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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest degree offered by the University of Otago. It is awarded on the submission of a thesis which must meet rigorous standards. It requires highly developed academic ability, independence and perseverance. Most students take between 3-4 years of full-time study to complete their PhD.


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Regulations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Nature of the Degree

Candidates for the degree of the Doctor of Philosophy are required to pursue an approved programme of advanced study and research under supervision as enrolled students of the University. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded on the basis of the submission of a thesis. The thesis, which may include a nominated creative component, should give evidence of the candidate's ability to carry out research, that the candidate has shown originality and independence, and that the candidate has made a significant contribution to the advancement of their particular field. The research should be of a kind which a diligent and competent student might reasonably be expected to complete within three years of full-time study.

  1. Admission

    1. Admission to the degree programme shall be subject to the approval of the Senate. Note: Applications may be made at any time. Applications must be approved before the candidate begins the research work.
    2. Every candidate must be a university graduate and produce evidence of ability to undertake research in the area of proposed study. Such evidence shall include:
      1. a Bachelor's degree with first or upper second class Honours (with an average grade in Honours papers at or equivalent to at least B+ at the University of Otago) or equivalent (including a research component with an average grade at or equivalent to at least B+ at the University of Otago); or
      2. a Master's degree (with an average grade at or equivalent to at least B+ at the University of Otago) (including an appropriate research component worth at least a quarter of a year's workload (0.25 EFTS), with a grade at or equivalent to at least B+ at the University of Otago); or
      3. appropriate research experience; and
      4. for candidates including a nominated creative component for assessment, demonstrated advanced training or experience in a relevant creative practice.
    3. A candidate for a Master's degree may apply to transfer to candidature for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and may have the date of admission backdated as is considered appropriate.
    4. Initial admission to the degree programme shall normally be provisional, and shall be confirmed on receipt of a supervisory agreement and a satisfactory progress report after no less than six months and no more than 12 months of full- or part-time study.
    5. If admission to the degree programme is not confirmed, then either provisional admission may be extended for one period of up to six months or the candidate shall be required to withdraw or to enrol for another degree. If admission is not confirmed after a period of extension, the candidate shall be required to withdraw or to enrol for another degree.
    6. Notwithstanding regulation 1(b) above, a Medical student who has completed a year of study for the degree of Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours but has not been awarded that degree may be accepted as a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and have the date of admission backdated as is considered appropriate. Such a student's programme of study must be approved by both the Board of the Faculty of Medicine and the Graduate Research Committee.

  2. Full-time and Part-time Study

    1. A candidate may apply for admission on a full-time or part-time basis, but may, with approval, change that status for any semester as long as that semester lies within the current or next calendar year.
    2. Holders of Divisional Teaching Assistantships shall be deemed to be full-time candidates, and Assistant Research Fellows may also be so deemed. Notes:
      (i) A full-time candidate shall count as 1 Equivalent Full-time Student (EFTS) per annum (also see Note (iii) below).
      (ii) A part-time candidate shall count as 0.5 EFTS per annum.
      (iii) The University expects that full-time candidates will devote the majority of their working time to their studies. It is not recommended that full-time candidates accept employment for more than ten hours per week on average over a period of twelve months. When progress is significantly hampered by work exceeding this recommendation, the candidate may be required to reduce work commitments or change to part-time enrolment.

  3. Additional Papers

    In certain cases a candidate may be required or allowed to take one or more prescribed papers in addition to the programme. No candidate may take any other paper or course additional to the programme without first obtaining the approval of the Senate, which must be satisfied that taking any such paper or course will not materially delay the completion of the candidate's research.

  4. Duration of the Programme

    1. A candidate shall pursue a programme of study and research under supervision for a period normally equivalent to at least three full-time years.
    2. The minimum period of study shall be equivalent to three full-time years and the maximum period shall be equivalent to four full-time years.
    3. Exceptions to these periods shall be permitted only with approval of the Senate and will normally be subject to an independent review of progress.
    4. No programme shall exceed the equivalent of six years of full-time study from the date of first admission.
    5. A candidate shall be enrolled continuously for the entire period of the candidacy, up to the submission of the thesis, except that a candidate may apply to the Senate for permission to withdraw temporarily from study.

  5. Location of Study and Research

    1. Candidates are normally expected to be resident and studying in New Zealand while enrolled for the degree. Exceptions shall be permitted only with approval of the Senate.
    2. Candidates proposing to study overseas may be approved to do so on a case-by-case basis by the Senate. Normally such study must be deemed necessary for the candidate's research. While overseas, the candidate must continue to be enrolled at the University.

