Dentistry students at the University of Otago have got something to smile about - the course has been ranked the 12th best dentistry course in the world.
In data released today, the QS World University Rankings by Subject reveal the best places to study 42 of the most popular tertiary courses.
New Zealand universities featured 21 times in the top 50 across the 42 subject areas, up from last year's 20 placings.
The University of Otago's dentistry course topped the New Zealand universities, placing 12th in the world. The University of Auckland's archaeology course ranked 20th in the world - the first time archaeology has been included in the subjects evaluated by QS. It also ranked 23rd for education.
Massey University's veterinary sciences programme ranked 25th in the world, while the University of Canterbury's civil and structural engineering degree came in joint 49th, and Victoria University of Wellington's social policy and administration course joint 50th.
Neither the University of Waikato, Auckland University of Technology or Lincoln University had subjects that made it into the top 50, but did earn places in the top 100.
Overall the University of Auckland had the most placements within the lists, followed by the University of Otago.
The University of Auckland said the results confirmed its "status as New Zealand's leading university".
"This is an outstanding result for the University of Auckland and emphasises the comprehensive nature and calibre of our research and teaching contribution," Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said.
Archaeology student Alex Jorgensen, 44, who is doing his PhD at the university, said it was "really good to think that you're studying at a place that's so highly ranked".
"It's nice to get an independent confirmation - we all know that the staff here are very good at what they do, but the independent confirmation is very nice."
Internationally the ranking would "carry a bit of weight".
The University of Otago had 24 subjects in the top 200 - with psychology also in the top 50, at 38th.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Vernon Squire said it reflected Otago's broad and deep capabilities across a range of academic disciplines.
"Our solid performance in these rankings follows the university last month being awarded the highest possible international quality rating of five stars plus from QS Stars rating system," he said.
Massey University scored two subjects in the top 50 - veterinary science (25th) and agriculture and forestry (30th) - and two more, nursing and finance and accounting, in the top 100.
"One of Massey's big goals is to be a world leader in our areas of specialisation and another is to ensure an exceptional and distinctive learning experience for all students. These subject rankings demonstrate our commitment to the achievement of those goals," Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey said.
Chris Whelan, executive director of Universities New Zealand, described it as an outstanding result.
"The results show that our eight universities are among the best in the world, despite competition from larger and better funded institutions in the United States and Europe."
The expert opinion of 76,798 academics and 44,426 employers informed the results, alongside the analysis of 28.5 million research papers and over 113 million citations sourced from the Scopus/Elsevier bibliometric database.
Otago best place to cut your teeth
Volunteer patients who come in to have their teeth checked by student dentists at the University of Otago can feel a little more relaxed knowing the undergrads have the backing of an international ranking system, a student says.
Dunedinite Andrew Lamb, 22, who is in his final year of dentistry at the University of Otago, said the 12th place ranking would do more than just make the students feel good.
Patients could feel "comforted and reassured to know that we are definitely up there in terms of dental schools world-wide", he said.
"It can be quite scary for them, we're still training, and to have something like that to back up Otago as a great place to learn, then absolutely [it makes a difference]."
It would also stand graduates in good stead around the world and help with job prospects.
"I think the ranking of 12 definitely really helps with getting [international] recognition because New Zealand is obviously quite a small place and in the past the University of Otago faculty of dentistry may not have been recognised as much as what it will now," he said.
It was the close-community feel of the school that made it so special, he said.
"What makes Otago unique, I think, is the fact that it's the only place in New Zealand where you can study dentistry, so you get all the future young professionals in the industry ... all in the one place," he said.
"Coupled with obviously some amazing teachers, and amazing researchers who produce world-class papers."