Top universities in New Zealand 2021 | Top Universities

Top universities in New Zealand 2021

By Julia G

Updated June 1, 2023 Updated June 1, 2023

The University of Auckland continues to be the top university in New Zealand for 2021, beating seven other universities in the country to rank 81st in the world.

Released today, the QS World University Rankings 2021 rank the best universities in the world based on six key indicators: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citations per faculty, international faculty, and international students.

Read on to find out which New Zealand universities made it into the rankings this year, and view the full results of the QS World University Rankings 2021 here. You can also find out more about the methodology used to compile the rankings here.

QS World University Rankings 2021 – Top 10 Universities in New Zealand

New Zealand Rank

Global Rank




The University of Auckland



University of Otago



Victoria University of Wellington



University of Canterbury



Massey University



University of Waikato



Lincoln University



Auckland University of Technology

8. Auckland University of Technology


Auckland University of Technology


Up an impressive six places this year to now rank joint 437th in the world, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) dates back to 1895 when it was originally founded as the Auckland Technical School, and boasts the highest score among universities in New Zealand for the percentage of international students indicator (23rd in the world). 

7. Lincoln University


Lincoln University


Ranked joint 387th in the world in 2021, Lincoln University was originally part of the University of Canterbury before formally separating to become an independent institution in 1990. Like AUT, it receives a very high score for its percentage of international students, and also places in the top 100 for agriculture and forestry according to the most recent QS World University Rankings by Subject.

6. University of Waikato


University of Waikato

The University of Waikato drops over 100 places this year in the world university rankings to place joint 375th globally. The university has internationally recognised research capabilities and facilities across numerous disciplines, and offers qualifications in a broad range of subject areas, 15 of which are recognised and individually ranked by QS.  

Primarily located on 65 hectares of park-like grounds in the city of Hamilton on the North Island, it also has a campus in Tauranga.

5. Massey University


Massey University



This year’s QS World University Rankings sees Massey University climb 11 places to rank 272nd in the world, overtaking the University of Waikato to place fifth among the top universities in New Zealand. Massey, located in the city of Palmerton North on the North Island, is the only university in the country offering programs in aviation, dispute resolution, veterinary medicine, and nanoscience.

4. University of Canterbury


University of Canterbury


Down 44 places to rank joint 270th this year, the University of Canterbury is located in Christchurch on the South Island. It’s one of the oldest universities in New Zealand, having been established in 1873 as a constituent college of the University of New Zealand. Its student population now stands at roughly 17,300.

3. Victoria University of Wellington


Victoria University of Wellington


Victoria University of Wellington continues to place third in the country, ranking joint 223rd in the world, earning its best score for the percentage of international faculty members indicator (76th in the world). It also places 20th in the world for library studies and 50th for hospitality and leisure management, according to the most recent QS World University Rankings by Subject. 

2. University of Otago


University of Otago


Ranked 184th in the world in 2021, the University of Otago continues to rank second in the country and earns the highest score in New Zealand for its percentage of international faculty members (31st in the world). It’s primarily located in Dunedin on the South Island and is the oldest university in the country, dating back to 1869. Today it has around 21,240students, including 2,972 from outside New Zealand.

1. The University of Auckland


The University of Auckland


The University of Auckland is ranked number one in the country once again in 2021, coming 81st in the world this year and earning its best score for the academic reputation indicator. The largest institution in the country (with 42,759 students in 2018), the university appears in the worldwide top 50 of the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020 for 13 subjects including archaeology, education, nursing, geography and performing arts.


Now you know about New Zealand's best universities, get prepared to study there with our complete guide, which includes advice on student visa applications, admission requirements, costs, funding and more.

This article was originally published in June 2020 . It was last updated in June 2023

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Written by

Julia is the Assistant Editor for TopUniversities, publishing articles for students and graduates across the world. A native Londoner, she holds an MSc in Marketing Strategy & Innovation from Cass Business School and a BA in Classical Studies & English from Newcastle University.

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