DentistryEntrance InformationUndergraduate Dentistry UniversitiesUniversity of Otago (NZ)

Otago Dentistry Entrance Information

This article covers entry into dentistry at the University of Otago. For information on Otago and the dental course itself, refer to:

There are 4 pathways for entry into dentistry at Otago – HSFY, 2nd year, competitive graduate, and alternative. As a general rule, of the 54 domestic spaces (for NZ citizens/permanent residents +Australian citizens) available each year, around 35-40 will be allocated to HSFY entrants. The very small number of spaces allocated to the non-HSFY entry pathways make these pathways extremely competitive.

Additionally, a number of places are reserved for Maori and Pacific Island entrants. The exact number of these and how they are distributed across the entry categories is unknown, but their existence means that cutoff scores for entry are generally lower for any Maori or Pacific Island applicant.

In order to be eligible for admission under any of the 4 pathways the applicant must have completed the health sciences first year (HSFY) course. The exception to this rule is for applicants with advanced standing, but this is a rare occurrence and requires at least 4 years of study towards an overseas dental degree (

Health Sciences First Year (HSFY)

HSFY is a prescribed first year university course that is a pre-requisite for any application to enter the dental course and acts as the first year of the dental degree.

Admission to HSFY
Admission to HSFY is guaranteed to anyone who fulfills at least one of the following criteria:

  • Achieved NCEA level 2 with merit or excellence and gained university entrance.
  • Gains an NCEA level 3 entrance score of at least 140 and university entrance.
  • Gains at least 26 points in IB.
  • Gains an entry score of at least 140 in the Cambridge International Examinations.
  • ATAR of at least 80.
  • OP of 10 or lower.
  • Gains a place in a residential college and meets the academic criteria for university entrance.
  • Gains an Otago undergraduate scholarship and meets the academic criteria for university entrance.

Should you not fulfill the above criteria it may still be possible to enrol in HSFY provided you are competitive enough. Note however that this is no longer guaranteed.

Structure of HSFY

HSFY comprises 7 compulsory papers:

  • CELS191 (Cell and Molecular Biology): An introduction to cellular biology (principles of cells, structure/function of organelles, chromosomes), molecular biology (principles of inheritance and gene expression at the molecular and population level), and microbiology (biology of microorganisms, covering basic principles, diversity of microorganisms, ecology of microorganisms, and an introduction to infectious disease).

    Assessment is via mid-semester exam (20%), final exam (60%), and online tests (20%) – covering labs (10%) and independent learning modules (10%).

  • CHEM191 (The Chemical Basis of Biology and Human Health): Selected aspects of 100-level chemistry deemed relevant to the health sciences professions. Content includes reaction thermodynamics and kinetics, oxidation-reduction reactions, organic metal ion complexes, organic chemistry, and a module on biological molecules designed to make later study of biochemistry easier. Links to medicine (and other health professions) are made explicit where possible.

    Assessment is via mid-semester exam (15%), final exam (70%), and lab tests (15%).

  • HUBS191 (Human Body Systems I):An introduction to the anatomy and physiology of the musculoskeletal, nervous, and endocrine systems. Also includes an introduction to the principles of homeostasis, and basic immunology.

    Assessment is via two terms tests (7% each), final exam (72%), lab tests (6%) and online tests covering independent learning modules and lecture content (8%).

  • PHSI191 (Biological Physics): Selected aspects of 100-level physics deemed relevant to the health science professions. Modules are mechanics, bulk materials (properties of solids and fluids), thermodynamics, electricity, optics, and radiation. Links to medicine (and other health professions) are made explicit where possible.

    Assessment is via lab attendance (6%), online revision tests (6%) and the mid-semester exam and final exam (worth 18% and 70% respectively, or 0% and 88%, whichever gives the higher mark).

  • BIOC192 (Foundations of Biochemistry):An introduction to the field of biochemistry (though aspects of biochemistry have already been taught in CHEM191 and CELS191 by this stage). Content includes protein structure and how this relates to function, mechanisms and kinetics of enzyme-coupled reactions, cell membrane structure and function, biochemistry of food (digestion and absorption of food molecules in the human GI tract and effect of diet on health – in particular looking at vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol), metabolism, and diseases with a strong biochemical foundations.

    Assessment is via mid-semester exam (20%), final exam (70%), and online tests covering lab material (10%).

  • HEAL192 (Foundations of Epidemiology): An introduction to epidemiology and public health. Content includes critical evaluation of epidemiological studies and an introduction to major health problems in New Zealand and globally. The overall course is structured around the “public health model” (which will be introduced early on).

    Assessment is via two terms tests (15% each), final exam (60%), and tutorial tests (10%).

