The University of Otago’s influence spreads far beyond its campuses, contributing to the culture and economy of Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as to national and international development.
As the largest employer in Dunedin and one of the largest in the South Island, the University is a significant economic force, with an estimated annual impact of more than $1 billion locally, and $2 billion nationally. University students, staff and their families comprise more than one quarter of the population of urban Dunedin.
The University makes a significant contribution to the arts through its long-standing and highly respected fellowships in music, writing, visual arts and dance. In addition, regular public lectures, continuing education activities and arts performances contribute significantly to the cultural and intellectual life of the wider community.
Reinforcing Otago’s commitment to its wider communities, a culture of community service is embedded across the University. Around 90 per cent of academic staff report involvement in community service activities, ranging from serving on government advisory committees, to giving public lectures and contributing to community projects. The Social Impact Studio successfully harnesses student altruism through its many volunteer activities and community relationships.
Otago also has a well-established community outreach programme. For example, the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre fosters an understanding of the marine environment through education and community engagement, with around 15,000 people taking part in its activities each year. The long-running Hands-On at Otago, Science Wānanga and Science Academy are among the many successful programmes offered for secondary school students throughout New Zealand.
The impact of the University research cannot be underestimated. Research goals are strategically aligned to addressing questions of national and international importance, and to enhancing health and well-being. The events of 2020 well illustrate this. Otago researchers have informed Aotearoa New Zealand’s public health response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, and provided significant scientific expertise to testing, tracking and vaccine development through local and international collaborations.
Otago was Aotearoa New Zealand’s first university to achieve Fair Trade status and has committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This requires us to model ethically, socially and environmentally responsible behaviour and to encourage it in others.