City university best place in New Zealand in long list of subjects, while AUT ranks highly for Art and Design.

World university rankings show Auckland is the best place to study in New Zealand if you want to be an accountant, lawyer, geographer, teacher, architect or a chemist - among a long list of subjects.

The report rankings, published by British company Quacquarelli Symonds, ranks the University of Auckland top in New Zealand for 29 out of 37 subjects, with 13 subjects in the top 50 in the world.

It gained the largest number of subjects listed in the top-400 subject rankings. Otago University also had a win with its dentistry course named 8th in the world, the first time a New Zealand school has made the top 10.

The rankings put Massey top in New Zealand for Veterinary Science and Agriculture and Forestry, AUT was best for Art and Design, and Otago top for Philosophy. Victoria and Waikato were ranked equal with Auckland for Communications, while Canterbury was a close second in terms of Civil Engineering.

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Auckland University's acting Vice-Chancellor John Morrow said the school was pleased with the breadth of subjects it was highly placed for.

"The results dealt both with academic questions but also with the reputation of the institution among employers. We think things go together - a broad research base helps with the teaching programme, which means students are well-prepared when they leave university," he said.

"We are happy with these results and they provide confirmation of the strategic direction we have taken in the past 10 years."

Quacquarelli Symonds uses the opinion of more than 85,000 academics, who identified the leading institutions within their field and region of expertise, and more than 41,000 employers, who identified the universities that have produced outstanding graduates in a given discipline area.

More than 17 million research papers and 100 million citations were included in the analysis behind the results.

Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan said the results showed local institutions continued to punch above their weight.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey said one of its goals was to promote the highest standards of research and scholarship and to be a world leader in their areas of specialisation.

"These results are a reflection of the level of quality we offer in those specialist areas like agriculture, veterinary science and accountancy and finance," he said.

AUT Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack said he was "delighted" the Art and Design subjects were ranked 42nd in the world.

"This is our first top 50 ranking and a positive achievement after just 15 years as a university," he said.

University of Otago Vice-Chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne wanted to pay tribute to school staff for their commitment to education in the wake of its top 10 accomplishment.

The university had already identified the dental school as a top performer and made a strategic decision to invest in a major redevelopment of its facilities with work scheduled to begin in November, she said.

Not all of the universities teach every subject judged in the Quacquarelli Symonds rankings - for example, Otago is the only New Zealand dental school, and Massey is the only place to study vet science.

Student: Ranking adds teeth to degree

When you think of careers mixing art and science not many people would land on dentistry - but for Gracie Nichols, it's the perfect fit.

"Dentistry has the clinical side, with its understanding of disease and biology. And then when comes to making people happy with fillings or other work it's a lot to do with aesthetics," says the fifth-year University of Otago student.

Gracie Nichols says her dental school's new ranking as eighth-best in the world means more than just better job prospects overseas. Photo / Supplied
Gracie Nichols says her dental school's new ranking as eighth-best in the world means more than just better job prospects overseas. Photo / Supplied

With a love for research as well, Ms Nichols, 22, was pleased to hear of her dental school's new ranking as eighth-best in the world, saying it means more than just better job prospects overseas.

"It's really exciting for a dental school to be so highly regarded, it means that if you present at a conference elsewhere you know your degree is well-respected and your opinions will be regarded quite highly."

She credited the teachers for the high ranking. "They're what make the school."

Ms Nichols says dentistry has good job security and most graduates find employment.

• See the full rankings here.