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Before you start, it may help to read the Make sense of University jargon page.

While some degrees, such as Bachelor of Teaching, or the Health Science programmes can have a set programme of papers, within the general bachelors' degrees (e.g. BA, BSc, BCom) there are many different ways to put a programme of study together.

There is a diverse and extensive range of subjects to choose – from Accounting to Zoology. The undergraduate subjects page has a list of what is available. Each subject page has information on what is covered in the programme and lists the programme requirements depending on which qualification you have chosen.

Following is more information around how major and minor subjects work.

Major subject

With a few exceptions, most general bachelors' degrees need to have at least one major subject or endorsement, which is the subject chosen as your main area of study.

You may sometimes see a major subject referred to as an area of specialisation (e.g. in eVision).

You could take a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) majoring in Finance, or a Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Geology. The papers you need to take for your chosen major subject are outlined in the Programme Requirements for each qualification.

The programme requirements can be found on the specific qualification page or in the Guide to Enrolment.

In most general bachelors' degrees there is a requirement to take additional papers, in addition to the papers required for your major subject, to achieve the necessary 360 points to complete the programme. These papers can often come from outside the major subject you have selected.

For some degrees the title of the qualification shows the subject of specialisation and for others the term 'endorsement' is used.

Degree structure example (Bachelor in Science majoring in Biochemistry)

Below is an example of how you may see the structure of a degree displayed on the website, or the Guide to Enrolment.


BIOC 192, CELS 191, CHEM 191; one of BIOL 112, BIOL 123, HUBS 191, HUBS 192; CHEM 111 recommended (or another paper at the same level)


BIOC 221, BIOC 222, BIOC 223, GENE 221 recommended (or another paper at the same level)


BIOC 351, BIOC 352, BIOC 353, BIOC 360

With Head of Department approval, one 300-level BIOC paper may be replaced by another relevant 300-level paper.

126 further points; must include 36 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science

Here is an example of how you could spread your papers over the length of a degree including possible elective papers.

  Year one Year two Year three
Compulsory Papers

BIOC 192
CELS 191
CHEM 191
HUBS 191

BIOC 221
BIOC 222
BIOC 223

BIOC 351
BIOC 352
BIOC 353
BIOC 360

Possible elective papers

CHEM 111
STAT 110

GENE 221
ANAT 242
BSNS 103
ENGL 228

FREN 131
MART 205
PSYC 111

Double major

Rather than select just one major, you can choose to do a double major. A bachelor's degree with two major subjects typically requires an increase in the number of 300-level papers from four to eight (and can extend your degree beyond the typical three years).

Planning for two major subjects in your first year allows you to keep some flexibility. At the end of your first year, and if you meet the requirements, you can continue with the double major, change one subject to a minor subject, or continue your studies with a single major (some exceptions may apply).

You are strongly recommended to seek advice before enrolling in a double major programme.

Minor subject

A minor is a recognised selection of papers in a particular subject area, and normally requires the completion of five required papers worth a total of 90 points. The requirements for a minor can be found on the relevant subject page.

A minor subject need not be in a subject normally associated with the degree concerned (e.g. Film and Media Studies may be taken as a minor subject in a BSc programme).

Papers and points

Papers are the units of study in which you enrol and have a point value applied to them. When you pass a paper, points go towards the total required for your degree – usually 18 points per paper.

Each paper has a seven letter code of four letters, for the subject area, and three numbers which show the level. For example, GEOG 101 is a Geography paper at 100 level, and CLAS 241 is a Classics paper at 200 level.

Double degrees and cross credits

Instead of a double major, you may wish to study for two degrees or more. It may be possible to cross-credit, or share, several papers between the two qualifications and reduce your overall workload.

You may cross-credit up to:

  • 126 points between two three year degrees (e.g. BSc, BCom)
  • 180 points between a three year and a four year degree (e.g. BCom, BPhEd)
  • 234 points between two four year degrees (e.g. BSW, LLB)

Credit for study elsewhere

Have you successfully undertaken studies at another tertiary institution? You may be eligible for credit towards an Otago degree.

Check out the Admission with Tertiary Qualifications or Study, or Recognition of Prior Learning page to see if this applies to you.

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