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COVID-19 information for new international students currently offshore

Important admission updates for 2021 applicants and offer holders

New Zealand borders and visa processing

New Zealand’s borders are currently closed, except for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

Unfortunately new international students have not been able to enter New Zealand in time for studies in Semester 1 2021. This is because the border is closed and Immigration New Zealand is not currently processing offshore visa applications until May 2021 at the earliest.

The New Zealand Government has indicated that it is likely the border will remain closed until the end of 2021. As such, it is unlikely that new international students will be able to enter New Zealand in time for studies in semester 2 (July) 2021.

The New Zealand government is regularly reviewing the border situation.

The University of Otago continues to monitor and respond to any Government updates. This includes announcements for the managed return of 250 current PhD students and for the managed return of 1,000 international students who began their studies in New Zealand tertiary institutes but were caught offshore when border restrictions began.

The University of Otago is liaising with key government departments to work through the details of the announcements and will be making direct contact with relevant students who meet the criteria for a managed return.

Immigration New Zealand COVID-19 updates

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Online education offer for 2021

The University of Otago has expanded its delivery options for coursework programmes for the 2021 academic year, in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 on our students. While Otago’s primary teaching mode is via face-to-face learning on-campus, in 2021 there will be three delivery options for eligible students:

  1. On-campus
  2. Distance learning – existing programmes and papers designed to be delivered by distance learning: otago.ac.nz/courses/distance_study/otago002148.html
  3. Online - a selection of papers and programmes that would normally only be delivered on-campus will be temporarily delivered online in order to support students that are unable to attend classes in person due to COVID-19: otago.ac.nz/coronavirus/otago743194.html

Applications for undergraduate studies taught online commencing in semester 2 (July) 2021 must be received no later than 15 June 2021.

Applications for postgraduate studies taught online and starting in semester 2 (July) 2021 must be received no later than 1 June 2021.

You do not require a visa to commence studies online.

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Scholarships for online study – BA, BCom, and BACom

The University of Otago is pleased to advise that international offshore applicants who are admitted to start full-time studies in 2021 online in either the Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Arts (BA), or Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom) programmes will receive a Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship for International Students (Online) valued at NZ$10,000.

The scholarship will be credited to the student’s 2021-tuition fees account.

Applications for undergraduate studies taught online commencing in semester 2 (July) 2021 must be received no later than 15 June 2021.

Please observe that not all majors (main subject of study) of the BCom and BA are available online. Please refer to the available online study options for 2021.

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Scholarships for online study – masters’ degrees and postgraduate diplomas

The University of Otago is pleased to advise that international offshore applicants who are admitted to start full-time studies in 2021 online in any of the available online master’s degrees or postgraduate diplomas will be considered for a merit-based Otago International Excellence Scholarship (Online), valued at NZ$10,000.

Go to the full list of available online options

The scholarship will be credited to the student’s 2021-tuition fees account.

Applications for postgraduate studies taught online and starting in semester 2 (July) 2021 must be received no later than 1 June 2021.

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Online English Language and Foundation Year Studies and Scholarships

The University of Otago Language Centre and Foundation Year offers online delivery of the Foundation Year Certificate as well as several English language options, including:

  • English for Otago
  • General English
  • IELTS preparation
  • English for Academic Purposes

You find the details for these online options here.

Scholarships are also available for students who are admitted for these online programmes, including the NZ$4,000 Pathway Scholarship for Foundation Year.

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Why study online?

Studying online with the University of Otago allows you to commence your studies as planned. By studying online, you will have access to our academic support unit, comprehensive library services, online resources, our international student support team services, and the opportunity to develop your international network with both other online learners and those students studying on campus.

By studying online, you will have the status of a current student of the University of Otago and will be among our priority student groups to bring into New Zealand as soon as we are able to.

Should the New Zealand borders not reopen during 2021 or in early 2022, we will make contact directly with you to discuss your academic options for 2022. This will include – if required – a limited number of further online papers that will enable you to continue studying online.

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Visas and online study

If you are currently offshore, you can commence and continue study online with the University of Otago without first obtaining a student visa. However, you will still need to complete all other enrolment steps including:

  • Selection of papers – special instructions will be provided for online students
  • Payment of tuition fees
  • Attending a compulsory online orientation session

Please note that an appropriate visa will be required to enter New Zealand to join us on campus, once border restrictions ease.

