Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Politics

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the University’s highest level supervised research degree and is awarded on successful completion of a doctoral thesis.

Programme requirements

While an Otago PhD is based solely on completion of a thesis, if a candidate is deemed to require additional tuition in a particular area, completion of an advanced Politics paper(s) may be an additional requirement.

The expected length of study for a PhD is three years for full-time candidates and six years for part-time candidates.


Each PhD student will be appointed a primary supervisor and a co-supervisor, or an advisory committee. The supervisor(s) will assist in directing the student’s reading, refining the research proposal, offering guidance on executing the research plan and comments on chapters of the thesis while the work is in progress.

Choosing a research area

We strongly encourage students to link their project with the research interests of staff members. View staff profiles.

Good research is focused research. Skillful researchers formulate a clear research aim as a means to focus their research, and then identify a number of research questions that flow from this aim.

Read Getting from a research interest to a research proposal (PDF 411 KB)

Admission requirements

A prospective candidate for Doctor of Philosophy is expected to have a Bachelor's degree with first or upper second class honours or equivalent (including a research component) or a Master's degree (including an appropriate research component).

In special circumstances, a prospective candidate who does not have these formal qualifications, but can demonstrate appropriate equivalent research experience, will also be considered for admission. It is also possible to upgrade an Otago MA to a PhD, with approval from the Head of Department.

Before submitting your application, please read the Guide to Postgraduate Study (PDF).

You should then email the following information to Professor Philip Nel, the Co-ordinator of the PhD Programme. Email

  • A short research proposal (2-3 pages), which provides a clear statement of the research question(s), explains its/their importance, cites relevant and appropriate literature, and describes the research design to be followed.
  • A full and current CV
  • A copy of your study record to date
  • Evidence of proficiency in English (international students only)
  • Samples of your publications

Note that admission is subject to suitable supervision being available in the Department.

^ Top of Page

How to apply

Domestic students

Once you have received confirmation that the Department can provide suitable supervision, you will need to make a formal application for admission to the University.

International students

International students wishing to apply for admission to the PhD programme should read the information on the International Office’s website. 


The University of Otago offers several postgraduate scholarships and awards for domestic and international students.

Competition for available scholarships is intense. Only students with at least an A (85%) or higher in their most recent degree should consider applying for a scholarship.

Further information

The University of Otago website contains comprehensive information for potential PhD candidates.

^ Top of Page