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Study Politics at Otago

From international relations to political theory, New Zealand politics to comparative studies – empower yourself with Politics.

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 think, say and do, and how we co-operate to make the world a better place.

So much of what we see in the news is about politics, including Brexit, the US election, the Syrian conflict, 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.

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Why study Politics?

Consider what you stand to gain from a better understanding of people and power, conflict and co-operation. By studying Politics, you will get to know power intimately and acquire the insight and skills to use power for the betterment of yourself, society, and the world.

Politics is a practical field of study that will empower you to understand and take part in responsible decision-making. It is also an intellectually stimulating field.

The knowledge and skills acquired from studying Politics will not only empower you to make a difference, but are very attractive to future employers.

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 find exciting, challenging and highly-rewarding careers in a broad range of fields across New Zealand and around the world. Our graduates are policy analysts, diplomats, working with refugees, journalists, business leaders, lawyers, public servants, consultants, and even politicians.

Many continue on to study towards a postgraduate degree at prestigious international universities.

Politics at Otago

Otago's Politics lecturers are all experts in their fields, 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 international conflicts and co-operation between states
  • New Zealand Politics – understand the politics of Aotearoa
  • Political Theory – ask important theoretical questions about the nature of power and justice
  • Comparative Politics – compare the politics of a range of countries and regions

Degree options

You can study Politics as a major within the following degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc)
  • Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom)

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

Politics is also part of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) major, and is available as a minor within a range of degree options, or simply as an additional interest paper to strengthen your degree.

An understanding of politics also complements degrees in areas such as Law, International Business, History, Economics, Geography, Management or Psychology.

Student exchange

The opportunity to study at an international university and understand another culture is an invaluable educational experience for a Politics student. You may be able to do part of your study overseas through the University's extensive exchange programme or as a postgraduate student.

Continuing your studies

We offer 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).

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.


Politics 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

100-levelSee below

See below


One 100-level POLS paper, and four further POLS papers, three of which must be above 100-level including at least one at 300-level.

Total 90

POLS papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
POLS101 2024 Political Philosophy - Basic Problems 18 Semester 2
POLS102 2024 New Zealand Politics - Introduction 18 Semester 2
POLS104 2024 International Relations - Introduction 18 Semester 1
POLS105 2024 Comparative Politics - Introduction 18 Semester 1
POLS202 2024 Theories of Justice 18 Semester 2
POLS207 2024 Environmental Politics 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS208 2024 Democracy 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS210 2024 Politics of the Middle East 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS211 2024 Global Political Economy 18 Semester 1
POLS213 2024 New Zealand Foreign Policy 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS216 2024 Politics of the European Union 18 Semester 2
POLS217 2024 War and Politics 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS218 2024 Interventions, Peacekeeping and the Global South 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS221 2024 New Zealand Political Parties and Elections 18 Semester 2
POLS228 2024 Contemporary Issues in Global Politics 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS230 2024 Special Topic: Settler State Politics in Aotearoa and Australia 18 Semester 1
POLS234 2024 Asian Security 18 Semester 2
POLS243 2024 Political Ideologies 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS250 2024 International Security in a Globalising World 18 Semester 1
POLS301 2024 Power and Liberty 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS303 2024 New Zealand's Political Economy 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS306 2024 Politics and the Media in New Zealand 18 Semester 1
POLS307 2024 Nature, Conflict, and the State 18 Semester 1
POLS308 2024 United States Foreign Policy since 1945 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS310 2024 Turkey and Its Neighbours 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS312 2024 Ethics and International Relations 18 Semester 2
POLS315 2024 Nationalism and Identity 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS318 2024 Chinese Foreign Policy 18 Semester 1
POLS319 2024 Treaty Politics 18 Semester 2
POLS321 2024 Public Policy in New Zealand 18 Summer School
POLS323 2024 Marxism: Classical and Contemporary 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS325 2024 International Relations: Concepts and Theories 18 Semester 1
POLS326 2024 Politics of the Arabian Peninsula 18 Semester 2
POLS330 2024 Special Topic: Politics of Climate Change 18 Semester 2
POLS375 2024 Human Rights - From the Cradle to the Grave 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS390 2024 Research Project 18 Not offered in 2024
POLS413 2024 Political Theory for the Environment 20 Semester 1
POLS475 2024 The Ethics and Politics of Resistance 20 Semester 2
POLS490 2024 Dissertation 60 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period
POLS501 2024 The 'Political': Theory and Practice 30 Semester 1
POLS512 2024 The Ethics and Politics of Resistance 30 Semester 2
POLS513 2024 Political Theory for the Environment 30 Semester 1
POLS520 2024 New Zealand Government and Politics 30 Semester 2
POLS521 2024 Politics and Society 30 Not offered in 2024
POLS530 2024 Politics Internship 30 Not offered in 2024
POLS540 2024 International Relations Theory 30 Semester 1
POLS541 2024 International Relations and the Global South 30 Not offered in 2024
POLS550 2024 Comparative Regional Conflicts 30 Semester 2
POLS552 2024 Comparative State/Minority Politics 30 Not offered in 2024
POLS553 2024 The Global Politics of Poverty and Inequality 30 Not offered in 2024
POLS590 2024 Research Dissertation 60 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

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Studying at Otago

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