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About the Bachelor of Arts degree

The information you need as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) student at Otago

What you need to know about the BA degree

  • A BA degree is three years of study full-time (it can be studied part-time)
  • It is made up of at least 20 papers
  • Each paper is worth 18 points (credits) - so 360 points is the minimum total required for the degree
  • Each paper takes around 10 hours of study time each week
  • You usually study different papers in each of the first and second semesters, and can also take papers at summer school (Jan/Feb)
  • Your degree must have at least one Major subject and can also include a Minor subject
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What you need to do

Decide what subjects interest you

The Prospectus, Guide to Enrolment and online paper information can help you to choose subjects.

For the Bachelor of Arts you will need to enrol for either three or four papers in the first semester. If you’re feeling confident choose four, if you want time to “find your feet” at Uni choose three.

Choose papers that you think you will enjoy

These might be subjects you have already done at school and are good at, or subjects you haven’t tried before but look interesting.

You will need to pick a Major subject

This is the subject that you think you will specialise in within your BA, and go on to study in your 2nd and 3rd years.

A Major subject usually takes up nine papers of your 20 paper degree. The Guide to Enrolment specifies which papers make up any specific Major.

You can also choose a Minor subject as well, which is five papers, but we recommend you don’t worry too much about doing this in your first year.

Choose at least one paper from your Major subject for each semester if you can

This makes it easier to cover the requirements for the Major as you progress through your degree.

However, if you aren’t sure what your Major will be after the first semester it’s fine to continue to choose a wide range of papers that interest you in the second semester. This means that you have more choice of Majors after your first year.

Not sure what Major to choose?

If you are not sure what Major to choose a good approach is to include two papers from each of three subjects in your first year. This gives you lots of choice for your Major. It also means you will have no problem meeting the prerequisites (first year papers you are required to complete) for study in your second year of your chosen Major.

We strongly recommend that your paper selection avoids a timetable clash.

Remember, don’t panic!

You can always change your Major subject, your Minor subject, or even your degree if it’s not for you.

The BA degree is really flexible – you can include up to five non-arts papers e.g. papers from Commerce or Sciences.

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What will a 3-year BA look like?


Every BA degree programme of 360 points (20 papers), needs to include:

  • 180 points (10 papers) above 100-level
  • of which at least 72 points (4 papers) shall be above 200-level

More detailed information about the Structure of the BA programme

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Where to go for help

Advisers of Study in the Divisional Office

5th Floor Arts Building
95 Albany Street

(Undergraduate studies and Student Exchange)

Tel: 03 479 8671

Carol Forbes (Double degrees)

Tel: 03 479 8792

Departmental Advisers of Study

For more specific subject advice there are advisers of study in each programme and department.

Contact details for departmental advisers of study

Schools’ Liaison Office

Details of Information Events and contact details for our Schools' Liaison Office.

Bachelor of Arts (BA) information

Go to the Planning Your Degree page

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Download information

How to put together your BA at Otago (PDF, 919KB)
3-year BA degree planning chart (PDF, 35KB)

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Why choose a BA?

The qualities and skills employers are looking for in graduates are exactly those that a BA will help you gain

These include:

  • strong interpersonal skills
  • strong verbal and written communication skills
  • flexibility, adaptability and a “can–do” attitude
  • sound academic achievement
  • self motivation and time management
  • analytical, conceptual and problem solving skills
  • the ability to work with others, especially in groups
  • energy and enthusiasm
  • strong research skills
  • critical thinking
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Where will a BA take you?

Gaining a Bachelor of Arts will give you the widest possible scope to enter almost any occupation. Here are just a few settings where you will find our graduates:

  • Advertising, communications and public relations
  • Art galleries, museums, libraries and cultural centres
  • Business and banking
  • Community work and the social services
  • Education and teaching
  • Government, local government and the diplomatic service
  • Human resources and recruitment
  • Journalism, reporting, media relations, web design
  • Music and the performing arts industry (theatre, television, film)
  • Research and policy analysis
  • Tourism and hospitality management
  • Writing, editing and publishing
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Watch My BA videos

Associate Professor James Maclaurin talks about the Bachelor of Arts degree and its value to students, challenges some myths about the BA and gives advide on how to construct a BA degree.