Otago University, Dunedin


Otago University, Dunedin

Founded in 1869, the University of Otago is New Zealand’s oldest university. Well known for its exceptional schools of Science, Health Sciences, Humanities, and Commerce, its historic campus is filled with original stone buildings giving it the feel of a traditional English university.

Otago University’s attractive historic campus successfully combines the old with the new and is ideally situated in the heart of Dunedin city. Making up nearly 20% of Dunedin’s population, the famous University campus lifestyle is a draw-card for many students. One of the main institutions of the southern town of Dunedin, Otago University is a “research-led learning environment” filled with a sense of heritage, prestige, and activity.

Most days of the week during the academic year the campus will be crowded with students originating from all over New Zealand and around the world, though visitors are welcome to wander around the grounds to take in some of the famous architecture and attend any student performances that might be going on. There is also an onsite clothing and gift shop along with a bar, restaurant, and food court café.

Quick Historic Facts

Back in 1869 one hundred thousand acres of pastoral land was set aside with the intent to establish the very first university in New Zealand. The University of Otago as it is now known was subsequently authorized to grant educational degrees in Arts, Medicine, Law, and Music when it opened on 5 July 1871.

Originally housed in a building on Princes Street, the University moved to the Maxwell Bury’s Clocktower and Geology buildings in 1878 and 1879. These original buildings now make up the heart of the present-day Dunedin campus. Various new faculties were developed over the years which included Dentistry, Home Science, Accountancy, Theology, and Physical Education.

The University of Otago awarded the first woman in Australasia, Ethel Benjamin, a law degree in 1897. She later went on to be the first woman in the British Empire to appear as counsel in a court of law.

Student Accommodation

A variety of student accommodation options are available to suit different requirements. There are fifteen affiliated Residential College accommodation facilities that offer catered and non-catered services, single or double rooms, and shared or ensuite bathrooms.

All of the Residential Colleges are dotted around the University within easy walking distance. Some options are specifically designed for graduate and post-graduate students while others are aimed at international students.

Rental accommodation is also available in the wider community, with a wide range of rental homes, studios, and rooms in flats available. Flatters usually have the option of either partly furnished or unfurnished rooms. Flats will generally include curtains, floor coverings, a stove, and sometimes a fridge and washing machine.

The majority of houses in Dunedin use electric heaters or wood burners as methods of heating, central heating is not common. Flatting requires the students to be responsible for all of the household bills and expenses. See here for more information on the costs of flatting and flatting in New Zealand.

University Of Otago Campus Locations

The University of Otago has its main campus located in Dunedin but also operates several satellite campuses across New Zealand.

  • Dunedin Campus – 362 Leith Street, Dunedin
  • Wellington Campus – 23A Mein Street, Newtown, Wellington
  • Christchurch Campus – 2 Riccarton Avenue, Christchurch
  • Auckland Campus – Level 3 & 4, 385 Queen Street, Auckland Central
  • Southland Campus – 100 Nelson Street, Georgetown, Invercargill
University Resources And Facilities

The University of Otago provides students with an array of academic and personal support services, some of these include:

  • Language Centre. Aiding English language and study skills.
  • Disability Information and Support. For students who have a disability, impairment, injury or medical condition that affects their ability to study.
  • Student Grievances. Enabling students to resolve issues by a process of discussion, cooperation and conciliation.
  • Scholarships. Assisting students with applying for scholarship grants.
  • Student Health Centre. Providing students with a reduced healthcare option.
  • Childcare. The university provides various on-campus early childcare centers offering a range of childcare options.
  • Religious Facilities. These include a Chapel, Mosque, Muslim Prayer Space, and Synagogue.

As well as the above facilities the University provides excellent support for international students. Aimed at providing information, support, and advice to future or current international students the University runs pre-arrival information, campus orientation, student visa, and immigration requirements, accommodation assistance, and support with seeking insurance and US Financial Aid.



Areas Of Study

The university is currently divided into four academic divisions: the Division of Humanities, the Division of Health Sciences, the Division of Sciences, and the School of Business, these include the following areas of study.

  • Arts and Music
  • Commerce
  • Dentistry
  • Education
  • Health Sciences
  • Law
  • Medicine
  • Pharmacy
  • Physical Education
  • Physiotherapy
  • Science
  • Surveying
  • Theology
  • Tertiary Teaching
The University Book Shop

The Otago University is lucky enough to have its very own book store providing a diverse selection of books including the required student and academic textbooks as well as popular titles, specialized items, and children’s books. Otago University Student Textbook requirements are published on the website, with in-store collections covering Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy, the Sciences, Law, Commerce, and the Humanities.

While the flagship store is located on 378 Great King Street, Dunedin North, next to the Post Office, there is also an on-campus store, ‘UBS On Campus’ located at the OUSA Archway, 640 Cumberland Street, Dunedin North.

The University Book Shop regularly hosts book launches and author events, live poetry readings, play, and book readings. For up-to-date information on University Book Shop upcoming events see the website.

The Otago Uni Students Association (OUSA)

Operating independently of the Otago University, the OUSA provides members with representation, welfare, advocacy, recreation, and media resources as well as organizing some really fun social events.

The OUSA’s Student Support Centre situated at 5 Ethel Benjamin Place provides free, confidential, and friendly services to assist with all aspects of student life and living in Dunedin. The OUSA can help with emergency food supplies, flatting advice, lost property, clubs, local business specials, and much more.

OUSA membership is provided free to University of Otago students, however, there is the option to remove yourself from the membership by requesting to “opt-out”.

The Otago University Rugby Football Club (OURFC)

The top Rugby Football club in Dunedin, the OURFC has had more players go on to become All Blacks than any other rugby club in New Zealand. Out of these, more recent names include Taine Randell, Anton Oliver, and Josh Kronfeld.

Affiliated with the Otago University Student Association, the OURFC is a student-orientated club, with many players actively involved in the day-to-day running. Registration information, pre-season training, and coach information are available on the website, as well as a Club Events Calendar. The OURFC is located at 20 Logan Park Drive, Dunedin.

The wide range of courses on offer at the University of Otago has attracted students from outside its provincial district and around the world, leading to the development of vibrant student life within the city. Dunedin has an excellent array of entertainment, outdoor recreation, cafes, restaurants, arts, and shopping on offer as well as some of New Zealand’s rarest inhabitants. These include the famous penguin and fur seal colonies and the only mainland breeding colony of albatross in the world.

Getting Around Dunedin

Need transportation to make the most of the region? View our full range of affordable Dunedin rental cars and explore the best of Dunedin, Otago and beyond at your leisure.

Check out our blog for more New Zealand travel and holiday advice.

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If you have any questions or need help or advice about rental cars or your New Zealand travel plans we’re here to help you. Please contact us


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If you have any questions or need help or advice about rental cars or your New Zealand travel plans we’re here to help you. Please contact us


New Zealand Free Phone: 0800 800 956

Australian Free Phone: 1800 771 302

Other international enquiries. Find your nearest New Zealand rental cars branch.