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Study Politics at Otago

Politics is the study of how power is organised and used, nationally and internationally.

Power relations affect every aspect of our lives, determining what we may think, say and do, and how we can co-operate to make the world a better place.

What better time to study politics? So much of what we see in the news is about politics, including Brexit, the US election, the civil war in Syria, and the Treaty of Waitangi. By studying politics, you will gain a balanced, analytical and insightful understanding of topics that may be sensationalised in the media. Empower yourself to know the difference: study politics.

Apply for the Bachelor of Arts (BA) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Diploma for Graduates (DipGrad) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Master of Politics (MPols) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Why study Politics?

Politics is a practical field of study that empowers you to better understand the world and take part in informed decision-making. It is also an intellectually stimulating field.

Whether we like it or not, politics affects all of our lives. No matter where in the world you venture, politics is always a popular and sometimes delicate topic of conversation. Whether you want to forge a career in politics, or simply understand the world a little better, everyone would benefit from learning about politics.

Our graduates find exciting, challenging and highly-rewarding careers in a broad range of fields across New Zealand and around the world. Many of our graduates continue on to study towards a postgraduate degree at prestigious international universities.

“I was initially worried about how I would cope at a famously elite global university. However, I can honestly say the quality of education at Otago is world class.”
Ben Abraham,BA(Hons) graduate, Rhodes Scholar, University of Oxford PhD candidate

Politics at Otago

Otago Politics lecturers are all experts in their fields, and all are actively engaged in research that enriches their teaching.

Our approach to the study of politics is a blend of traditional and modern analysis. The breadth of the discipline of politics is reflected in the wide range of papers on offer at Otago. At Otago, politics is arranged into four fields:

  • International Relations – study internationalconflicts and co-operation between states
  • New Zealand Politics – understand the politicsof Aotearoa
  • Political Theory – ask important theoreticalquestions about the nature of power and justice
  • Comparative Politics – compare the politics ofa range of countries and regions

Background required

Studying Politics at Otago assumes no prior knowledge. If you have an interest in national and international affairs, you should consider including some politics in your degree.

Degree options

Qualification options are listed below. Politics is also part of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) degree programme.

Politics is an excellent subject to study alongside another of interest, either as a double-major in the BA, alongside a Science subject in the BASc, or as a double degree with Law or Commerce, and other options.

Politics for every student

Politics is also available as a minor within a range of degree options, or simply as an additional interest paper to strengthen your degree.Consider what an understanding of people and power, conflict and co-operation would add to a degree in areas such as Law, International Business, History, Economics, Geography, Management or Psychology.

International student exchange

The opportunity to study at an international university and understand another culture is an invaluable educational experience for a student of politics.

Postgraduate study

The department offers a range of postgraduate programmes. The twelve-month long Master of Politics (MPols) and Master of International Studies (MIntSt) degrees are excellent options for students interested in specialising in a particular area of politics or seeking an extra edge when considering their future career options. We also offer two research degrees – the Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

“The strength of Otago’s Politics Department is its breadth. In one degree you can take anything from political philosophy to environmental politics.”
Carys Goodwin, BA(Hons), DipLang graduateUniversity of Cambridge MPhil candidate

Career opportunities

Politics graduates have the ability to analyse issues logically, to challenge conventional assumptions, to consider different options and viewpoints, make informed decisions, and act with flexibility, adaptability and creativity.

In addition to these specialist skills, our programmes enable you to develop a range of personal and professional skills that are highly valued by employers.

A politics degree has helped many graduates secure jobs such as policy analysts, diplomats, working with refugees, journalists, business leaders, lawyers, public servants, consultants, and even politicians


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Politics

Level Papers Points
100-level Two 100-level POLS papers 36

Two 200-level POLS papers

One further POLS paper at 200-level or above

One of CHIN 241 Contemporary Chinese Society, GEND 201 Introduction to Feminist Theory, GEND 208 Governing Bodies, PHIL 227 Morality and Politics:Hobbes to Hume, PHIL 228 Ethics, PSYC 204 Justice, Race and Class, or PUBH 203 Health Policy and Politics, may be substituted for one 200-level POLS paper




Four 300-level POLS papers


198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts

Total   360

Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) in Politics

  • Thesis: POLS 5

Master of Politics (MPols)

Papers Points




Minor subject requirements

Politics as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points
100-level See below



See below



Five POLS papers, at least three of which must be above 100-level, including one at 300-level.

