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Both departments are also ranked top in their respective university fields in New Zealand. They have also had striking success in gaining a series of highly competitive research grants, particularly from the prestigious Marsden Fund.
In the past nine years, six staff in the Otago English and linguistics department have gained eight Marsden grants, totalling about $3 million, and a prestigious US National Endowment for Humanities award.
Over a similar period, Otago history academics have gained nine Marsden grants, understood to have generated at least $3 million in research funding.
That funding success had enabled some key Otago academics to focus on pursuing their research and generating high quality academic publications.
Prof Tom Brooking, of the Otago history and art history department, said the high international rankings of the English and history departments partly reflected the long-established strengths of those and other humanities areas, including the Law Faculty, at Otago.
Prof Brooking said he had gained two Marsden grants, amounting to about $1.1 million, which had helped him produce a series of academic books.
The funding and QS ranking outcomes were adding to the reputation of Otago departments and the division.
''We're doing pretty well and we're getting both national and international recognition,'' he said.
Otago University deputy vice-chancellor, academic and international, Prof Vernon Squire, said the university was ''pleased'' to have the English language and literature join psychology, history and law as its subjects in the international top 50 in the latest QS rankings.
The Otago psychology department earlier topped the country in its official PBRF ranking score.
Otago researchers were ranked 28th in English language and literature and 30th in history.
Dr Chris Prentice, who heads the Otago department of English and linguistics, said the department's high ranking in English language and literature reflected its ''strong and continuing tradition'' of scholarship and teaching across the diverse areas of the discipline.
The department ''takes pride'' in the ranking, and its research grant and award successes also reflected ''strength'' across many historical and contemporary literary areas, she said.
Dr Thomas McLean, an Otago English scholar who recently gained a Marsden grant of more than $390,000, said recent ''positive results' were ''a reminder that the humanities are alive and well at Otago''.