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This page provides you with information concerning Language and Cultures programme guidelines, available facilities, resources, and activities. We hope that this will help you familiarise yourself with what support is available to Masteders and PhD students within Languages and Cultures.

Please note that this booklet neither substitutes nor replicates the University of Otago's postgraduate studies guide, which contains the most comprehensive and detailed information regarding postgraduate studies regulations, guidelines, and resources.

MA students may also wish to consult: Research (Thesis) Master's Degree and information on the Coursework Masters Degree.

PhD students may also wish consult: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

In this booklet, we also refer to some of the postgraduate websites and handbook sections that are particularly useful.

The Postgraduate Coordinator does not include direct involvement in your specific research, which is a responsibility shared between you and your supervisor(s). Rather, the postgraduate coordinator's role is to offer support and assistance on any questions or problems that you may have at any stage of your studies.

Our postgraduate group has an e-mail list through which relevant information is circulated as well as an open-meeting every other week. You are welcome to attend these informal gatherings whenever possible. The postgraduate coordinator is also available to meet you privately and discuss any issues which may arise.

Feel free to contact her by phone or email.

Dr Lorraine Wong
Tel +64 3 479 7721


A. Admission to postgraduate studies

Languages and Cultures welcomes students with good academic records in their subject area and strong research proposals, provided that appropriate supervision is available within the programme. More specifically,

MA students should have:

Research Thesis: Completed a BA (Hons), or a Postgraduate Diploma, or equivalent. For candidates coming from abroad, the Languages and Cultures programme will look at the specific qualifications, evaluate them, and decide on a case-by-case basis.
Coursework Masters: Completed a BA with a B+ average in their 300-level papers can apply to enrol in the new MA coursework option. Students will continue study in the major subject of their BA.

PhD students should have:

Completed an MA; the Programme will also consider applications from students holding a BA (Hons) or a Postgraduate Diploma, if the student shows sufficient evidence of academic excellence and preparation in the chosen research area.

The following procedure is generally followed:

  1. First check whether the Programme can offer appropriate supervision in the field you wish to work. For information on staff research areas, visit the Languages and Cultures website.
  2. It is appropriate and in fact advisable for you to contact your potential supervisor, send him/her your draft proposal and verify whether or not s/he is able to provide supervision or not. Keep in mind that such provisional availability is not in any way a guarantee of acceptance into the programme.
  3. Submit (email is acceptable) to the Postgraduate Coordinator the following items:
    • A research proposal with a preliminary bibliography (1,000-2,000 words for an MA and 3,500-5,000 words for a PhD),
    • Your curriculum vitae,
    • A letter of support from your prospective supervisor,
    • A writing sample. This may be a substantial research essay, or a chapter of your Honours or Postgraduate Diploma dissertation (for MA applicants); or a chapter of their MA thesis (for PhD applicants).
  4. You must also apply for admission to the University of Otago.*
  5. If you are applying for a scholarship, you will also need to submit the required information to the Languages and Cultures Programme. For more information on available scholarships and guidelines for application, visit Scholarships
  6. Once the Languages and Cultures Programme receives all the required documents, your application will be evaluated by our Postgraduate Committee and you will be notified of the result.

*In order to apply for admission, you need to apply:

For Masters click on the "Apply" yellow banner on the right
For PhD click on the "Apply" yellow banner on the right

Note: If you are an International student enrolling for the first time at the University of Otago, you must apply to the International Office for admission.

B. Human Resources

Before you arrive, please feel free to contact the Postgraduate Coordinator if you have any questions. Once you arrive and have settled in, please let the Postgraduate Coordinator know when you plan to come to the Languages and Cultures Programme, and they will be happy to meet with you and introduce you to the Head of Programme, staff and other fellow graduate students.

Besides your supervisor(s) and the Postgraduate Coordinator, these are some people who will be more directly involved in supporting you and offer you troubleshooting assistance during your degree.

Associate Professor Antonie Alm, Head of Programme

Office: Arts 3C10
Tel +64 3 479 8690
Antonie would like to meet all new postgraduate students. In particular, should you have any problem that cannot be resolved with your supervisor and/or the Postgraduate Coordinator, you should contact her.

Karen McLean, Administration Client Services

Office: Burns 3C9
Karen is the Languages and Cultures Programme contact person for all administration queries and correspondence.

Linda Brown, Administration Client Services

Office: Burns 3C9
Tel +64 3 479 5472
Linda has an overview of all expenditures. She can help you if you have specific problems with your scholarship or conference funding.

At the Divisional level, the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Dr Kevin Fisher, is happy to meet with you and answer questions. More specifically, you can contact him to discuss any issue that cannot be resolved at the Languages and Cultures Programme level.
Tel +64 3 479 8472

At the University administration level, your first point-of-contact is the Graduate Research School. The Director of Graduate Research Services, Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith and her assistant Susan Craig are available to assist you with any issue that cannot be resolved at the Programme or Divisional levels.

