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Friday 11 March 2016 11:27am

Richard Blaikie full width

I often get asked “Why Otago?

Why should I choose Otago University for my postgraduate study, rather than another high-flying University?” For our undergraduate population the wonderful residential campus experience is something that unquestionably sets us apart, and the ability to learn directly from some of the nation’s best research-informed teachers gives these students the best possible start to their first university experience.

Yet for our postgraduates the situation is different. The attractions of residential life in Castle Street and its environs may still be there, but the decision to undertake another one or two or four years of dedicated study will have been made for other reasons: programmes, people or field research opportunities that are unique to Otago; access to high-quality research supervision; a research group or department that is in the top league internationally; a postgraduate programme that consistently delivers people into leadership roles nationally and globally; or the ability to continue to live and study in one of our three main campus cities (Wellington, Christchurch or Dunedin), close to other work and family commitments.

The quality advantage of the Otago postgraduate experience has been highlighted recently through a number of independent national and international metrics. Our research quality has been measured against other New Zealand universities in the most recent Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF) exercise, announced in April. For postgraduate degree students the results are simple—Otago has the highest average quality score for research when measured against the size of our postgraduate student cohort; the third time in a row that we have achieved this leading position. We have done better than all other New Zealand universities in this ranking since 2003, and in the latest round we were 66% ahead of the average.

From the postgraduate student’s perspective the numbers are clear and impressive, showing that access to top-quality research supervision is second to none—for every 100 postgraduates at Otago there are approximately 20 academic and research staff who rank as national or international leaders in their disciplines (‘A’ or ‘B’ ranked in PBRF), a postgraduate-to-staff ratio of 5:1. This compares with a much less favourable ratio of 9:1 across the New Zealand university sector.

International benchmarks also highlight our postgraduate prowess: we topped the New Zealand Universities in the 2012 Nature publishing index; our QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Subject Area rankings are in the top 100 worldwide in 12 subject areas, with our Psychology Department at #15, History at #24 and Law at #32; and we lead New Zealand in the research citation components of the QS and ARWU (Academic Ranking of World Universities) international university rankings. Put these measures together with our generous support for postgraduate scholarships and our leading position in winning competitive research funds, and you have not only reputation but resources as two solid reasons to choose Otago for postgraduate study.

You will hear others proudly and quite reasonably claim their research advantage, be it in the sheer size of their graduate school, their specialist facilities, or the quality of their staff. The simple fact is that we do have several outstanding research universities in this country, with areas of quality in all of them. But there is only one that is distinct and uniquely… Otago!

Professor Richard Blaikie
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise

June 2013