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Study abroad 2021

Unfortunately Study Abroad students have not been able to enter New Zealand in time for studies in semester 1 2021. This is because the border is closed and Immigration New Zealand is not currently processing visas until May 2021 at the earliest.

The New Zealand Government has indicated that it is likely the border will remain closed until the end of 2021. It is therefore very unlikely that Study Abroad students will be able to enter New Zealand in time for studies in semester two (July) 2021. Please also observe that the University of Otago has paused the usual accommodation guarantee for Study Abroad students for 2021 due to the uncertainties of the border situation.

Given these circumstances the University of Otago will not be processing applications for Study Abroad semester 2 (July) 2021. We will be in touch with Study Abroad partner providers with more information regarding existing applications and look forward to welcoming nominations and applications for Study Abroad in 2022, or as soon as border and visa processing conditions allows.

For partners with students seeking to study our English language and Study Abroad package (a popular option for our partners in East Asia), it is possible to commence study plans during 2021 with online English language studies available through the University of Otago English Language Centre, followed by a potential on-campus study abroad once borders and visa processing allows. Online options for a virtual study abroad semester will be made available should it not be possible to arrive on campus following the online English component.

Please contact the study abroad office at your home institution to find out more about your home institution's study abroad plans and any additional updates from Otago.

For students who are offshore and interested in studying individual papers online as an independent student, you can refer to our list of confirmed 2021 online papers.

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Student exchange 2021

The University of Otago is not accepting inbound international exchange students for semester 1 (February) or semester 2 (July) studies during 2021. This is because the New Zealand border is currently closed and Immigration New Zealand is not currently processing visas. The New Zealand Government has also indicated that it is likely that the NZ border will remain closed through to the end of 2021.

We welcome exchange nominations for virtual exchange in semester 2 (July) 2021. Students must take a full course load at Otago. Please note that only a select number of courses are available for virtual exchange. Please contact the exchange/international office at your home institute for information about virtual exchange at Otago or any additional updates.

We look forward to resuming our in-person international student exchange programme as soon as this becomes practical.

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PhD and research Master’s

Applications for PhD and Master’s thesis studies are open throughout the year – there is no specific application period or deadline to apply.

Remote starts for PhD applicants currently offshore may be an option in some cases.

For prospective PhD candidates – information for international students currently offshore regarding the admission processes.

For prospective Master’s thesis students – information about admission.

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Bachelors, masters, postgraduate studies

The University of Otago continues to welcome and accept applications from international students for studies at Bachelors, Honours, Masters and Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma levels.

If you have previously applied for studies commencing in semester 1 2021 or semester 2 2021, please refer to the important updates for 2021 applicants and offer holders.

New applications for semester 2 (July) 2021

Offers for online studies (for offshore applicants) and offers for on-campus studies (for applicants already in New Zealand) to start studies in semester 2 (July) 2021 are being processed as a priority.

Please note that we are not currently making admission offers for offshore applicants applying for studies that are only available on campus in semester 2 (July) 2021. This is because the New Zealand border is closed, Immigration New Zealand will not be processing offshore visa applications until at least May 2021 and the New Zealand Government has indicated that the border is likely to remain closed until the end of 2021.

We continue to monitor the situation in case there are changes announced which may allow cohorts of new international students to enter the country in time for the semester 2 start.

New applications for 2022

New applicants seeking to apply for studies commencing in semester 1, 2022 will be able to apply from 1 May 2021 through our eVision application system. Scholarships and tuition fee costs for studies starting in 2022 are due to be confirmed by mid-2021.

Explore our undergraduate subjects

Explore our postgraduate subjects and qualifications

Additional application information

As always, we encourage you to submit a complete application, supplying all required information and documentation, as this will allow us to process these applications and issue an offer of place in the timeliest manner.

Please check the English language requirements webpage for information on English language proficiency tests, including any additional tests which may be accepted due to COVID-19 impact on normal testing centres for applicants who are offshore.

English language requirements

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Meet us

The University of Otago participates in selected online and in-person education fairs and events around New Zealand and the world to meet with students considering their future study options. At these events, you can talk with our international recruitment staff for personal guidance about study options, how to apply, scholarships, accommodation, and life at Otago.

Meet a representative from the University of Otago

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Visit otago.ac.nz/coronavirus for ongoing updates.