient town (by local standards) of Dunedin. The main campus, as well as the administration building, was built by Scots settlers in the Victorian style back in the 19th Century. In addition, campuses are located in Auckland and Wellington. The university also owns Portobello Marine Laboratory in Otago Harbour.

Student numbers

According to a report for the year 2011 Otago enrolled 21,728 students, about a quarter of them from other countries.

Key study areas

At the University there are four academic departments:

  • Faculty of Humanities;
  • Faculty of Sciences;
  • Faculty of Medicine;
  • Business School (formerly the Department of Commerce).

Popular programmes

Otago University produces more than 100 types of diplomas, from certificates in theology (a year of full-time study or the same number of hours of training at evening classes) to a Master of Dentistry (four full years of study).

Duration of studies

A Certificate takes one year, a Bachelor degree takes two to three years, a Master’s degree takes three to four years, and for a doctorate, a doctoral thesis is required.

Tuition fees

In 2014, the base cost of education at the University of Otago was from NZ$24,530 to $28,600 per year. A separate fee is charged for student accommodation.

Admission requirements

  • For graduate school, students must have a high school diploma and two years of tertiary training. An alternative is the University preparatory programme (Foundation) from 7 to 12 months.

  • Speakers of another language must have English at IELTS not less than 6.0 and TOEFL not less than 5.5.

Accommodation options

University of Otago owns 14 apartment buildings, which provide its students with accommodation, nutrition, and various household and social services. Most universities are committed to strengthening community and academic achievement among their students, regularly holding various inter-university competitions and events, and promoting independent student clubs.

Interesting facts

  • With the help of teachers at Knox College and the College of the Holy Cross, the University of Otago offers high-level theology training.

  • Otago was the first university in Australasia to allow women to obtain a law degree.

  • For the first time in New Zealand, Professor Robert Jack implemented a radio broadcast from the Department of Physics at the University of Otago on 17 November 1921.

Famous alumni and faculty

Due to its age the University alumni list is quite impressive. We select a few:


  • John Eccles, Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology;
  • Robert Jack, a physicist, professor, and pioneer in the field of radio.


  • Silvia Cartwright was the 18th Governor-General of New Zealand;
  • Robert Stout was the 13th Prime Minister of New Zealand;
  • David Kirk was captain of the New Zealand’s iconic rugby for the region;
  • Five players in the current national rugby team (All Blacks) are graduates of the University of Otago.


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