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PhD study at University of Otago, Christchurch

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is awarded on the submission of a thesis and an oral examination in which you must reveal your ability to carry out research, show originality, independence, and make a significant contribution to knowledge in your chosen. Most students take between 3–4 years of full-time study to complete their PhD.

Our PhD graduates will:

  • Gain specialist knowledge in your subject area, and work towards becoming an expert in your field
  • Achieve the advantage in a competitive job market, in an economy that is becoming increasingly knowledge-based
  • Develop transferable skills: communication, problem-solving and critical reasoning,
  • Learn to think in-depth, and from different angles and perspectives
  • Make a positive impact on our society, economy, and the environment, through your research
  • Learn how to balance study and life and enjoy the wonderful surrounds

Current PhD research

Profiles of current and recent students

PhD opportunities on the Christchurch campus

We have internationally recognised research strengths in a number of areas including heart disease, indigenous health, infectious diseases, genetics, cancer, biomedical engineering, nursing, mental health and public health. All of our 14 departments are research active, with more than 30 well-established research groups.

Potential PhD candidates are invited to either find a research project through our database, or browse our research groups to find a potential supervisor.

Join a research group

Find a research project

If you find a topic of interest, email the potential supervisor with your curriculum vitae and academic transcript to discuss a project further.

Admission to the PhD Degree

A student may usually be admitted as a candidate for a PhD by one of three means: direct admission, upgrading from a current University of Otago research master's degree or (in special circumstances) a Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours or entry based on research experience outside of study.

Direct admission

Applicants apply for direct admission once their thesis topic, preliminary outline and supervisory arrangements have been finalised, and once a department has informally agreed to support their candidacy.

Upgrade from Master's to PhD

In certain exceptional circumstances, students enrolled in a University of Otago research master's degree may be permitted to upgrade their studies to a PhD degree. An upgrade may only occur if it is fully supported by the student's supervisor and approved by the Head of the Department, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and the Graduate Research Committee.

Entry based on research experience outside of study

University graduates who have not completed significant research as part of their previous study may still be considered for entry to the PhD if they have subsequent work-based research experience, including research outputs. Usually, such outputs must consist of peer-reviewed, academic publications. Note that industry-based (non-academic) research is not considered sufficient to allow admission to the PhD.

For more information on admission, contact:


Scholarships information

Whether you are a domestic or an international student, the University of Otago has a range of Doctoral Scholarships available to you.

If you are a straight A student (GPA of 8 – ‘A’ grade) or higher, who has completed an Honours or Master’s degree with an appropriate research component from a New Zealand university, then you are likely to be guaranteed a University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship.

University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship

Other opportunities for scholarships can be found on the Graduate Research School website:

Graduate Research School scholarship information

Scholarship application

Applications for doctoral scholarships are made online through the eVision portal and can be made at any time of the year. Once you have applied for admission to your programme you will receive an alert in your student portal inviting you to apply for a scholarship.

International students

The New Zealand government entitles international PhD candidates to domestic status, so long as they are based in New Zealand during their studies. Such status allows the payment of subsidised domestic fees and provides access to University postgraduate scholarships.

Ready to apply?

When you have confirmation from a supervisor and department, apply through eVision.

Applications for admission can be made at any time throughout the year through the University’s online eVision student portal. Before formally applying, you should familiarise yourself with the following:

Apply via the PhD qualification page

Further information