  6. Supervisors

    1. The Senate shall, on the recommendation of the relevant Head of Department, appoint at least two supervisors, (who may be supported by a departmental advisory panel), or one supervisor supported by a departmental advisory panel of two or more members, to oversee the work of the candidate.
    2. One of the supervisors must be an appropriately qualified member of the academic staff of the University.
    3. In the case of a dispute between a candidate and a supervisor, the Senate shall have discretion to replace that supervisor.

  7. Progress Reports

    1. While a candidate is provisionally admitted to the degree programme, progress reports signed by the candidate, supervisors, Head of Department and relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall be submitted to the Doctoral Office at six-monthly intervals from the date of initial admission.
    2. Once confirmation has been granted, progress reports signed by the candidate, supervisors, Head of Department and relevant Pro-Vice Chancellor or nominee shall be submitted annually.
    3. If an unsatisfactory report is received, the Senate may, after appropriate consultation, terminate the candidacy.

  8. Submission of the Thesis

    1. The thesis embodying the results of the research shall be submitted for examination, in accordance with the regulations governing Presentation of Theses (section 14 in the Examination and Assessment Regulations).
    2. Theses may not exceed 100,000 words of text, excluding appendices, footnotes and bibliographies, or, for candidates including a nominated creative component, 60,000 words of text excluding the nominated creative component.
    3. A nominated creative component may include live performance such as theatre, dance and music; visual art and craft; creative writing; indigenous traditional practice; media production; creative on-line content; or other forms appropriate to the discipline, and should be presented for examination in one or more of the following formats:
      1. as written material integrated into the thesis;
      2. as a digital recording in a portable format;
      3. as a live performance or exhibition, in which case this should be documented and included in the thesis.
    4. A candidate may not present a thesis, including any nominated creative component within a thesis, which has previously been accepted for another degree.

  9. Examination

    1. The thesis shall be submitted to three examiners appointed by the Senate on the recommendation of the Head of Department in consultation with the supervisors.
    2. One examiner shall be from outside New Zealand, one shall be from within New Zealand but external to the University, and one shall be internal to the University. Note: Normal patterns for examiners may be varied in exceptional circumstances.
    3. An examiner shall not be a member of the supervisory team or departmental advisory panel or have participated in a candidate's progress report meeting.
    4. The entire examination shall be supervised by an independent Convener appointed by the Senate on the recommendation of the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor.
    5. The supervisors shall make a report on the work of the candidate which may be released to the Convener of the examiners.
    6. Each examiner shall supply a written report on the thesis, together with a preliminary recommendation for an examination result.
    7. An oral examination on the topic of the thesis and on the general field to which the topic belongs will normally be held as part of the PhD examination. The candidate must demonstrate mastery of the thesis in the oral examination in order to be eligible for the award of the degree.
    8. The oral examination shall be conducted by at least two examiners, one of whom is external to the University.
    9. At the discretion and invitation of the Convener, the supervisors and Head of Department may contribute to the oral examination.
    10. After consultation with the examiners, the Convener may approve the attendance of others at the oral examination.

  10. Examination Result

    1. The Convener of examiners shall report to the Senate the recommendation of the examiners.
    2. The examiners may recommend that a thesis
      1. be accepted as submitted, and the degree be awarded;
      2. be accepted with minor editorial corrections, and the degree be awarded;
      3. be accepted and the degree be awarded, but only after amendments have been made to the satisfaction of the Convener of examiners in consultation with the internal examiner;
      4. be revised and resubmitted for examination;
      5. be rejected and referred to the appropriate authority within the University for consideration of the award of another degree;
      6. be rejected with no right of resubmission.
    3. Where the examiners cannot agree on a result, the Convener shall so report, and the Senate shall arrive at a decision after consulting a referee from outside the University.
    4. A candidate shall be permitted to revise and resubmit a thesis for examination once only.
    5. Once the final result has been decided, the student shall submit a digital copy of the thesis.

  11. Variations

    Notwithstanding anything in these regulations, the Senate shall have discretion to vary any provision set down if, in its opinion, special or unusual circumstances warrant such variation.

    Note: The Senate has delegated authority over the PhD degree to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise).

This information must be read subject to the statement on our Copyright & Disclaimer page.

Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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