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Interested in exploring and thinking in-depth about a political question? The MA by thesis is an opportunity for students drawn to independent research to concentrate on a specific topic during an intensive and rewarding period that will build up knowledge of a particular area, and develop general research, writing and analytical skills that are highly valued in the workplace and in preparation for higher degrees.

The Master of Arts (MA) is a research-based programme that follows a BA and precedes a PhD. It is awarded on successful completion of a Masters thesis.

Programme requirements

Students can start at any time of the year and engage in a programme of research and learning leading to the production of a dissertation of 30,000 to 40,000 words, which is internally and externally examined.

The expected length of study for a MA by thesis is twelve to eighteen months for full-time candidates and 2-3 years for part-time candidates.


Each MA thesis student will be appointed a supervisor. Occasionally a primary and co-supervisor will be necessary for a project. The supervisor(s) will assist in directing your reading, refining your research proposal, offering guidance on executing the research plan and providing comments on chapters of the thesis while your work is in progress.

Admission requirements

The Politics Programme at Otago no longer offers a BA with Honours or the Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (Politics). A student wanting to undertake an MA by thesis in Politics (120 points) must have:

(a) Completed 120 points of coursework in the MPOLS or MIntSt and have achieved a grade average of B+ or higher;


(b) Displayed the ability to conduct an extended research project to the satisfaction of the Head of the Programme (HoP). In judging whether an applicant meets this prerequisite, consideration will be given to whether the applicant had completed the POLS390 (or equivalent) with an A-minus or higher grade, has developed an extensive research proposal, and has completed at least one chapter of dissertation/thesis quality on the research project to the satisfaction of the HoP.

Acceptance as a candidate for the MA thesis degree also depends upon the Politics Programme being able to provide adequate supervision in the intended area of research. We strongly encourage prospective students to link their project with the research interests of staff. View staff profiles.

Application process

Applicants must contact the MA Programme Coordinator prior to applying online.

When seeking entry to a MA in Politics, please contact the Department MA Programme Coordinator, Dr David Jenkins (email, with the following documents:

  • A short research proposal (1-3 pages), which provides a clear statement of the topic and research question(s), explains its/their importance, cites relevant and appropriate literature, and describes the research design to be followed. See Getting from a research interest to a research proposal (PDF)
  • A full and current CV
  • A copy of your study record to date (unnecessary for University of Otago students)
  • Evidence of proficiency in English (international students only)
  • Suggestions of prospective supervisor(s) based on the department's staff profiles.

Once you have gained departmental approval and have been assigned a supervisor, you then need to apply via the online application form.

If the department has not received a copy of your thesis proposal prior to receiving your online application, your application cannot be accepted.

How to apply

Domestic students

If you are a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, you may apply online.

International students

International students wishing to apply for admission to the MA programme should read Applying for a Postgraduate Programme.

Please visit the International Office for further information.

Scholarships & Prize


The University of Otago offers several postgraduate scholarships and awards for domestic and international students.

MA thesis prize

Every year the Department awards the Didem Yaman Memorial Prize for Best MA Thesis. View further information and previous prizewinners here.

Further information

Contact the MA Programme Coordinator:

Dr David Jenkins

The University of Otago website contains comprehensive information for potential MA candidates:

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