Dean of Graduate Research School, Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith

Office: 103 St David Street
Tel +64 3 479 5655

Susan Craig

Office: 103 St David Street
Tel +64 3 479 5737

In addition:

The Graduate Research School administers all aspects of the University's PhD programmes and also undergraduate and postgraduate scholarships, international scholarships, awards and prizes.

C. Starting your degree

The following steps should take place in the first days after your have officially enrolled in a degree programme:

1. Resources

You will be given access to several available resources. Karen McLean and Linda Brown will assist you through this process.
Each full-time postgraduate student is assigned a desk space, secure storage, computer, and Internet access, in a quiet study/writing space. In addition, postgraduate students have after-hours access to Languages and Cultures facilities and access to library facilities including interlibrary loans and database searching.

2. Meeting with your Supervisor(s)

You should meet your supervisor(s) and work out a plan for your degree soon after arriving. Below are some guidelines on what postgraduate students should cover in their first meetings (but you and your supervisor(s) could have slightly different priorities and strategies):

  • You can discuss with your supervisor(s) what are the supervision expectations (A sample checklist for candidates and their primary supervisors can be downloaded here)
  • Determine whether ethical approval is needed for your research project
  • Make a working plan for your thesis research and writing
  • Agree on a timeline
  • You and your supervisor(s) may also decide to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). A template of this can be downloaded from the PhD Administrative Forms page.

For PhD Students ONLY: If you are a PhD student you need to pay particular attention to your first year confirmation requirements (Please refer to the University of Otago PhD Handbook 'The first year'). You and your supervisor(s) may find it very useful to draft a plan for your first 6-12 months (confirmation period). For more specific guidelines on the Languages and Cultures Programme confirmation guidelines, see section “D. Progressing through your Degree”.

3. Take advantage of the available courses for Postgraduate Students.

The Student Learning Centre offers several workshops for postgraduate students (Please refer to HEDC Postgraduate Courses). These workshops are repeated throughout the year and cover the following topics:

  • Preparing a research proposal
  • Preparing a literature review
  • dePreparing a thesis
  • Writing the thesis
  • Publishing for postgrads
  • Making supervision work for you

The Programme of Languages and Cultures strongly recommends that you enroll in the Student Learning Centre's Workshops (for more information click here).

In addition to these free courses, Student Learning Development offers additional support to postgraduate students.

If you would like assistance with writing and grammar, or need advice about other study issues, you are welcome to make an appointment with a Learning Adviser.

To do so, you either visit the Centre, or contact them by phone or email.
Tel: +64 3 479 8801
Location: Student Learning Development is situated in the Central Library (Information Services Building) on the Dunedin Campus next to Student Administration. (SLC map)

4. Familiarise yourself with Library Resources

A session with the Languages and Cultures Programme Reference Service Librarian, Alexander Ritchie, will be arranged for you at the very early stage of your study (you can ask the Postgraduate Coordinator or your supervisor to help you with that). Depending on your specific needs, Alexander may arrange other follow-up sessions with you.

Alexander Ritchie
Office: Central Library, Reference Department, Ground Floor
Tel: 64 3 479 9020

5. Familiarise yourself with available funding

In addition to resources listed above (i.e. desk space, computer, Internet access) the Languages and Cultures Programme will also cover the cost of Interloans, printing and copying up to 400 NZD per year (for a maximum of one year in the case of MA students, and renewable for 3 years in the case of PhD students). Any other additional special funding required for expenses essential to the student's research should be discussed and agreed upon in the enrolment form.

For PhD students ONLY: PhD students are also entitled to receive full support to present a paper at one major international conference. The Division of Humanities will cover the cost of your travel and registration. Beyond this entitlement, additional, limited, funding is available on a discretionary basis at the Divisional level. Students can apply directly to the Humanities Divisional Office for any conference-related costs, see their website for conference funding forms -

D. Progressing through your degree

The following are some recommended steps as you progress through your degree:

  • Thesis writing and style: Once you have completed your field work, main data collection, or preliminary literary review you will probably begin to write the first draft chapters. All students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the University regulation on thesis writing.
  • Oral presentation: All our postgraduate students are encouraged to present their work in the Languages and Cultures seminar series. Your supervisor may advise you on when and how to share your work with fellow postgrads, the Programme faculty, and other scholars who attend our seminars
  • Participating in Programme's research activities: We also strongly recommend that all students regularly attend the presentations of other candidates and/or Languages and Cultures seminars

For PhD students ONLY: During the course of your PhD, your supervisor and the Head of Programme will monitor your progress and complete several (every 6 months) progress reports (see: Reporting Progress). The most important of these progress reports is the one which is attached to the confirmation process. Your first year is considered a provisional time, in which you need to show enough progress to be officially confirmed as PhD candidate. While University regulations allows you and your supervisor to apply for early confirmation after 6 months (in the case of exceptional progress), the deadline for your confirmation is one year after your enrolment.

