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The Master of Public Health (MPH) will deepen your understanding of public health and give you research experience. The MPH requires you to undertake your own research in an area of public health interest. You may decide to complete an entirely research-based degree (thesis), or complete a dissertation alongside further postgraduate public health papers to the value of 60 points.

The MPH is a supervised degree, enabling students to work in close association with active researchers. You will have the opportunity to research a major public health problem from the development of your research project to the interpreting and reporting of your results.

Enrolments for the thesis option may be accepted at any time, however students must first have discussed their proposed thesis or dissertation with the  Research Student Convener.

The aim of an MPH thesis or dissertation is to give students the opportunity to research a major public health problem using principles and methods developed within the course as a whole.

Students will master skills in:

  • Developing a research proposal to explore a specific research question
  • Identifying and accessing the resources necessary to undertake the research
  • Reviewing and analysing relevant literature
  • Choosing a research methodology appropriate to the problem and rigorously applying that methodology
  • Reporting on the project, particularly its purpose, background, methods, findings, conclusions, and recommendations
  • Interpreting the findings and identifying the wider implications of the project, especially for public health in New Zealand

Programme structure

Points required120 points

1 year full-time

2 years part-time

Start dateThesis students can start at any time of the year (on the 1st of the month, as fees are charged for the full month)
Dissertation students start at the beginning of a semester
PrerequisiteMust have completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health (DPH) or equivalent, with a good B average (73%)

Two options:

  • Thesis (120 points)
  • Dissertation (60 points) plus Public Health Papers to the value of 60 points

Thesis option

Coursework option

Students must have completed one of the following prerequisite papers as part of the DPH:

Or equivalent research paper(s) approved by the Public Health Academic Committee.

Regulations for admission to the MPH (University of Otago website)

International students

If you are an international student wishing to enrol in a MPH in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, you should first contact the International Office for advice about studying at the University of Otago

University of Otago International Office enquiry form

Enrolment in the MPH programme

There are two processes involved in enrolling in the MPH programme:

  1. The first is an internal Departmental process to assess your eligibility and to approve the proposed topic of study for your dissertation or thesis.
  2. The second is the online application and enrolment process with the University. This involves registration, payment of fees, and course approval. Both must be completed to successfully enrol in the programme.

Early development of research projects

Meet with Research Student Convener

Students who meet the prerequisites and wish to proceed to an MPH should contact the Research Student Convener early in the process to discuss projects and supervision arrangements. This applies to all students, even if you are already involved with one of the research groups or involved in an existing project.

Departmental Guidelines for Research Supervision

The Departmental Guidelines for Research Supervision (Word) include a general outline of the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine's approach to supervision of research students' projects.

Research opportunities and areas

Research proposal

Once you have identified a topic and supervisors, prospective MPH students must submit a research proposal to the Research Advisory Committee for approval before their application to the programme can be processed.

Research Advisory Committee review of MPH proposals

The Research Advisory Committee (RAC) is a committee of senior researchers from the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, which meets each month (except January).

The RAC is responsible for the Department's policy on postgraduate research students, including their admission and supervision. This is a positive process, designed to ensure that the proposed research is feasible and properly planned. The process provides a further safeguard for the student's best interests.

Submitting research proposals

Proposals are usually submitted as part of the application process.  However, in some instances students may be able to prepare and submit a proposal prior to applying.

MPH students based in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine need to submit a research proposal to the RAC. The research proposal should be based on the Department's template, and should be accompanied by a cover sheet:

Students should submit proposals to the Research Student Convener by email, cc'd to the Research Student Administrator. Submissions must arrive by the Monday morning preceding the RAC's monthly Thursday meeting.

Contact the Research Student Administrator for the RAC meeting dates:


Supervisor endorsement

All named supervisors must endorse any proposal that is submitted to the RAC. Supervisors can confirm their endorsement by email to the Research Student Convener.

Feedback will be provided from the RAC by letter to the supervisors and / or verbally within a week of the meeting. This can then be discussed with the student.

Biostatistical advice for quantitative research projects

Biostatistical advice should be sought early in the planning phase of quantitative research projects. Depending on the nature of the project it may be appropriate to:

  • Have a biostatistician named as a supervisor or advisor on the proposal
  • Include a data analysis plan in the proposal for the RAC

Scientific Peer Review

When students are requesting Scientific Review of their proposals by RAC, they need to ensure their proposal addresses all of the elements assessed in the Scientific Review Form. If RAC has queries/comments of a scientific nature, the student (supported by their supervisory team) needs to cut and paste those comments into the relevant sections of the Scientific Review Form – and respond to those in the relevant column of the Scientific Review Form. The Chair of the RAC (or delegate or full RAC) will then review the responses before forwarding scientific review from RAC to the Chair of the scientific peer review process for review and a letter.

Scholarships and other financial support

Thesis scholarships
Dissertation / Coursework scholarships

Memorandum of Understanding for MPH supervision

The Department of Preventive and Social Medicine expects a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to be completed between each new research student and their supervisor(s).

The MoU template includes information about what the Department expects of students and supervisors, and should be used in preference to the University MoU.

Students and supervisors should look at the MoU independently before meeting to complete the MoU jointly.

Memorandum of Understanding template (DOCX)


Students are required to be enrolled for a minimum of one full-time equivalent year for the thesis component of a Master's degree, and to be enrolled at the time they submit their thesis.

Thesis submission dates and pro-rata fees (University of Otago website)

Candidates must submit a PDF of their thesis or dissertation to the Research Student Administrator following completion of their work.

Regulations for the examination of theses / dissertations (University of Otago website)


Students will be notified of the result of the examination by the Student Records Office.

Thesis students will then be required to submit a PDF of their thesis, corrected if necessary, before the Master of Public Health (MPH) can be awarded.  Dissertation students are also required to submit a PDF of their dissertation to the Department.

Publishing bursaries

Publishing bursaries are available to most Master's thesis students for up to two months after submission while their theses are being examined. They are paid at the rate of $13,000 per annum pro rata.

Publishing bursary application forms and reporting forms (University of Otago website)

Further information

Master's handbook and related information (University of Otago website)


Research Student Conveners

Dr Rebbecca Lilley
Preventive and Social Medicine

Administrative support


This information must be read subject to the statement on our Copyright & Disclaimer page.

Regulations on this page are taken from the 2023 Calendar and supplementary material.

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