Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Study Physiotherapy at Otago

Students walking through the Quadrangle


Physiotherapists are health professionals essential to the rehabilitation and maintenance of optimal physical ability and healthy lifestyles. They work with people of all ages to maintain and promote health, and to restore physical function, independence and well-being, always working in partnership with the patients, clients and their whānau.

The main methods of managing patients include specific exercise prescription for mobility, strength, balance and health- related fitness; manual techniques, such as manipulation and massage; application of other modalities including heat and electrotherapy; education of the condition, and the best way the patient can assist in their own recovery and achievement of individual goals.

The University of Otago’s School of Physiotherapy has an excellent teaching environment. It is a purpose-built facility that includes spacious laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment of an international standard. Highly-skilled physiotherapists also work in the School’s own clinics which are open to the public.

The Physiotherapy programme is also able to draw on the strengths and expertise of staff at the Faculty of Medicine and other departments in Health Sciences and Science. The School is well known for its clinical teaching programmes delivered in Dunedin, Wellington and Christchurch, and in its teaching hubs.

PhD programme

Students applying for the School of Physiotherapy’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programme must have a recognised Master's degree (with thesis component) in Physiotherapy/Physical Therapy or a related area. Students with a Physiotherapy / Physical Therapy qualification must either have a current Annual Practising Certificate or obtain Special Purpose Scope of Practice from the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand before beginning their PhD.

Students must have a supervisor for this programme. Before acceptance can be granted applicants must work with their potential supervisor to submit a draft proposal with their application. For assistance with finding a supervisor please contact the Research Administrator.

^ Top of page

Career opportunities

Graduates are eligible to register with the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand as soon as they are awarded their degree and must register in order to practise. The qualification is internationally recognised. Work environments include practice in acute hospitals, rehabilitation centres, private practice, occupational health, in schools with children with special needs, sports clinics, industry, with the elderly and in research.

^ Top of page


Entry to second-year classes is competitive and based on admission levels set by the School of Physiotherapy Admissions Committee.

Admission to the second-year classes of the four-year Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPhty) requires students to pass all Health Sciences First Year (HSFY), compulsory papers with a minimum B- (65%) average to be considered for admission. There is a 'two year plus' category for applicants who have completed two or more years of university study towards a degree, and have completed three or more papers at the 200-level and passed the HSFY papers or their equivalents. Applicants must have a minimum of a B- across all papers.

Details of Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) for Physiotherapy

Applications are considered from graduates who have completed a first degree, first degree followed by honours or first degree followed by a postgraduate diploma similar to an honours programme from a university in New Zealand normally within the minimum time and within the past three years.

Applications are also considered from people who do not satisfy the normal requirements, but who may warrant admission for particular reasons, such as those with a relevant health-related employment background who can show evidence of academic ability to an appropriate level. Successful applicants in this category will be required to complete the HSFY or equivalent, before a place in the second-year class can be confirmed.

Single Programme Preference (SPP)

In considering applications from domestic students, the School of Physiotherapy Admissions Committee will first select from those applicants who have specified that they are applying for Physiotherapy only, and not also to another professional programme. It is important that students seek advice on what is the best application option for their career goals before applying. The SPP does not apply to the Alternative category.

Note: There is a subcategory for Māori and New Zealand resident Pacific Island applicants in each of the four categories.

The four-year Physiotherapy programme is physically demanding and prospective applicants need to be aware of this when considering their ability to apply for entry to the programme and later when seeking registration with the Physiotherapy Board of New Zealand. If you have any doubts about your health or ability to cope with the course, you should contact either the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies (Physiotherapy) or the University Disabilities Officer for advice. Questions are dealt with in confidence.

200-level and beyond

Subjects studied in the three years following HSFY include:

  • Functional Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pathology
  • Physiotherapy Rehabilitation Science
  • Physiotherapy Clinical Practice and Research.

Supervised clinical experience of around 1,000 hours must be completed during the course.

In your fourth year, you’ll be assigned to one of the School’s clinical centres in Dunedin, Christchurch or Wellington, and clinical sites associated with the centres.

Top performing students in Year 3 may be invited to undertake an honours programme in Year 4. The final year involves supervised clinical practice and an individual research project. Students graduate with BPhty(Hons) and, like the BPhty graduates, are then eligible for registration.

Health and Conduct

The Division of Health Sciences requires all applicants applying for any of its health professional programmes to declare any criminal or disciplinary charges they have faced, or are facing, and any health status issues which could affect their participation in clinical aspects of the programme or their overall fitness to practise.

Contact the Health Sciences Admissions Office for information.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 is aimed at providing better protection for vulnerable children. One of the ways it aims to do this is by introducing 'safety checking'. Applicants who enter the programme will receive further information regarding the timing of these checks.

^ Top of page

Contact details

School of Physiotherapy


^ Top of Page



See the full list of Physiotherapy (PHTY) papers.

^ Top of page

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (BPhty)

Year Papers Points
1st year

Health Sciences First Year Course

Note: Students enrolled in the Health Sciences First Year course will be required to achieve a satisfactory mark in a standard diagnostic English test or another approved measure of achievement.

2nd year

PHTY 250  Anatomy (for BPhty)

PHTY 251  Physiology (for BPhty)

PHTY 252  Pharmacology (for BPhty)

PHTY 254  Physiotherapy Rehabilitation Science 1

PHTY 255  Physiotherapy Clinical Practice 1






3rd year

PHTY 353  Pathology (for BPhty)

PHTY 354  Physiotherapy Rehabilitation Science 2

PHTY 355  Physiotherapy Clinical Practice 2




4th year

PHTY 455  Physiotherapy Clinical Practice 3

PHTY 456  Physiotherapy Clinical Practice 4

PHTY 457  Physiotherapy Clinical Practice 5

PHTY 458  Physiotherapy Clinical Practice 6

PHTY 459  Research for Physiotherapy






^ Top of page

Bachelor of Physiotherapy with Honours (BPhty(Hons))

Year Papers Points
Fourth year

PHTY 468  Physiotherapy Clinical Practice for Honours

PHTY 469  Physiotherapy Research for Honours

Note: Papers in the First, Second, and Third Years are the same as in the Schedule for the ordinary degree of Bachelor of Physiotherapy.



^ Top of page