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Study Pacific Islands Studies at Otago

Rediscover the Pacific.

New Zealand is the world’s largest Polynesian country, and the number of institutions and businesses needing employees with knowledge of Pacific cultures and societies is growing rapidly.

Excellent employment prospects await graduates who have knowledge of issues affecting Pacific peoples and skills in intercultural communication in the Pacific context.

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Why study Pacific Islands Studies?

Pacific Islands Studies is a unique, multidisciplinary programme that examines contemporary issues of importance to Pacific peoples, including New Zealanders, within their broad cultural context.

The course covers the geographical area contained within the Polynesian Triangle defined by Hawai'i, Rapa Nui, and Aotearoa as well as the islands of Melanesia and Micronesia. The focus of the programme affirms New Zealand's location within the Pacific and its acknowledged political, intellectual and diplomatic links in the area.

“Growing up in Samoa I took my culture for granted, but my studies made me realize how much I still had to learn about Pacific people and their past. Culture is not a static entity, and our future depends on understanding those around us.” (Malia Lameta, MA graduate, Pacific Islands Studies)

Whether you want to promote the interests of Pacific Island peoples locally or around the world, a major in Pacific Islands Studies will help you achieve this.

In this programme of study you will learn the value of indigenous knowledge, and how it can be preserved, transferred and adapted to suit the needs of modern indigenous communities.

These communities exist in a constantly changing environment. Being able to track the effect of these changes provides insights into how to formulate better, relevant and more inclusive policies and plans for future development.

Knowledge of Pacific Island cultures has its place in every aspect of society. No matter your interest, Pacific Islands Studies complements many courses of study:

  • climate change
  • environmental sustainability
  • resource management
  • agriculture
  • policy development
  • education
  • language revitalisation
  • primary health care and preventative medicine
  • economic wellbeing and independence
  • community development
  • religion/church

Career opportunities

Our students are equipped with an understanding of Pacific Islands and indigenous cultural philosophies that are relevant in a myriad of employment situations.

A background in Pacific Islands Studies creates opportunities for international careers, not only in the Pacific, but also with Pacific peoples in the Americas, Asia and Australia. Knowledge gained in the course is applicable to issues affecting indigenous peoples anywhere in the world.

Graduates with a background of study in Pacific Islands Studies bring to employers a wide range of skills. The multidisciplinary focus of the course provides a wide perspective giving graduates:

  • An understanding of contemporary Pacific people's issues combined with an understanding of, for example, history, archaeology, cultural expression and environmental concerns.
  • An awareness of ethical issues in relation to Pacific Islanders in the context of past and present colonial practices, gender relations and society and culture.
  • Skills in intercultural communication in the Pacific context.

Pacific Islands Studies at Otago

Pacific Islands Studies combines well with other papers from a wide range of subjects, including Anthropology, Sociology, Politics, Indigenous Studies, Geography, Planning, Management, and History. We help you to interpret these different disciplines from a Pacific Islands point of view.

The major comprises 9 papers from within Pacific Islands Studies, plus an additional 11 papers either from within Pacific Islands Studies and/or from other subjects. You can choose from a broad range of papers on Māori, Pacific and other indigenous societies, and from a range of departments to suit your areas of interest.

Pacific Islands Studies can be studied as a major or a minor subject within the three- year Bachelor of Arts degree. Further study in this area is available at a postgraduate level (masters, PhD). There is also an option to undertake a jointly supervised postgraduate degree with other University departments.

Throughout your degree you will be challenged to analyse and critique the world in which we live and to design and conduct research that will encourage open-minded solutions.

Areas of learning

A particular strength of this subject area is its cross-disciplinary nature, readily combining indigenous knowledge with a range of other disciplines. Papers in the programme cover topics such as Pacific people's issues, Pacific education, Pacific leadership, Pacific prehistory, Pacific history, Pacific religion and church history, Pacific art history, intercultural film and media studies as well as Māori culture and history.

You are required to do core papers in Pacific Islands Studies in combination with papers offered in participating departments that have a particular indigenous focus. These departments/subject areas include:

  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Geography
  • History
  • Indigenous Development
  • Māori Studies
  • Media, Film and Communication
  • Music
  • Politics
  • Social Work
  • Theology
  • Religion

Because of the multidisciplinary nature of this major, you can tailor your own programme of study by choosing papers that suit your interests and career needs.


Pacific Islands Studies as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BCom, BEntr, 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 Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), 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


PACI 101 Pacific Societies

One of ANTH 103, ANTH 105,  HIST 107, MAOR 102, MFCO 102, PACI 102, PACI 103




PACI 201 Contemporary Pacific Island Issues

One of ANTH 204, ANTH 205, GEOG 278, HIST 206, MAOR 207, MFCO 212, MUSI 268, PACI 210,
or approved Special Topic papers relevant to the Pacific Islands in ANTH, CHTH, GEOG, HIST, MAOR


One of ANTH 316, GEOG 378, HIST 337, INDS 307, MAOR 307, MFCO 318, MUSI 368, PACI 301, PACI 305, PACI 310, POLS 320, SOWK 303, SOWK 304, THEA 322,
or an approved Special Topic paper relevant to the Pacific Islands in ANTH, CHTH, GEOG, HIST, MAOR

Total 90

PACI papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
PACI101 2024 Pacific Societies 18 Semester 2
PACI102 2024 Pacific Dance: An Introduction 18 Not offered in 2024
PACI103 2024 Languages and Cultures of the Pacific: An Introduction 18 Semester 1
PACI201 2024 Contemporary Pacific Island Issues 18 Semester 1
PACI210 2024 Special Topic: Pacific Education 18 Summer School
PACI301 2024 Gafa o Tagata Pasifika - Pacific Diaspora in New Zealand 18 Semester 1
PACI305 2024 Peace and Conflict in the Pacific 18 Not offered in 2024
PACI310 2024 Special Topic: Pacific People, Climate Change and Power 18 Not offered in 2024
PACI401 2024 Tinā Pasifika - Women in Polynesian Communities 20 Semester 2
PACI402 2024 Resource Conservation and Environment in the Pacific 20 Not offered in 2024
PACI405 2024 Indigenous Leadership in the Pacific 20 Semester 1
PACI410 2024 Special Topic: 20 Not offered in 2024
PACI490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year

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