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A PhD in Economics is an essential qualification for an academic career – and it is also invaluable for any professional research-oriented economist.

The PhD is a programme of supervised individual research in an approved topic area. The PhD is by thesis only, although you may be advised to take some papers to strengthen your background in relevant areas.

Study for a PhD in Economics

A PhD in Economics from Otago University:

  • Is likely to take about three to four years of full-time study to complete (note that the scholarships discussed below are only tenable for three years)
  • May be studied on a part-time basis
  • May involve a research topic that would be supervised across more than one department

To be considered for PhD study, you either need to have a Master's degree with a research thesis/dissertation or an Honours degree or Postgraduate Diploma with a research thesis/dissertation. The thesis/dissertation component of your degree needs to be worth approximately ¼ of your total credits for your final year of study. We require at least a B+ (or equivalent) average for your degree.

The fact that the Otago PhD does not include coursework means that you need to have obtained the skills (either theoretical, empirical, or both) required for your proposed research before coming to Otago. In addition, you must have good written and spoken English skills.

We expect that you will have taken courses that prepare you for your proposed research topic. Normally, this would include postgraduate courses in Economics, but can include, for example, courses in Mathematics, Statistics, Finance, Psychology, or other Social Sciences. If you do not have an adequate background in Economics for your chosen topic, you may be required to take some courses to strengthen your background in relevant areas.

PhD Scholarships and financial support

There are a few potential avenues of financial support for PhD students at Otago. The University of Otago has in excess of $15 million worth of scholarships available for students to study at the University of Otago, and for Otago students to study at other institutions around the world.

Find out more about possible ways of financing your study below:

  • The University of Otago awards several scholarships each year. These are competitive and are awarded on the basis of academic merit. Please note that in order to be considered for a scholarship, the absolute minimum required is an "A" grade average (14 out of 20 for France; 1.4 for Germany; 3.8 out of 4 for ECE), aside from other academic achievements.
  • From time to time individual staff within the Department obtain research grant funds that include funding for PhD students. This funding, when available, will be advertised on our web pages.

Please note, the Department requires that all doctoral applicants meet the English language requirements when formally applying, unless you hold a degree from a university in an English speaking country.

How to apply for a PhD in Economics at Otago

Interested in applying for a PhD in Economics at Otago? If so, you should email your application documents to the Department of Economics. If your background satisfies our requirements we will then advise you on how to formally apply for admission through the University's website. It is important that you do not formally apply to the University without having your application assessed by the Department first.

Please email the following (and only the following) documents to and include the words “PhD application” in the subject line.

  • Your CV
  • A copy of your final academic transcripts (in English)
  • A research proposal that provides a clear statement of the hypotheses you wish to test, the research methods you will use to test them, and presents a time line for the research. You should briefly discuss how your research will extend the existing literature. The proposal should not exceed 5-10 pages.
  • A copy of your Honours or Master's dissertation or thesis. If this is written in a language other than English please supply an English translation of the abstract and introduction.

What topic areas are suitable for PhD research?

The key factor is the availability of appropriate supervision. For information on the current research interests of staff and topics they are interested in supervising please see below links:

Where our recent PhD graduates have been employed

Study with us, and you could fulfill your own career ambitions as a professional research-oriented economist.

Recent Department of Economics graduates have filled a variety of interesting and challenging positions around the world:

  • Trudy Sullivan: Lecturer, Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago
  • Aurelia Lepine: Research Fellow, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Elodie Blanc: Postdoctoral position at MIT
  • Willie Lahari: Statistical Office for the Government of Papua New Guinea
  • Marie-Claire Robitaille-Blanchet: Assistant Professor, University of Nottingham (China), (previously Postdoctoral position, University of Western Australia)
  • Jan-Jan Soon: Lecturer, Utara University of Malaysia
  • Alvin Etang Ndip: Consultant, World Bank (previously Postdoctoral position, Yale University)
  • Onur Koska: Assistant Professor, University of Tubingen (Germany), (previously Postdoctoral position, University of Würzburg (Germany)
  • Kelvin KC Seah: Lecturer, Department of Economics, National University of Singapore
  • Eng Joo (Andrew) Tan: Research Associate, University of New South Wales (previously Postdoctoral Fellow, Australian National University)

Further information on doctoral study at Otago

For further information about studying for a PhD at Otago, please:

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