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University of Otago

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The University of Otago (Maori: Te Whare Wananga o Otago) in Dunedin is New Zealand's oldest university with over 20,000 students enrolled during 2006. It is the South Island's largest employer and claims to have the world's 2nd longest continuously running annual student revue (the Capping Show) and New Zealand's oldest ballet company (the Selwyn Ballet).

The University of Otago was founded in 1869 by an ordinance of the Otago Provincial Council and 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. 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; this later became the Department of Mineral Technology and was transferred to the University of Auckland in 1987.

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 (now 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 2002 there were some 18,000 students enrolled) and has broadened its range of courses to include undergraduate courses in Surveying, Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory Science, Education, Teaching and Physiotherapy, as well as specialised postgraduate courses in a variety of disciplines.

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'.

University of Otago Map

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Otago University Contact Details

Dunedin Campus General Contact Info

Main Campus

PO Box 56 Dunedin
Tel 64 3 479 1100
Fax 64 3 479 8692
Information Line 0800 80 80 98 (callers within New Zealand only)
Information Line 64 3 479 7000 (callers outside New Zealand)

Dunedin School of Medicine, School of Dentistry, School of Pharmacy

Tel 64 3 479 1200

Christchurch School of Medicine & Health Sciences
2 Riccarton Avenue
PO Box 4345
Tel 64 3 364 0530

Stadium Centre Wellington, Westpac Stadium
Waterloo Quay
PO Box 400
Tel 64 4 460 9800
Fax 64 4 460 9801
Wellington School of Medicine & Health Sciences
PO Box 7343
23 Mein Street
Wellington South
Tel 64 4 385 5541
Fax 64 4 389 5725

University of Otago House
385 Queen Street
Tel 64 9 373 9700
Fax 64 9 373 9701

University Operators

The University of Otago telephone operators are available between the hours of 8.00am - 5.15pm Monday to Friday NZST (GMT +12).

Dialling to Telephone Numbers

Otago Campus

Any four digit telephone number on the Otago Campus may be direct dialled by adding in 64 3 479 plus the extension number.
Extensions on the Otago Campus suffixed with an "H" are located in the Dunedin Hopsital.
Please dial 64 3 474 0999 and ask for the extension number required. This service is available 24 hours a day throughout the year.

Christchurch Campus

On the Christchurch Campus, those numbers beginning with 80 or 81 can be direct dialled by dialling 64 3 364 followed by the last four digits of the extension number. Otherwise dial 64 3 364 6530 and ask for the appropriate extension number.

Wellington Campus

On the Wellington Campus, for those numbers beginning 55, 58 or 59 you may direct dial these by dialling 64 4 385 followed by the last four digits of the extension number. Otherwise dial 64 4 385 5541 and ask for the appropriate extension number.

Auckland Campus

On the Auckland Campus please dial the number shown prefixed by 64 9 373 followed by the last four digits of the extension number.

This is not the official Otago University website. For the official website please go to

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