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University of Otago (Dunedin)


The University of Otago, founded in 1869 by an ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council, is New Zealand’s oldest university. The new University was given 100,000 acres of pastoral land as an endowment and authorised to grant degrees in Arts, Medicine, Law and Music.

The University opened in July 1871 with a staff of just three Professors, one to teach Classics and English Language and Literature, another having responsibility for Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and the third to cover Mental and Moral Philosophy and Political Economy. The following year a Professor of Natural Science joined the staff. With a further endowment provided in 1872, the syllabus was widened and new lectureships established: lectures in Law started in 1873, and in 1875 courses began in Medicine. Lectures in Mining were given from 1872, and in 1878 a School of Mines was established.

A federal University of New Zealand was established by statute in 1870 and became the examining and degree-granting body for all New Zealand university institutions until 1961. The University of Otago had conferred just one Bachelor of Arts degree, on Mr Alexander Watt Williamson, when in 1874 it became an affiliated college of the University of New Zealand.

In 1961 the University of New Zealand was disestablished, and the power to confer degrees was restored to the University of Otago by the University of Otago Amendment Act 1961. Since 1961, when its roll was about 3,000, the University has expanded considerably (in 2010 there were about 21,000 students enrolled) and has broadened its range of qualifications to include undergraduate programmes in Surveying, Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory Science, Education, Physiotherapy, Applied Science, Dental Technology, Medical Radiation Therapy, Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy (now combined in an Oral Health programme), and Biomedical Sciences, as well as specialised postgraduate programmes in a variety of disciplines.

Otago's attractive campus is a mixture of historic and modern buildings located in the centre of Dunedin. The campus is a short walk from the city's central shopping and services. Otago students rate its campus lifestyle as one of its strongest attractions. The students live as a community immediately around the campus area in student Colleges of Residence or self-catering flats. University students and staff constitute one-sixth of the population of Dunedin.

A University of International Standing
Otago's high international standing is reflected in its performance in international rankings. Shanghai Jiao Tong University's ranking of the world's universities in 2010 placed Otago in the 201-302 bracket of universities together with the University of Auckland. Otago and Auckland are the top-ranked New Zealand universities in this survey.

Otago is a national university in the sense that the majority of its students come from outside the city. In 2009 approximately 75% of enrolled students came from outside of Dunedin, and approximately 65% from outside of the Otago/Southland region. This provides for a friendly and social campus where it is easy to make friends and share experiences.

In addition to Otago's main campus in Dunedin, the University has campuses in Christchurch and Wellington (principally for Medicine and Health Science).

Obviously, there's more to university life than study. Spectacular scenery and awesome recreation opportunities are just a few hours' drive away. The South Island is home to some of the best ski and boarding resorts, adventure tourism and hiking opportunities.

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Academic Courses at the
University of Otago

Bachelor degree programmes are offered in Applied Science, Arts, Biomedical Science, Business, Dental Surgery, Dental Technology, Education, Law, Medical Laboratory Science, Medicine, Music, Oral Health, Pharmacy, Physical Education, Physiotherapy, Sciences, Surveying, Teaching, Theology, and Tourism.

A full range of Postgraduate Diploma, Masters' and PhD courses is offered in the areas listed above. Specialist masters programmes include the MBA, Entrepreneurship, Indigenous Studies, International Studies, Science Communication and Wildlife Management.

The University of Otago is New Zealand's most research-intensive university (Ministry of Research, Science and Technology report, 2006) and New Zealand's top-ranked university for research quality (PBRF Quality Evaluation, 2006). Otago is home to world-quality research and researchers who are passionate about their fields of study. The University has developed Research Themes and Areas of Research Excellence to encourage multidisciplinary research across academic fields. The University has also invested in a Centre for Innovation, bringing academic and applied researchers together to pursue commercial development of research outcomes.

Foundation Year
The University offers an eight-month preparatory programme for students who need further English and academic preparation before commencing bachelors' degree study. The Foundation Year is taught on the University campus and allows students to access most University services and facilities. Upon successful completion, it guarantees students a place in the Otago first year course for which they have prepared.

Language Centre
The University of Otago Language Centre offers intensive English language and study skills preparation for prospective University and Foundation Year students, and for general communication. The Language Centre is a registered test centre for IELTS, TOEFL and TOEIC. Students have access to most University services and facilities.