In addition to the above 7 papers, there is the option to take a further 8th paper in one of the humanities. This is optional, however doing so could potentially be advantageous when it comes to entry to dentistry (discussed below). The current list of acceptable 8th papers can be found at

As well as being the first year of the dental degree, HSFY also acts as the first year of the MB ChB
(bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery), BPharm (bachelor of pharmacy), BPhty (bachelor of physiotherapy), and BMLSc (bachelor of medical laboratory science) and so can be used to apply for undergraduate entry to any of these courses as well. Additionally it is possible to enter any of the majors for the bachelor of biomedical science and many of the majors for the bachelor of science on the basis of HSFY. HSFY can also be used to gain credit towards most other degrees offered at Otago and forms a strong basis on which to apply for entry into medical radiation therapy, oral health, dental technology at Otago, or dentistry/medicine at many of the Australian Universities.

In other words, HSFY is a very open year that leads to a range of qualifications beyond just the dental degree!

Entry into dentistry

Eligibility criteria to apply for dentistry for each admission pathway are:


  • Completion of HSFY in your first year of tertiary study. (The only exception to this is if you complete HSFY in your second year of tertiary study and your first year contained none of the material covered in HSFY). Additionally, when applying directly from HSFY, all 7 core HSFY papers must be passed with at least a B- (65%).
  • You must have a valid UMAT result (UMAT results are valid for 2 years after sitting).

Second Year

  • Completion of at least two years of study at a NZ university. The first year must be HSFY, and the second year must be in the biological sciences, with a selection of papers that is approved by the School of Dentistry. Approval of the second year papers must be granted at the beginning of semester one.
  • You must have a valid UMAT result (UMAT results are valid for 2 years after sitting).

Competitive Graduate

  • You must have graduated from your first university degree within the last 3 years.
  • That degree must have been completed in the minimum possible academic time, and must have been awarded by a New Zealand university.
  • You must have passed the HSFY papers.
  • You must have a valid UMAT result.

Alternative Category

  • You must have either:

    • graduated from a NZ university more than 3 years ago

    • OR
  • graduated from an overseas university as an NZ citizen or permanent resident
  • You must have passed the HSFY papers, or passed alternative papers with equivalent content.
  • You must have a valid UMAT result.


    If you are eligible for entry under one of the above pathways, the dental school will determine if you have reached the required academic threshold. This is usually at least a B (70%) average across all your papers. The following systems apply when calculating GPA:

    • Only the best 126 points from each year will be used. This means that if you are applying from HSFY and took an eighth paper, only the best 7 papers will be considered in calculating GPA (however you still must have passed all the core HSFY papers with at least 65%).
    • A progressive weighting system is used for graduates. For a 3 year degree this means that 1st year is given a 0.5 weighting, 2nd year a 1.0 weighting, and 3rd year a 1.5 weighting.

    If you have reached the academic threshold your UMAT result will be considered. Applicants are selected for interview on the basis of UMAT, with all 3 sections individually looked at. You must exceed the cutoff score (which varies from year-to-year) in all 3 sections to proceed to interview.

    In total 300 applicants will be interviewed, the majority in the second week of October. However, applicants who are not currently enrolled at Otago will be interviewed in mid-late November.

    The interview is conducted by two interviewers (normally one staff member and one community member or lay person) and is structured – “All interviewees are given the same basic questions in the same order”. The interview aims to cover the topics of motivation, decision making, and communication skills.

    Current evidence seems to suggest that the interview acts as a threshold, with all applicants who pass being ranked on GPA in order to determine offers of place, however there is reason to suspect that applicants with outstanding interview scores may be offered a place regardless of GPA (provided it meets the required minimum level).

    Key dates

    (Applications for entry into the 2012 dent class have CLOSED. Good luck!)
    10 December 2011: Last date to register for HSFY 2012
    22-23 December 2011: Application outcomes for second year dentistry released
    23 February 2012: 2nd year dentistry begins with welcome ceremony
    17-21 February 2012: Course approval for 2012 HSFY students
    27 February 2012: HSFY lectures begin
    1 August 2012: Dentistry applications for 2013 open
    15 September 2012: Dentistry applications for 2013 close


    Otago University Website
    Otago Division of Health Sciences/Dental Admissions Website
    Otago Faculty of Dentistry Website

    Degree: Bachelor of Dental Surgery
    Type: Undergraduate – 4 years – Full Time
    Campus: Dunedin

    Academic Requirements:
    +Health Sciences First Year
    or Second Year of University Study
    or Competitive Graduate
    + UMAT
    + Interview – Notified in November

    How to apply:
    + Submit an online application via

    Intake per year
    + 40 places (CSP & FFP)

    Dentistry Facilities:
    + Dental Hospital

    Post-graduate Specialities:

    Course structure: