Postgraduate Study in Religion

Study image
Read about one recent postgraduate in Religion at Otago.

Graduate students engaged in research on various aspects of religion form a vital part of the life and work of our department, and work closely with teaching staff. There are several options for postgraduate study - including by distance and part-time - which one is right for you will depend on your previous study and your aim in undertaking research. The opportunities for postgraduate study are described below - having read these please contact the Postgraduate Co-ordinator for Religion, Deane Galbraith, to discuss your plans.

For details of research interests and preferred areas of supervision for each member of staff see the staff pages. See below on this page for a list of our current postgraduate students or look here for a list of some postgraduate theses from the last decade or so.

Master of Arts in Religious Studies

The University of Otago offers two pathways within the Master of Arts, a 180-point coursework option and Master of Arts by thesis alone.

Master of Arts (Coursework) in Religious Studies

The Master of Arts (Coursework) programme is designed to provide a multi-disciplinary grounding for Humanities students in a range of subjects as preparation for further study or future employment. The MA(Coursework) programme will take either 12 months or three semesters of full-time study to complete. The programme can also be studied part-time over a period of up to five years.

The MA(Coursework) in Religious Studies requires that you take two 30-point papers in Religious Studies, two further 30-point Humanities papers, and complete a 60-point dissertation (RELS590 or 591). The list of papers on offer in 2024 is below.

Buddhist Studies is also an option for the MA(Coursework). This requires that you take four taught papers (chosen from RELS 521, 522, 523, 531 and HUMS 501-503) and complete a 60-point dissertation.

RELS papers at Masters level offered in 2024

Click on the paper code for further information about the paper, including prescriptions and timetables.

February short course / First Semester
Readings in Buddhist Texts
Second semester
Evolution of Religion
Full year
Pali for Postgraduates
Sanskrit for Postgraduates
Research Dissertation

The dissertation, which may be up to 20,000 words, should be undertaken over a full twelve months, but can be written either alongside the other taught papers during the year, or be started after one semester of taught papers and completed in the six months following the second semester of taught papers. In this case, the degree is completed over 18 months, and the dissertation paper code is RELS591.

HUMS papers at Masters level offered in 2024

For the MA(Coursework) in Religious Studies, you should choose two HUMS papers from those listed below. For the MA in Buddhist Studies, you may choose to include up to two of these papers. Click on the paper code for further information about the paper, including prescriptions and timetables.

First semester
Key Debates in the Humanities
Second semester
Writing and Revision for Graduate Research
Research Methods in the Humanities (also offered by distance)

With the permission of the Heads of Departments concerned, a candidate may substitute for one required paper a paper of another subject at the same level.

Further information about the MA(Coursework) and the Humanities papers is available on the Division of Humanities webpage.

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Master of Arts (Thesis) in Religious Studies

If a student has an Honours degree in Religious Studies or has done a PGDipArts, they may proceed to an MA by thesis alone. The MA(Thesis) is 40,000 words, written over a minimum of one year and a maximum of four years part-time. Supervision is provided for by the Department. Students do not have to be in Dunedin to do these degrees, but where they are outside of Dunedin satisfactory supervision arrangements must be agreed.

Further information about the Master of Arts (MA) is available on the University website.

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Religious Studies imageDoctoral research

The Department also offers the PhD degree in Religious Studies. This is by thesis only, with the thesis being 100,000 words. Again students need not be in Dunedin, but satisfactory supervision arrangements must be made.

Students interested in PhD study should first peruse the research interests of academic staff in the Religion Programme, in order to confirm whether any coincides with their proposed PhD topic.

Further information about the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is available on the University website.

Postgraduate Scholarships

The University of Otago offers a range of scholarships for students from New Zealand and overseas. Further information about these scholarships is available elsewhere on the University website.

Current Postgraduates in the Religion Programme

  • Chris Arnison
    'Religious Experience and Psychedelic Compounds' (PhD, 2024)
  • Hayley Bryan-Brett
    'The Reindigenisation of Wairuatanga in the Evolution of Māori Identity' (MA, 2024)
  • Cherie Aarts Coley
    'Rasa: The Theories and Psychology of Aesthetics, Emotion and Liberation' (MA, 2024)
  • Karina Guthrie
    'Negotiating agency: A study of women’s participation in the Sri Vidya lineage of Indian Shakta Tantra in the West' (PhD, 2024)
  • Anushka Kahandagama
    'Enlightenment Science and Buddhism: Contemporary Buddhist Trends in Sri Lanka' (PhD, 2024)
  • Phra Akbordin Rattana
    'On the Two Bodies of the Buddha in the Supreme Patriarch Pussadeva (Sa)’s Pa?hamasambodhi' (PhD, 2024)
  • Donna Roy
    'Threads of Faith: Finding Meaning in the Art of Ecclesiastical Embroidery' (MA, 2024)
  • Gregory Smith
    'Ramanuja's theology as "Panentheism"' (MA, 2024)
  • Luke Tisch
    'Maternal Support among Monogamously and Polygynously Married Gambian Women: How do Polygyny and Religiosity Affect Women's Cooperative Networks in The Gambia?' (MA, 2024)

Further information

Advice for Research Masters and PhD candidates is available elsewhere on the University website.

To discuss your options for graduate study in religion at Otago, contact the Postgraduate Co-ordinator for Religion, Deane Galbraith.

University of Otago Religious Studies Programme