Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Students wishing to study towards a research master's (master's by thesis) or a PhD need to be both admitted to the programme and enrolled as a student of the University.

PhD study at the HEDC

Our staff have an international reputation for their research and teaching experience, and offer expertise in a wide range of areas relating to higher education. This diversity is reflected in the PhD research undertaken through the HEDC. Visit the HEDC staff profiles to read more about our research interests, projects and current supervision responsibilities:

Applying to do a PhD at the HEDC

Step 1

If you are keen to undertake PhD study at the HEDC, please refer to our staff profiles to ensure that your PhD topic is related to our areas of expertise. Contact the HEDC postgraduate coordinator before making a formal application to the university. This is to ensure that you are eligible to be considered for PhD study, you are matched with the right supervisors, and you have the necessary support to undertake your studies.

The first thing you need to tell us is how you are going to fund your studies.

Find out about the cost of studying in New Zealand

If you are self-sponsored, you can go to step 2. If you are applying for a scholarship from your own institution, country or international agencies, you need to inform us of this.

If you intend to apply for a University of Otago Scholarship, please note that you will need to have obtained an A- average for all your university coursework and theses or dissertations to be eligible for a scholarship.

The Graduate Research School scholarship page will provide you with the relevant information.

Step 2

Send us the following:

  • A cover letter (limit to 2 pages)
    • Tell us a little about yourself, why you want to do a PhD and why you have chosen this topic. What are the skills you bring to this project? What is your career aspiration after completing a PhD?
  • A current CV
  • A pdf copy of your master's or honours dissertation and copies of examiner reports (if available). Please note that the university may request an Education Credential Evaluation. Information on this can be found here.
  • Copies of your master's or research honours academic transcript.
  • Contact details for your primary master's or honours supervisor and one other person (two academic referees in total).
  • A tentative (5- 10 pages long) proposal for your PhD.
    • Please include the following information: tentative working title, aims of the research, background/context, related literature, research questions, methodology, the resources you need, and your tentative time–line. Your proposal must indicate how the proposed topic will be a contribution to knowledge in the field. The proposal will likely be developed and modified when you work with your supervisors.
  • Attach copies of any of your own publications if you have published. Tell us about the journals you have published in, their impact, and whether your articles have been cited. This is not a pre-requisite but it will tell us about your research expertise and experiences (limit to 1 page).

We will check all your documents and make an assessment of your application. If the initial requirements are met, we will identify a potential primary supervisor who may arrange a meeting (face-to-face, or via phone or Skype) to discuss your proposal and to get to know you better. Potential supervisors may require you to revise your proposal before acceptance. Once the supervisor is satisfied, details will be sent to the postgraduate coordinator who will make the final decision in consultation with the Head of Department and Centre Manager. If we are happy with your proposal, and we have the capacity to supervise you, we will then ask you to make a formal application to the university.

International students

If you did not complete your undergraduate studies in New Zealand, you may be required to meet additional entry criteria.

Further information on additional entry criteria.

Contact the University's International Office directly for advice about additional entry requirements specific to international doctoral students, or about what will be required in your particular case.

Some frequently asked questions

If I do not get an Otago Doctoral Scholarship when I am admitted, can I re-apply?
You can re-apply but it is very unlikely that you will get a scholarship if you were not successful in the first instance.

What facilities are provided?
Once you are admitted, the department will provide you with space in a shared office. You will have access to a computer, the internet and printing, as well as university resources such as the library.

General information for future students

What funding is available for PhD students?
PhD students who are 100% supervised by HEDC academic staff are eligible for $1,500 for the term of their candidature. This funding is allotted on a pro rata basis to PhD students whose supervisory arrangement is split between HEDC and other Departments. The funding can be used for any research related expenses such as purchasing software licences, books, transcribing and proof-reading. We also provide a total of $3,000 (or a percentage thereof depending on your supervisory arrangement) to support you to attend an international conference once during your candidature, or to support you for domestic conferences. Once your thesis has been submitted, you are also eligible to apply (conditions apply) for a publishing bursary grant for 3 months. You can find out about the publishing grant here.

Who are the current students – what topics are they doing?

What postgraduate activities take place at the HEDC, and what is the departmental culture like?
At the HEDC, we treat our postgraduate students as our colleagues. Once you are admitted to be our student, the whole department takes responsibility to ensure that you develop as a scholar. We have a very strong postgraduate academic culture. The peer-led postgraduate group organises both academic and social support. Students present their work in-progress regularly at our Department's research seminars and forums where they receive useful feedback from other students and academic staff. Students also have opportunities for mentoring in other aspects of academic culture such as peer reviewing, academic reading and writing and presenting research. Sometimes HEDC students can gain teaching experience by contributing to our student workshop programmes, or as panellists on workshops for staff.

What is the average completion time in HEDC
The average completion time at the HEDC is 3.5 years.

MA (endorsed in higher education – subject to PVC approval)

Students interested in researching higher education at master's degree level may wish to find out about the MA (endorsed in Higher Education) programme.

Information on the University of Otago master's degree by research


Enrolment follows admission and is a University requirement which occurs each year (or part year) until the thesis is submitted for examination.

Enrolment must be completed through the University's enrolment website or by calling the University Information Centre on 0800 80 80 98.

Back to top