University of Otago - daring to be wise for 150 years

Celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the University of Otago, New Zealand’s first university,
has a diverse calendar of events, talks, concerts and festivals planned for its special year.

In 1869, the University was created by a group of determined settlers who believed education and learning would help build a just and prosperous community.

They chose as their motto sapere aude – dare to be wise, which has remained a central challenge to generations of students and staff, inspiring them to question the norms and break new ground.

Today 21,000 students study programmes across the four Divisions of Health Sciences, Humanities, Sciences and Commerce, and across its campuses in Dunedin, Invercargill, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

Otago consistently ranks first for key Government indicators measuring educational performance of students at New Zealand universities and, in the last seven years, six of the national Tertiary Teaching Excellence Supreme Award winners have been from Otago.

Dr Alison Clarke, author of the recently launched history “Otago, 150 Years of New Zealand’s First University” describes the University as “a place of many contrasts – at once amazingly innovative and entrepreneurial, and also, at times, very conservative. Mostly it’s a place made up of talented people and always has been.”

Reflecting the importance of the connection between the University and the City of Dunedin, celebrations began in February with a community picnic on the Clocktower Lawn. The official celebrations were held during Queen’s Birthday weekend, but events continue throughout the year, finishing up with the University College 50th reunion in November.

Events from June to August include:

  • A Winter Symposium series which will be held across the country from June to August.
  • An Anniversary Gold Ball will be held at the Dunedin Town Hall on 10 August.
  • The University hosts the UNESCO Play Festival from 13-20 September, showcasing new plays from various UNESCO Cities of Literature and elsewhere in New Zealand.
  • The Heritage Festival hosted by Otago at the end of September will be a chance to celebrate the architectural heritage of the University. The festival runs alongside the Australasian Victorian Studies Association conference “1869”.
  • In early October, the Otago University Rowing Club is hosting a three-day International Universities Rowing Regatta, including crews from Russia, Japan, China and Canada. OURC will also be celebrating its 90thanniversary and will host an alumni reunion.
  • The 50th Reunion of University College will be held on Nov 22-24.
  • From now until November, 150th University of Otago Exhibition will be on display at the Otago Museum.

For more information on the 150th and the events visit:, and for alumni who wish to update their details and receive information about events and alumni news, please visit:


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