University profile

University of Otago

2020/21 edition

Visit the institution website for COVID‑19 updates

About University of Otago

COVID-19 Information

The COVID-19 situation is rapidly evolving, and we recommend that all students considering Otago visit the dedicated website for the latest information. If you have any questions that are not answered on our Covid-19 page or questions about your individual circumstances, please contact AskOtago.

Worldwide reputation

As New Zealand's first university, founded in 1869, the University of Otago has earned an international reputation for excellence in research and teaching. Otago is ranked in the top 1% of universities in the world (QS World Rankings) and offers 120+ postgraduate programmes across Business, Health Science, Humanities and Science subjects.

Otago at a glance

  • 5-stars plus QS Stars ranking, reflecting quality and excellence across teaching, employability, internationalisation, and research.
  • A national presence, with our main campus in Dunedin, and specialised campuses in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Invercargill.
  • New Zealand’s top university for student performance and retention (TEC Educational Performance Indicators).
  • 85% of our students come from outside of Dunedin to study here.
  • 21,000 students, including 3,000 students from 100+ countries.
  • 95% of our students go into work or to further study.
  • 4,700 postgraduate students and 1,600 doctoral candidates – 50% are international.

PG subjects available

Otago is a research-led university and attracts the best and brightest students from within New Zealand and around the globe. We offer 120+ postgraduate programmes across a broad range of subjects, including specialist postgraduate programmes in bioengineering; science communication (including natural history filmmaking); data science; entrepreneurship; health sciences including nursing; international studies; MBA; peace and conflict studies; sport development and management; wildlife management; and tourism.

Online education offer for 2021

The University of Otago has expanded its coursework delivery options for the 2021 academic year in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 on our students. A selection of papers and programmes that would normally only be delivered on-campus will be temporarily delivered online. For the full list of postgraduate programmes and papers, visit our Learning at Otago in 2021 webpage.

The University of Otago has the highest proportion of PhD students at any university in New Zealand, and the highest ratio of world-class academic supervisors to postgraduate students in New Zealand. We also have one of the best PhD completion rates internationally. Research supervision for Masters and PhD students is provided by academic staff who are not only at the cutting edge in their respective disciplines but are accessible and friendly.

Departments information

Otago is renowned as one of the top research universities in the Asia-Pacific region and produces the most winners of national teaching awards of any university in New Zealand. The internationally-trained academic staff profile is diverse and truly world-class, helping to provide a global perspective and foster international collaborations.

With 120+ postgraduate programmes on offer, many of the programmes at Otago are the only ones of their kind in New Zealand.

Otago also has the best performance indicators of any New Zealand university for successful completion of courses and qualifications, student progression to higher level study, and students retained in study.

Future career prospects

95% of our students go into work or to further study in New Zealand and around the world. 112,000 Otago alumni are living in 145 countries, with many occupying influential positions in industry, government and within their communities.

The university has a reputation for producing well-rounded, practical, adaptable, resilient graduates, who are highly sought after by employers. Otago students don’t just focus on academic pursuits, they learn life skills, creative thinking, problem-solving and team dynamics. Outside of study, they are encouraged to get involved in a wide range of sporting, cultural, and community-based activities during their time here.

Otago’s Social Impact Studio achieves student-driven change through volunteering and leadership. We believe in channelling student creativity, vision, and insight for maximum social impact through our incredible volunteer programmes. Around 4,000 Otago students are registered volunteers, working with over 200 community organisations.

English language support

First language is not English, you must provide evidence of a satisfactory level of English language proficiency. You should include with your application a certified statement of results from an accepted English language test that has been taken within two years of the commencement of your proposed course. Due to COVID-19, we currently accept Duolingo English Test (DET), IELTS Indicator Test, and TOEFL iBT Special home Edition.

For applicants who do not meet the English language requirements, the University of Otago Language Centre “English for Otago” programme offers a pathway for students to meet the requirements. Learn more about English for Otago.

Facilities and support arrangements

The University of Otago stretches from Auckland in the north of the country to Invercargill in the south. While most study takes place at our stunning Dunedin campus, the Health Science-focused campuses in Christchurch and Wellington are home to many of our postgraduate students.

Otago is an intriguing mix of old and new – from our iconic Clocktower Building to world-class teaching and research labs, performance spaces, lecture theatres, sporting facilities, and study areas, including our award-winning Central Library.

Fees, funding and costs

New Zealand is a relatively affordable country to live in, and Dunedin, being a student-focused city, has living and entertainment options for all budgets.

The University of Otago also recognises academic excellence and supports international students at all levels of study with a range of scholarships. International students commencing full-time coursework master’s degrees or postgraduate diplomas, on-campus, online or by distance, in 2021, are eligible to be considered for the merit-based Otago International Excellence Scholarship, valued at NZD $10,000.

Tuition fees: From NZ$26,000
Cost to rent: NZ$140 per week in a shared house
Scholarship value: NZ$10,000 – NZ$27,000


Numerous accommodation options are available, including 15 residential colleges, which provide a supportive environment that enables students to develop their independence, build a social network and succeed in their academic endeavours. Otago is home to New Zealand’s only dedicate postgraduate college – Abbey College, and a number of other residential colleges welcome international students.


Otago offers students an unrivalled campus experience and a vibrant, social student culture. The majority of Otago’s 21,000 students live, work and play in Dunedin - New Zealand’s only true university city.

Otago students are supported by dozens of dedicated on-campus support services, ensuring that students get the very best out of their time here. There are over 150 student clubs and societies to get involved in; forested hills, beaches, incredible wildlife and a beautiful natural harbour on the doorstep; and lakes, mountains and world-class ski resorts within a few hours’ drive of the city.

Otago prides itself on offering a warm welcome to all. The concept of “manaakitanga” is key in Māori and New Zealand society, loosely referring to the importance of openly and warmly welcoming visitors, of having a mutual respect for one another. Otago offers a rich cultural life, reflecting a diverse international university community and New Zealand's own multicultural population.

How to apply

You are encouraged to apply as early as possible in order to be sure of a place in your chosen course, ensure sufficient time for applying for a visa, and make your accommodation arrangements.

Application deadlines - for 2021 study

  • 31 October 2020 - Applications for Summer School close
  • 10 December 2020 - International student applications close for Semester 1 (February)
  • 30 April 2021 - International student applications close for Semester 2 (July)

Contact details

+64 3 479 7000
PO Box 56