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University of Otago, Faculty of Medicine

Region: Auckland Country: New Zealand

About The University
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.

The University was originally housed in a building (later the Stock Exchange) on the site of John Wickliffe House in Princes Street but it moved to its present site with the completion of the northern parts of the Clocktower and Geology buildings in 1878 and 1879.

The School of Dentistry was founded in 1907 and the School of Home Science (later Consumer and Applied Sciences) in 1911. Teaching in Accountancy and Commerce subjects began in 1912. Various new chairs and lectureships were established in the years between the two world wars, and in 1946 teaching began in the Faculty of Theology. The School of Physical Education was opened in 1947.

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.

Although the University's main campus is in Dunedin, it also has Health Sciences campuses in Christchurch (University of Otago, Christchurch) and Wellington (University of Otago, Wellington) (established in 1972 and 1977 respectively), and an information and teaching centre in central Auckland (1996).

The Dunedin College of Education merged with the University on 1 January 2007, and this added a further campus in Invercargill.


The supreme governing body of the University is the Council, presided over by the Chancellor. When it was first established its members held office for life. Its constitution was progressively amended in 1891, 1911 and 1946 to provide for the representation of certain local bodies and educational groups, the graduates, the student body and non-professorial staff. The present structure of the Council was laid down in the Education Amendment Act 1990.

The Council is advised on academic matters by the Senate, the membership of which is drawn mainly from the Heads of academic Departments, but with representatives of other teaching staff and students. The Vice-Chancellor, who was designated as Chief Executive of the University by the Education Amendment Act 1990, convenes the Senate, which, in turn, is advised by the Divisional Boards and other Committees and Boards on matters which fall within their particular terms of reference.

In 1989 the internal governance of the University was reformed by grouping the existing departments, faculties, and schools into four academic Divisions (Commerce, Health Sciences, Humanities, and Sciences). Each academic Division is headed by a Pro-Vice-Chancellor. Further changes to the executive group resulted in the appointment of two Deputy Vice-Chancellors in 1994 and of a Chief Operating Officer in 2005.
A Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International) was appointed in 2006. There are also nine non-teaching Divisions: Academic, Research, Human Resources, Accommodation Services, Financial Services, Information Technology Services, Marketing and Communications, Property Services, and Student Services.

Coat of Arms

The University's coat of arms was granted by the Lord Lyon King of Arms (Scotland's premier officer of arms) on 21 January 1948. Its design is based on that of the unauthorised arms which appeared on the University's seal in use by September 1870.

The blazon (technical description) of the arms is:
Azure, on a saltire cantoned between four mullets of six points Or, a book, gilt-edged and bound in a cover
Gules charged with a mullet of six points of the second [i.e. Or] and a book-marker of the third [i.e. Gules] issuant from the page-foot, and in an Escrol under the same this Motto "Sapere Aude". (Lyon Register vol.36, p.102)

In ordinary language, the shield is blue, with a gold saltire (Saint Andrew's cross) between four gold six-pointed stars. On the centre of the saltire there is a closed red book, gilt-edged and with a red book-marker protruding, bearing another gold six-pointed star on its cover.The motto may be translated as 'dare to be wise' or 'have courage to be wise'.

Welcome from the Vice-Chancellor

The University of Otago is New Zealand's first university and a vibrant international centre of learning. It was established in 1869 by Scottish settlers with a strong conviction in the transforming power of education. Today the University has about 20,000 students, from all over New Zealand and from nearly 100 countries around the world.

Otago has many distinctive features. It is New Zealand's most research-intensive university, and the highest ranked for the quality of its research. Otago academics have won the largest share of the prestigious Marsden Fund for five years in a row. In contrast to many other distinguished research universities, however, we also put a great emphasis on the quality of undergraduate teaching. Even first year students have the opportunity to be taught by academics who are world leaders in their field.

The campus life at Otago is also legendary. Most undergraduates study at the main campus in Dunedin, which is the only true university city in Australasia. Many start their university life in one of our 14 residential colleges. The University also has important health sciences campuses in Christchurch and Wellington, a centre in Auckland, and a small campus for the College of Education in Invercargill.

As a research university, we also emphasise postgraduate study. Otago has a higher proportion of PhD students than any other university in New Zealand. In 2008 we opened Abbey College, New Zealand's first residential college for postgraduates.

