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COVID-19 information for new international students currently offshore

New Zealand borders and visa processing

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

It is not currently possible to apply for a student visa, and New Zealand’s immigration authorities have advised us that applications will not be processed while borders remain closed.

While the New Zealand government is regularly reviewing the border situation, it is not yet clear which countries and groups of students will be able to enter the country and when this will occur.

As a result of the circumstances at the border, and in the interest of transparency, it is unlikely that international students will be able to enter New Zealand in time for semester 1, 2021.

Update 13 October 2020: Following the New Zealand Government’s recent announcement to allow a small group of PhD and postgraduate students to return to New Zealand to continue their study, the University of Otago is currently working through all relevant details.

We will directly contact those students who we believe may be eligible for the border exemption as soon as we can. 

We welcome this first step to enable some international students to return to study in New Zealand soon. Please continue to refer to the Immigration New Zealand Covid updates for the most current information about border exemptions.

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 continue to be accepted for all online study and distance taught options in 2021. We encourage you to apply as early as possible. 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 announce 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.

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.

If you have already received an offer of place to the BA, BCom, or BACom for 2021 you will receive information from Student Administration giving you the opportunity to study your programme online and details of the associated scholarship.

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Scholarships for online study – masters’ degrees and postgraduate diplomas

The University of Otago is pleased to announce 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.

If you have already been offered a place in a master’s coursework programme or postgraduate diploma for 2021 and the programme is available online you will receive information from Student Administration giving you the opportunity to study your programme online and, where applicable, details regarding a merit-based scholarship.

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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 the online orientation

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 applicants semester 1, 2021

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

It is not currently possible to apply for a student visa, and New Zealand’s immigration authorities have advised us that applications will not be processed while borders remain closed.

As a result, and in the interest of transparency, we wish to advise that we do not anticipate that our usual Study Abroad cohorts will be able to enter New Zealand in time for semester 1, 2021. In line with this, there will be a pause on the usual accommodation guarantee for Study Abroad students in 2021. This information has been provided to our study abroad partner universities and providers.

For students who are interested in our English language and study abroad package (a popular option for our partners in East Asia), it would be possible to commence study plans in semester 1, 2021 with online English language studies through the University of Otago English Language Centre, followed by a potential on-campus study abroad semester 2, 2021. However, at this stage we do not know what the situation will be with borders and visa processing ahead of semester 2, 2021. Online options for a virtual study abroad semester would 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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Admissions information and updates

The University of Otago has seen a significant increase in applications in recent months, particularly for offshore applicants. We are working to process these applications as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your understanding as we work through the volume of requests we are receiving.

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Applications for studies available online

If you are applying for studies that will be delivered online your application will be prioritised and a programme decision returned as soon as possible.

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.

For prospective PhD candidates, here is information for international students currently offshore regarding the admission processes.

For prospective Master’s thesis students, here is information about admission.

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Applications for studies not available online

If you are applying for studies that are not able to be offered online your application will still be evaluated and, if you are eligible for admission, you will be placed on a priority list of applicants. Being on this priority list of applicants means that, once the border re-opens and visa processing resumes to the extent that allows you to enter New Zealand, your application will be prioritised to receive a formal offer of place from us.

This means that the University of Otago will not be issuing offers of place to offshore applicants for studies available only on campus, until we have further information on the border re-opening and visa processing resuming, and it is possible for you to travel to New Zealand.

Applicants will still be considered for scholarships. You will be advised of any scholarship award in your offer of place.

Thank you for your patience as we work to evaluate your application as soon as possible.

For prospective PhD candidates, here is information for international students currently offshore regarding the admission processes.

For prospective Master’s thesis students, here is information about admission.

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Update for offshore students already holding offers for semester 1, 2021

If you have already received an offer of place for studies starting semester 1, 2021 and the programme has now been confirmed as being available to be delivered online, you will receive information from Student Administration giving you the opportunity to study your programme online and details of any associated scholarships which you are eligible for.

If you have already received an offer of place for studies starting semester 1, 2021 for studies that are not available online, you will receive information from Student Administration with your options, which may include deferral or a switch to an alternative online study option.

Thank you for your patience as we work to update information for offshore students who already have offers for 2021.

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English language tests

The University of Otago is currently accepting additional English language proficiency tests 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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A video message from the Vice-Chancellor

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