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The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the University's highest level supervised research degree and is awarded on successful completion of a doctoral thesis.

Programme requirements

While an Otago PhD is based solely on completion of a thesis, if a candidate is deemed to require additional tuition in a particular area, completion of an advanced Politics paper(s) may be an additional requirement.

The expected length of study for a PhD is three years for full-time candidates and six years for part-time candidates.

Please note: the Politics Programme expects that full-time PhD students will spend a minimum of 12 months, including the first six months, in Dunedin over the first three years of enrolment. Equivalent part-time arrangements will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Requests for exceptions must be initiated by the supervisor and approved by the HoP.


Each PhD student will be appointed a primary supervisor and a co-supervisor, or an advisory committee. The supervisor(s) will assist in directing the student's reading, refining the research proposal, offering guidance on executing the research plan and comments on chapters of the thesis while the work is in progress.

Choosing a research area

Applicants are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the range of research fields covered by staff in the Department. While we prefer that applicants try and link their research interests with those of staff, we are also interested in receiving good research proposals on any theme in Comparative Politics, Political Theory, New Zealand Politics, and International Relations.

A good research proposal has a clear research question, is explicit about the methodology to be used in answering that question, and explains how the research question relates to the most important literature in the relevant field. Applicants are encouraged to do a thorough literature search and review before they submit a proposal.

Admission requirements

A prospective candidate for Doctor of Philosophy is expected to have a Bachelor's degree with first or upper second class Honours or equivalent (including a research component) or a Master's degree (including an appropriate research component).

In special circumstances, a prospective candidate who does not have these formal qualifications, but can demonstrate appropriate equivalent research experience, will also be considered for admission. It is also possible to upgrade an Otago MA to a PhD, with approval from the Head of Programme.

Please email the following information to Professor Janine Hayward, the Co-ordinator of the PhD Programme.


  • A research proposal (see “Choosing a research area” above for requirements)
  • A full and current CV
  • A copy of your study record to date
  • Evidence of proficiency in English (international students only)
  • Samples of your publications

Note that admission is subject to suitable supervision being available in the Department.

How to apply

Domestic students

Once you have received confirmation that the Department can provide suitable supervision, you will need to make a formal application for admission to the University.

Make a formal application for admission to the University.

International students

International students wishing to apply for admission to the PhD programme should read the information on the International Office's website.

Visit the International Office for more information.


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

Competition for available scholarships is intense. Only students with at least an A- (80%) or higher in their most recent degree should consider applying for a scholarship.

Further information

The University of Otago website contains comprehensive information for potential PhD candidates.

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