Best universities in New Zealand 2018

Explore the top universities in New Zealand using data from the Times Higher Education's World University Rankings data

September 26 2017
Tower at the University of Auckland

New Zealand is a Pacific island nation of around five million people. While New Zealand has a history of colonialism, its distinct culture has also been strongly influenced by the native Māori people of the island, a connection seen most visibly through the performance of the traditional "haka" war dance at the start of New Zealand ruby games.

New Zealand is a member of the Commonwealth, and its lasting ties with the United Kingdom are evidenced by English as the first language of the nation, and the standard language for its universities.

The temperate climate of New Zealand has allowed its agricultural sector to flourish over the centuries, and there are actually six times more sheep than people in the nation. There also some great cities in New Zealand, including Auckland, Christchurch, and Wellington.


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Famous faces from New Zealand include pop singer Lorde and actor Karl Urban. The country is well known as the filming location of the Lord of the Rings movies, and is also the basis for much of the material from New Zealand comedy duo Flight of the Conchords.

Below are some of the best universities to study at in New Zealand based on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2018

The top 4 universities in New Zealand

1. University of Auckland

Established in 1883 and spread across various campuses, not only is the University of Auckland the largest university in New Zealand it is also one of the most prestigious, often ranking among the top 200 of universities worldwide. The Auckland badge of arms is topped by three kiwis, the flightless bird which is also the national animal of New Zealand.

Auckland is an internationally minded university, with an international airport in the city and over a quarter of its students coming from outside New Zealand. From 2016, Auckland requires that students obtain an Academic English Language Requirement before they can take undergraduate courses.

A unique way of fighting antibiotic resistance was discovered at Auckland by the team of Dr. Siouxsie Wiles, who have taken the genes from glowworms and placed them into microbes so as to be able to identify when they are killed off as the light goes out.

Chairman of HSBC Vincent Cheng is an alumnus of Auckland, as is the 37th prime minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, and Academy Award winning screenwriter Philippa Boyens.

2. University of Otago

The University of Otago’s expansive grounds and sumptuous Scottish-influenced architecture give it a deserved reputation as one of the most beautiful campuses on earth. Founded in 1869 on the southeast coast of the South Island, Otago is the oldest university in New Zealand.

A research-led atmosphere is fostered at Otago, and the university is known to excel in the field of health sciences, with undergraduate and doctoral programmes are offered in the field. Outside of the student town of Dunedin, Otago has health science institutes in Christchurch and Wellington.

International students are warmly welcomed, with exchange partnerships established with over ninety university campuses globally. Otago has also awarded Rhodes Scholarships since 1904 to a select group of New Zealander graduates.

The boisterous social nature of Otago students can be seen in annual celebrations such as the Undie 500 car rally and Toga Parade, although past behavioural concerns have led to more tempered events in recent years.

Medical researcher Muriel Bell, mountaineer Christine Jensen Burke, and astrophysicist Mazlan Othman all graduated from Otago.

=3. University of Canterbury

The University of Canterbury is located in central Christchurch. After the city was badly affected by an earthquake in 2011 a dedicated reconstruction programme was undertaken to minimise the damage if such an event were to happen again.

The university has had an International College since 2013, dedicated to helping students adapt to studying in New Zealand. The college also offers a Foundation Studies certificate, which teaches English and academic proficiency.

The university founded the first art school in New Zealand, which continues to flourish today. There is strong competition for places on the four year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and the university provides facilities such as campus-based art galleries and workshops.

Past graduates of Canterbury include 2013 Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, gold medal winning Olympic rower Nathan Cohen, and most famously of all Ernest Rutherford, who devised conventional models of the atom and is regarded as the founder of nuclear physics.


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=3. University of Waikato

The University of Waikato is located in Hamilton, New Zealand. There is a second campus in Tauranga. 

The university was set up by a group of locals, who launched a petition to set up a university for the Auckland region. It stared off as a teaching college in the early days and has since expanded to a university with eight faculties. 

The university enrols approximately 15 per cent of New Zealand’s total number of Māori university students. This is the highest proportion of any New Zealand university. 

A new student centre was opened on the Hamilton campus in 2011 which incorporated the existing university library and has been awarded five green stars for sustainable design. 


Top universities in New Zealand 2018

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2018 results

New Zealand Rank 2018 World University Rank 2018 University City
1 192 University of Auckland Auckland
2 201–250 University of Otago Dunedin
=3 351–400 University of Canterbury Christchurch
=3 351–400 University of Waikato Hamilton
=5 401–500 Auckland University of Technology Auckland
=5 401–500 Massey University Palmerston North
=5 401–500 Victoria University of Wellington Wellington
8 501–600 Lincoln University Canterbury

Read more: Best universities in the world 

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