Although the University has grown considerably over recent decades, it still forms a remarkable academic community. Young students come into regular contact with senior academics, while scholars and scientists in different disciplines learn from each other. There are superb facilities for a wide range of cultural and sporting activities. This year will see the opening of the second largest covered stadium in the southern hemisphere, which is being built on our campus.

While valuing our outstanding academic community and student experience, Otago is also an outward-looking university. We have a Treaty-based partnership with Ngai Tahu, the Māori people of the South Island, and strong links with other Maori tribes. One of the strategic imperatives we have identified is to contribute to the national good and to international progress. As well as welcoming students and teachers from all over the globe, we encourage New Zealand students to spend part of their course at leading international universities which are our partners. We also have research groups who are collaborating with colleagues in developing countries to enhance health and living standards throughout the world. Our links with Pacific Island countries are especially close.

I believe it is the special character of our academic community, together with the fact that the vast majority of Otago students live away from home, that explains the strength of the bonds between our graduates and the University of Otago. There are more than 75,000 Otago alumni living in all corners of the world, many occupying influential positions in the professions, business, government and their communities. As a proud Otago graduate myself, I understand the loyalty that others feel for this University.

About Aotearoa New Zealand

There are high snow-clad mountains, volcanoes, fiords, rainforests, lakes, beaches, and rolling green pasture. Most tourist and recreational areas are only one or two hours' drive from major cities.

New Zealand is a multicultural South Pacific nation. Aotearoa is its Māori name. The Māori, New Zealand's indigenous population, migrated from Polynesia around 1000 years ago. They comprise 14% of New Zealand's population. The majority of New Zealanders are of British and Irish heritage, but other European influences are noticeable. In more recent years a large number of Pacific Islanders have come to live here from countries such as Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. There are also large numbers of other nationalities, including recent Asian and European immigrants, who make up New Zealand's 3.8 million population. New Zealand covers approximately the same area as Great Britain, making it one of the least crowded countries in the world and a haven for peace and relaxation.

New Zealanders are friendly, easy-going people. They welcome visitors warmly and are interested in meeting those from other cultures who come to enjoy what New Zealand has to offer.

New Zealanders share a passion for the great outdoors.

They love going to the beach, swimming, surfing and whale watching in the Pacific Ocean. Many New Zealanders spend time sailing and windsurfing and the more adventurous enjoy the thrills of white water rafting, jet boating and bungy jumping. "Kiwis", as New Zealanders are often known (not to be confused with the luscious brown furry fruit of the same name), also love hiking and walking in the many forests and mountains, fishing, skiing and snowboarding.

New Zealand is a sports-oriented country. New Zealanders are renowned for their sporting prowess and passion for rugby, yachting and netball. Most New Zealanders take part in or watch a wide variety of games including cricket, soccer, golf, squash, basketball, badminton, hockey, tennis, cycling, athletics, skiing and snow boarding.

New Zealand has a broad-based economy. Our major export products include meat, fish, fruit, dairy products and timber. We also produce an increasing number and range of manufactured goods and are at the forefront in many areas of information technology and in biological and medical research. Tourism and education are also becoming increasingly important to the economy.


New Zealand's seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere. The warmest months are December, January and February, while the coldest are in June, July and August. In Dunedin, Spring and Summer days can become quite warm with temperatures ranging from 58 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (14 to 26 degrees Celsius). It is generally cool in the winter months, averaging 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Celsius) from June to September. There are sometimes frosty mornings, usually followed by clear sunny days, and occasional snowfalls. Generally, garments purchased for use in the warmer climates of Asian or Pacific countries are not quite warm enough for New Zealand winters.

The New Zealand dollar is a stable currency. Tourists and new residents find a very favourable exchange rate which gives them high purchasing power. All major credit cards can be used in New Zealand and travellers' cheques are accepted at hotels, banks and some stores. If your credit card is encoded with a PIN number you will be able to withdraw cash from automatic teller machines (ATMs).


New Zealand is a secular society generally based on Christian beliefs, but there is a wide variety of religions practised among its population. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by law in New Zealand.


Most visitors arrive in New Zealand at either Auckland or Christchurch International Airports. There are regular direct flights to Dunedin from both airports. The Airport minibus from Dunedin Airport to the city costs approximately $NZ15. Students arriving in Dunedin for the first time will be met at the airport by University staff. There are air and bus services to other towns and cities and an inter-island ferry operates between the North and South Islands.

Video Presentation

Medical School, University of Otago

Contact Details

Address: Faculty of Medicine, PO Box 913, Dunedin 9050, New Zealand


64 3 479-7454

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