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The PhD involves a minimum of 3 years of full-time or at least 6 years of part-time study and may be commenced at any time of the year.

It is awarded on the basis of the submission of a thesis, which evidences your ability to carry out original and independent research and which makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of law. It is expected that at least some of the work in the thesis would be worthy of academic publication.

A PhD from Otago will give you excellent standing in your field of research.

Regulations via the PhD qualification webpage

Discuss your research interests with Faculty of Law staff

Prospective candidates are welcome to contact the Postgraduate Director to discuss their research interests.

Postgraduate Director

However, in all cases, admission to the programme remains dependent upon the outcome of the formal application procedures described above.

Faculty of Law – staff areas of research

PhD requirements

The PhD degree requires:

  • A period of residency in Dunedin is preferred, however, this requirement may be waived by agreement, on a case-by-case basis.
  • A thesis of approximately 300-400 pages (90,000 to 100,000 words), which makes a distinct contribution to legal research or scholarship.

If your first language is not English, you must provide evidence of a satisfactory level of English language proficiency.

Otago postgraduate English requirements

It is possible to do the PhD from a distance within New Zealand, subject to approval. However, you will need to visit the Faculty during the course of your PhD. You will be required to visit at least once a year for a face-to-face meeting with your supervisors. You should also expect to spend 1–2 weeks in the Faculty in the early stages of your thesis establishing a supervision relationship and clarifying/refining the thesis proposal with your supervisor and then another 1–2 weeks six months prior to your anticipated completion to enable you and your supervisor to confirm the final structure and content of your written thesis. During the remainder of the project, regular contact via email and Skype with your supervisor is expected.

PhD Formal Progress Requirements (PDF)

Standards for admission to PhD programme

You must have:

  • An LLB from New Zealand with honours, a master's degree, or a comparable level of achievement at a law school outside of New Zealand with substantially equivalent standards as Otago
  • Attained at least a B+ average for all 300- and 400-level papers (or equivalent) taken in prior degrees

Visit the University of Otago PhD Office website

How to apply for PhD

All applications to the University of Otago are made online.

Learn about the enrolment process

We strongly recommend that, before applying, you email our Postgraduate Director to discuss your proposed research project so that we can advise you on whether we are likely to be able to offer you supervision within the Law Faculty at Otago.

Postgraduate Director

Preparing your research proposal (PDF)


Visit the Postgraduate scholarships page for more information

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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