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New Zealand: Destination Guides

The top universities in New Zealand

If you've been thinking about New Zealand as a possible study abroad destination then it is time to explore the best universities in the country for international students.

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New Zealand sometimes escapes the gaze of prospective international students, however it most definitely shouldn’t. There’s the offering of an active and dynamic student lifestyle combined with some of highly ranked universities to consider. If you’re wondering where to study abroad in New Zealand and are looking for some of the top universities in the country, this is the right place for you to be. We chart the best universities in New Zealand for international students and explore the cities that you could potentially call home.


1. Top university in New Zealand: University of Auckland


We kick off our exploration of some of the top universities in New Zealand in the city of Auckland. Located in north of the country and flanked by two harbours, Auckland frequently makes the list of the most liveable cities in the world. The city is home to over 50 volcanoes, which are luckily inactive, but make for an interesting sight. One of the more iconic landmarks on the city’s skyline is the Sky Tower, which stands at 328 metres.


Auckland is also the home of the top university in New Zealand, and a top 100 global institution, according to the QS World University Rankings 2021, namely The University of Auckland.  The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 concurs and places the university at number one in the New Zealand and in the top 150 worldwide.


The University of Auckland hosts a student population of just over 44,000, with 9,000 international students, making it truly multinational. There are also the 240 university clubs and societies to add to the overall experience, not to mention the over 13 subjects ranked in the top 50 in the world. If you choose the university you’ll also be part of an institution that boasts 35 per cent of the top academics in New Zealand.


Explore more about the city of Auckland and other student cities in the New Zealand.


2. Top university in Dunedin: University of Otago


The University of Otago is the second highest rated institution in New Zealand, according to the QS World University Rankings 2021. It also enjoys a QS five-star rating, which measures the relative strength of a university based on a number of key indicators. These include teaching, employability, internationalization and research/ academic development.  Further, the institution is placed in the top 250 in the world by Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.


The university has campus locations across New Zealand, however the majority of students study at the main Dunedin campus. What you’ll find is a university with over 3,000 international students and over 200 courses from which to choose. The university is known for its excellent pathway programmes that assist international students in gaining admission to full undergraduate and postgraduate study.


The city of Dunedin is located on the South Island of New Zealand, and in the south east of the country. You will probably not be able to resist the temptation to whip out your camera, if you arrive at the city’s train station, as it is purported to be the most photographed building in New Zealand. Dunedin is also home to the world’s steepest street and some very unique fauna, including penguins and sea lions. You’ll also get to enjoy some of the best beaches in the country, great food options, and a vibrant cultural and fashion scene.



3. Top university in Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington


Wellington is the capital of New Zealand and sits at the base of the North Island of the country. It has the distinction of being the southernmost capital city in the world and could reasonably be described as the “city of cafes”, with over 400 calling Wellington home.  If you study in Wellington you’ll never be further than three kilometres from the sea, plus will have the additional benefit of being in one of the greenest capital cities worldwide with over 50,000 hectares of parks and green space.


The top-rated university in the city and a one of the top five universities in New Zealand is Victoria University of Wellington, rated 3rd in New Zealand and 223rd in the world by the QS World University Rankings 2021. The university has also received a QS five-star rating and is noted for its strong commitment to international students. The institution places an emphasis on preparing students for their potential careers, with a dedicated careers and employment team.


If you’re looking for some guidance on how to align your study and career path, you might want to read our guide on the subject.



4. Top university in Christchurch: University of Canterbury


Another of the best universities for international students in New Zealand is the University of Canterbury. With a QS five-star rating and a place in the top 300 universities on the globe (QS World University Rankings 2021) it’s an institution known for having 15 subjects rated in the top 200 worldwide. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 also puts the University of Canterbury firmly in the top 500 institutions in the world.


The university is based in the city of Christchurch on the South Island. Christchurch dates back to the 1840’s when it was established as a whaling station, but is also believed that the area the city is located in has been settled for over 800 years. It is surrounded by vast tracts of countryside, including national parks and the world-famous southern alps, which have a number of ski resorts. You’ll be in for some mild weather and can also take advantage of the many museums and art galleries in the city.


5. Top university in Palmerston North: Massey University


It is very possible if you’ve been looking at where to study abroad in New Zealand that Palmerston North may not have come up on your radar. But, this would be a mistake. Palmerston North plays host to one of the top universities in New Zealand, Massey University.  The QS World University Rankings 2021 has the institution as the number five university in New Zealand and number 272nd in the world. It is also a recipient of a QS five-star rating.


Massey University is renowned for its research led and informed approach to teaching. It also has a reputation for being a leader in distance education, with students studying online in countries all over the world. The university has also won numerous National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards and is home to the National Centre for Teaching and Learning. The university also boasts three campuses across New Zealand in Auckland, Wellington and Palmerston North.


If you become a student at Massey University in Palmerston North, you will never be at a loss with what to do. There are a high number of biking and hiking trails to choose from, many of which are incredibly picturesque. You’ll also be part of a very diverse and yet close-knit community, which places a special emphasis on looking after students in the city. Palmerston North is known as an arts and food hub, and is a very convenient central location to explore other areas on the North Island.


New Zealand has much to offer international students and is well worth researching further. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with institutions to find out if they’ll suit you and what’s available. You can also take some time out to read about tuition fees in New Zealand, your ultimate study abroad preparation checklist and a clear guide to university application.