According to University regulation, the purposes of confirmation are to:

  • Assess progress to date and the academic preparedness of the candidate to complete,
  • Determine whether the candidate has developed a clearly defined, coherent and feasible research project and contribute suggestions for its successful completion,
  • Determine that any specific requirements for confirmation of candidature have been met,
  • Provide an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate written and oral presentation skills appropriate to PhD-level study, and
  • Publicly acknowledge a major milestone in the project and inform others about the research project.

The Division of Humanities has outlined a series of suggestions specifically designed to help our students to achieve confirmation and thus enable them to progress in the completion of their PhD.

Our Programme has adopted and adapted these guidelines. For confirmation, we recommend that PhD candidates:

Within first six months:
  1. Attend one or more of the appropriate HEDC workshop/seminars for postgraduate students
  2. Submit a written proposal (based on initial application, revised and expanded) Guidelines for Written Proposal (3,000 - 10,000 words). The proposal should include:
    • A concise statement of the research question(s),
    • A critical summary and analysis of relevant literature (literature review),
    • An explanation of the conceptual framework to be used and/or a summary of methods and equipment requirements,
    • A summary of progress to date including preliminary data, resources developed, etc.,
    • An argument for the relevance and importance of the study,
    • Proposed schedule and timeline for the phases of the study, based on date of submission,
    • A brief bibliography.
Within first twelve months:
  1. Submit a substantial portion of her/his thesis writing (indicatively: a fourth of the final thesis; for instance: literature review and at least one chapter)
  2. Complete a brief Self-Review as part of the Progress Report. Unlike the Research Proposal, this is meant to be a more reflective statement within the formal structure outlined below. The candidates should consider where they are at in terms of their research project. The candidates must address the following issues, which clearly also relate to the Proposal:
    • Statement of research topic,
    • How does this topic meet the PhD requirements for originality and a contribution to knowledge?
    • What are your research questions?
    • What methodology/methodologies will you use to address your research questions and investigate your topic?
    • Outline of thesis (i.e. provisional table of contents, with a brief outline of proposed content of each chapter),
    • Thesis timetable (approximate dates for completion of draft chapters),
    • A note on supervision (reflecting your perceptions of the supervision process so far).
  3. Verbally present the proposed research project to the Confirmation Committee.* During the presentation, the Confirmation Committee will assess the feasibility and resource requirements of the proposed project and offer suggestions towards its successful completion.
  4. Additionally the Languages and Cultures Programme also requires that each PhD student make at least one oral presentation of the project of 20 - 30 minutes duration (allowing time for questions) in a Languages and Cultures Programme postgraduate seminar or similar forum, before s/he completes the degree. (Note: This presentation is in addition to your presentation at an international conference, funded by the division of Humanities; see Divisional Guidelines and Forms).

*The membership of the Confirmation Committee shall consist of the Languages and Cultures Programme Postgraduate Committee and the candidate's supervisors together with any additional membership co-opted for the purposes of assessment of the written and oral presentation associated with the confirmation process. The Head of Programme will advise probationary candidates of the composition of their Confirmation Committee.

E. Completing your degree

As you get close to finishing your thesis, remember that you will need to give your supervisor notice of a formal intent to submit several weeks prior submission so that your supervisor has sufficient time to give the Postgraduate Office the necessary documents.

Make sure that your supervisor has contacted the examiners to whom your thesis will be submitted and received confirmation of availability from them to read and evaluate your work. More useful information related to the final stages of your degree is available online.

For Masters students: Handbook for Research Masters' Degrees

For PhD students: PhD Handbook

And about the examination process at:

For Masters students: Masters - The Examination Process

For PhD students: PhD - The Examination Process

Appendix 1

Useful links/Resources

Languages and Cultures Programme Website
Postgraduate Studies Information (Main Gate)
MA at Otago
PhD at Otago
PhD Handbook
International Admission Information
Scholarship Information
Ethical Approval
Postgraduate Student Learning Centre
PhD Progress report
Conference Application (PhD only)
Thesis Information Guide
Scholarly Communication Guide
Measuring Research
MA Admission Form via e:Vision Portal
PhD Admission Form via e:Vision Portal
MoU (Masters)
MoU (PhD)

Other resources:

Graduate School Council of the USA site ( contains a comprehensive collection of resources for graduates and supervisors

For Fun:

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