Best universities in New Zealand 2017

Explore the top universities in New Zealand using data from the Times Higher Education's World University Rankings data
December 12 2016

Tower at the University of Auckland

Tower at the University of Auckland
University of Auckland

View universities in New Zealand ranked in the 2016-17 World University Rankings


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 Maori 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.


Resources: top universities worldwide

- Best universities in Australia
 Best universities in Europe
 Best universities in the UK
 Best universities in the United States
 Best universities in Canada
– Best universities in Asia
 Best universities in South America


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 four of the best universities to study at in New Zealand.

University of Auckland

Established in 1883 and spread across various campuses, not only is Auckland the largest university in New Zealand it is also one of the most prestigious, often ranking among the top 100 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.

University of Otago

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.

Victoria University

While a wide array of courses are offered at Victoria, a particular focus is placed on Law and the humanities. Victoria is one of the few universities in New Zealand to offer a degree in architecture.

An advantage of studying in New Zealand’s capital city is a constant presence of important world figures, with many lectures and discussions on international politics taking place in Victoria’s halls. The university also offers modules in political science as part of the credit system which is standard in New Zealand higher education.

On the research side of the university there has been a focus on climate change. This has centred on the Antarctic, measuring the depletion rate of the sea ice belt and what impact that will have on sea levels worldwide.

The motto for Victoria is ‘wisdom is more to be desired than gold’, an expression adapted from the Bible verse of Proverbs 8:11.

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.

Top universities in New Zealand 2017

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2016-2017 results

NZ Rank World Uni Rank 2017 University
1 =165 University of Auckland
2 201-250 University of Otago
=3 351-400 University of Canterbury
=3 351-400 Victoria University of Wellington
=5 401-500 Lincoln University
=5 401-500 Massey University
=5 401-500 University of Waikato
8 501-600 Auckland University of Technology

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