Total   90


Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website

Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
POLS101 2021 Political Philosophy - Basic Problems 18 points Semester 2
POLS102 2021 New Zealand Politics - Introduction 18 points Semester 2
POLS104 2021 International Relations - Introduction 18 points Semester 1
POLS105 2021 Comparative Politics - Introduction 18 points Semester 1
POLS202 2021 Theories of Justice 18 points Semester 1
POLS205 2021 The Good Society and the Market 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS207 2021 Environmental Politics 18 points Semester 1
POLS208 2021 Democracy 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS210 2021 Politics of the Middle East 18 points Semester 2
POLS211 2021 Global Political Economy 18 points Semester 2
POLS213 2021 New Zealand Foreign Policy 18 points Semester 1
POLS216 2021 Politics of the European Union 18 points Semester 2
POLS217 2021 War and Politics 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS218 2021 Interventions, Peacekeeping and the Global South 18 points Semester 1
POLS221 2021 New Zealand Political Parties and Elections 18 points Semester 2
POLS228 2021 Contemporary Issues in Global Politics 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS234 2021 Asian Security 18 points Semester 2
POLS250 2021 International Security in a Globalising World 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS301 2021 Power and Liberty 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS303 2021 New Zealand's Political Economy 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS305 2021 The Good Society and the Market (Advanced) 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS306 2021 Politics and the Media in New Zealand 18 points Semester 2
POLS307 2021 Nature, Conflict, and the State 18 points Semester 2
POLS308 2021 United States Foreign Policy since 1945 18 points Summer School
POLS310 2021 Turkey and Its Neighbours 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS312 2021 Ethics and International Relations 18 points Semester 1
POLS315 2021 Nationalism and Identity 18 points Semester 2
POLS317 2021 News Media and International Crises 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS318 2021 Chinese Foreign Policy 18 points Semester 1
POLS319 2021 Treaty Politics 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS320 2021 Pacific Geopolitics in the 21st Century 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS321 2021 Public Policy in New Zealand 18 points Summer School
POLS323 2021 Marxism: Classical and Contemporary 18 points Semester 2
POLS325 2021 International Relations: Concepts and Theories 18 points Semester 2
POLS326 2021 Politics of the Arabian Peninsula 18 points Semester 1
POLS330 2021 Special Topic: Anti- and Post-Colonial Theory 18 points Not offered in 2021
POLS375 2021 Human Rights - From the Cradle to the Grave 18 points Semester 1
POLS390 2021 Research Project 18 points Semester 1
POLS402 2021 Community, Culture and Rights 20 points Not offered in 2021
POLS475 2021 The Ethics and Politics of Resistance 20 points Semester 2
POLS501 2021 The 'Political': Theory and Practice 30 points Semester 1
POLS510 2021 Community, Culture and Rights 30 points Not offered in 2021
POLS512 2021 The Ethics and Politics of Resistance 30 points Semester 2
POLS520 2021 New Zealand Government and Politics 30 points Semester 2
POLS521 2021 Politics and Society 30 points Semester 1
POLS530 2021 Politics Internship 30 points Not offered in 2021
POLS540 2021 International Relations Theory 30 points Semester 1
POLS541 2021 International Relations and the Global South 30 points Not offered in 2021
POLS550 2021 Comparative Regional Conflicts 30 points Semester 2
POLS551 2021 Conflicts, Crises and New Zealand Foreign Policy in the Pacific 30 points Not offered in 2021
POLS552 2021 Comparative State/Minority Politics 30 points Not offered in 2021
POLS553 2021 The Global Politics of Poverty and Inequality 30 points Not offered in 2021
POLS590 2021 Research Dissertation 60 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for students

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