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Otago opens up fresh fields of study

Students catching up on the Clocktower lawn

Thursday 11 February 2010 2:29pm

The University of Otago will this year offer several new undergraduate and postgraduate degrees designed to tap into growing New Zealand industries within forensic science, conflict resolution and music production.

The University is introducing New Zealand’s first new undergraduate major in Forensic Analytical Science; Peace and Conflict Studies will become a subject for the Postgraduate Diploma in Arts and the Master of Arts degree, and students can also enrol for a new Doctor of Musical Arts in studio production.

Otago is the only university in New Zealand to offer these specific courses.

Forensic Analytical Science Major

Associate Professor in Chemistry Russell Frew says the new major ‘Forensic Analytical Science’ will form part of the Bachelor of Applied Science, and Bachelor of Applied Science with Honours courses. It will initially be limited to 72 students.

Students will be taught modern analytical techniques used in forensic sciences, giving students who graduate with the degree a boost when seeking industry-specific training and further post -graduate qualifications in human, agricultural, horticultural and environmental or conservation-related forensic science.

“The new course is not about training to be a professional forensic scientist. It is about teaching the techniques of forensic science – skills which are widely applicable in industry.

Students wishing to pursue a career as a forensic scientist will be well prepared to undertake further professional training in more specific forensic science areas,” he says.

People often thought of forensic science as concerned mainly with identifying those responsible for crimes “CSI-style”, but as well as that type of work, increasingly forensic analytical skills were also required for a growing number of interesting and fulfilling jobs related to New Zealand as a major food producer.

Fully trained forensic scientists work for agencies responsible for identifying counterfeit fruit using New Zealand brand-names; tracing illegally logged timber to the wharf by examining the tree stumps left behind; ensuring certain wines have been manufactured where they say they are, or verifying the origin of meat labelled as produce of New Zealand in international markets – to name a few.

New Zealand’s food industry increasingly demands well trained scientists who have the skills to perform all of these roles, both in the private and public sector, Professor Frew says.

“It’s a growing industry as people realise they need people with these types of skills.”

The major is introduced as a second-year general forensic analytical science paper, after students have first successfully completed science-related first-year papers as pre-requisites to entering the course. In their third year, students would complete papers in Forensic Chemistry and Forensic Biology, and, if successful, could go on to a fourth-year honours stream and conduct a forensic science research project likely to involve some work placement.

Doctor of Musical Arts

The Doctor of Musical Arts is a new three-year full-time programme in Music with three areas of specialisation: Performance, Composition or, for the first time ever offered in New Zealand, Studio Production.

Music Department Head Professor Henry Johnson says the establishment of the new programme marked an important step in recognising the creative aspect of performance.

The specialty area of Studio Production will utilise the nationally-unique facility at Otago’s “state-of- the-art” studio in Albany Street, Dunedin, formerly the Radio New Zealand studios.

“For the first time, this recognises the creative side of music production and performance at the doctoral level within the Music Department of the University,” he says.

“This is not only significant nationally, but also we will be leading the field of teaching in studio production in Australasia. There are only a handful of courses that are analogous to ours at other universities, but none that are identical.

Department Postgraduate Coordinator Dr Alan Davison says the new doctorate is now the pinnacle of what students can attain in music and production at Otago, and marks an exciting turning point in the development of the music department itself.

“The attainment of this doctorate in any of the three specialties will signal to the professional and creative musical world that a graduate is capable of independently conceiving and presenting high-quality creative outputs in their area of specialisation.”

The qualification is designed to equip students for creative jobs in video and music production within the entertainment industry, in production studios within the media industry, or in theatre production roles.

Postgraduate Diploma and Master of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies

The recently established Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago is introducing for the first time two new postgraduate qualifications in the discipline.

The PGDip Arts in Peace and Conflict studies is a one-year programme of advanced course work which includes a research dissertation and practice opportunities, while the Master of Arts in Peace and Conflict Studies involves a more lengthy research project.

Peace and Conflict Studies Director Professor Kevin Clements says the new postgraduate qualifications on offer are the first of their kind in New Zealand, with the Centre also being the only peace and conflict theory, research and practice centre in the country. So far, the new courses have attracted inquiries from all over New Zealand, Africa, Asia and Latin America. The post-graduate programmes had wide appeal, and the Centre had already received many inquiries from professionals in the Police, the Military and a range of humanitarian Non-Governmental organisations.

The qualifications enabled graduates to work in fields as diverse as family mediation, conflict resolution and New Zealand peace roles overseas.

“These are new and exciting developments and will encourage research and teaching excellence in peace and conflict studies, enabling graduates to deal with a huge range of scenarios, from dealing with the neighbour’s barking dog to fighting in Iraq,” Professor Clements says.

Two other new papers/courses

Creative Marketing Communication paper

A new 300-level creative marketing communication paper will also be offered as part of the Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing.

Course designer and Lecturer Dr Roel Wijland says the paper will look at written and verbal expression and looks how language and visual expression is used across media in business communications.

“It’s perhaps the most artful paper in the School of Business. It looks how consumers and companies express themselves in different forms, in television, film, short text or music, through media, and in products and services. Students will be encouraged to critique each other’s digitally-made projects on different expressive forms of communication in an online environment. The new course is at the forefront of digital development in the marketing department.”

“They will learn how to tell stories, narrative structure, or communicate with poetic brevity – it takes the aesthetics of marketing seriously,” he says.

The ability to make and critique marketing expressions and discuss form and taste, are types of skills that are a requirement in brand consultancy, advertising agency and strategic management work.

Doctors from around New Zealand and Australia now have an opportunity to advance their knowledge of surgical anatomy with a new postgraduate qualification being offered by the Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology at the University of Otago.

Postgraduate Diploma in Surgical Anatomy

This will be the second year of a Postgraduate Diploma in Surgical Anatomy targeted at junior doctors aiming to become surgeons or radiologists. It focuses on anatomy relevant to clinical diagnosis, interventional procedures, and operative treatment. The Diploma combines 24 weeks of distance teaching with two campus-based periods of intensive tuition and cadaver dissection.

The insides of people are not always put together in the same way, so an important aspect of the course is to highlight common anatomical variations. These can make a big difference to the outcome of clinical procedures and operations.

The first intake of 16 students to complete the Postgraduate Diploma graduated at the end of 2009, with feedback from the candidates extremely positive. One student commented: “I now feel confident in important anatomical topics and can use [this] knowledge in clinical practice.” A further 24 candidates have signed up for 2010.

The course organisers, Professor Mark Stringer of the Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, and Mr Patrick Lyall, Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, were impressed with the commitment of the first year’s cohort of candidates who worked hard to achieve success.


Professor Russell Frew
Forensic Analytical course
Tel 64 3 479 7913

Professor Kevin Clements
Peace and Conflict Studies
Is away until Monday 15 February. In the meantime the contact at the Centre is Debbie Prysor, Tel 64 3 479 4546.

Dr Alan Davison
Department of Music
Tel 64 3 479 5969

Dr Roel Wijland
Department of Marketing
Tel 64 3 479 8411

Professor Mark Stringer
Department of Anatomy & Structural Biology
Tel 64 3 479 5992

Jo Galer
Senior Communications Adviser
Tel 64 3 4798263
Mob 021 279 8263