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Study Politics at Otago

From international relations to political theory, New Zealand politics to comparative studies – empower yourself with Politics.

Politics is the study of how power is organised and used, nationally and internationally. Power relations affect every aspect of our lives, determining what we think, say and do, and how we co-operate to make the world a better place.

So much of what we see in the news is about politics, including Brexit, the US election, the Syrian conflict, and the Treaty of Waitangi. By studying politics, you will gain a balanced, analytical and insightful understanding of topics that may be sensationalised in the media. Empower yourself to know the difference: study Politics.

Why study Politics?

Consider what you stand to gain from a better understanding of people and power, conflict and co-operation. By studying Politics, you will get to know power intimately and acquire the insight and skills to use power for the betterment of yourself, society, and the world.

Politics is a practical field of study that will empower you to understand and take part in responsible decision-making. It is also an intellectually stimulating field.

The knowledge and skills acquired from studying Politics will not only empower you to make a difference, but are very attractive to future employers.

Politics at Otago

Otago’s Politics lecturers are all experts in their fields, actively engaged in research that enriches their teaching.

Our approach to the study of politics is a blend of traditional and modern analysis. The breadth of the discipline of politics is reflected in the wide range of papers on offer at Otago. At Otago, Politics is arranged into four fields:

  • International Relations – study international conflicts and co-operation between states
  • New Zealand Politics – understand the politics of Aotearoa
  • Political Theory – ask important theoretical questions about the nature of power and justice
  • Comparative Politics – compare the politics of a range of countries and regions

Background required

Studying Politics at Otago assumes no prior knowledge. If you have an interest in national and international affairs, you should consider including some politics in your degree.

Degree options

You can study Politics as a major within the following degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA)
  • Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc)
  • Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom)

Politics is an excellent subject to study with another area of interest, either as a double-major in the BA, alongside a Science subject in the BASc, alongside a Commerce subject in the BACom, or as a double degree with Law or Commerce, and other options.

Politics is also part of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) major, and is available as a minor within a range of degree options, or simply as an additional interest paper to strengthen your degree.

An understanding of politics also complements degrees in areas such as Law, International Business, History, Economics, Geography, Management or Psychology.

Student exchange

The opportunity to study at an international university and understand another culture is an invaluable educational experience for a Politics student. You may be able to do part of your study overseas through the University’s extensive exchange programme or as a postgraduate student.

Continuing your studies

We offer a range of postgraduate programmes. The twelve-month long Master of Politics (MPols) and Master of International Studies (MIntSt) degrees are excellent options for students interested in specialising in a particular area of politics or seeking an extra edge when considering their future career options. We also offer two research degrees – the Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Career opportunities

Politics graduates have the ability to analyse issues logically, to challenge conventional assumptions, to consider different options and viewpoints, make informed decisions, and act with flexibility, adaptability and creativity.

In addition to these specialist skills, our programmes enable you to develop a range of personal and professional skills that are highly valued by employers.

A Politics degree has helped many graduates find exciting, challenging and highly-rewarding careers in a broad range of fields across New Zealand and around the world. Our graduates are policy analysts, diplomats, working with refugees, journalists, business leaders, lawyers, public servants, consultants, and even politicians.

Many continue on to study towards a postgraduate degree at prestigious international universities.


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Politics

Level Papers Points
100-level Two 100-level POLS papers 36

Two 200-level POLS papers

One further POLS paper at 200-level or above

One of CHIN 241 Contemporary Chinese Society, GEND 201 Introduction to Feminist Theory, GEND 208 Governing Bodies, PHIL 227 Morality and Politics:Hobbes to Hume, PHIL 228 Ethics, PSYC 204 Justice, Race and Class, or PUBH 203 Health Policy and Politics, may be substituted for one 200-level POLS paper, and CLAS 346 may be substituted for one 300-level POLS paper.




Four 300-level POLS papers


198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts

Total   360

Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) in Politics

  • Thesis: POLS 5

Master of Politics (MPols)

Papers Points




Minor subject requirements

Politics as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points
100-level See below



See below



One 100-level POLS paper, and four further POLS papers, three of which must be above 100-level including at least one at 300-level.

Total   90


Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
POLS101 2023 Political Philosophy - Basic Problems 18 points Semester 2
POLS102 2023 New Zealand Politics - Introduction 18 points Semester 2
POLS104 2023 International Relations - Introduction 18 points Semester 1
POLS105 2023 Comparative Politics - Introduction 18 points Semester 1
POLS202 2023 Theories of Justice 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS207 2023 Environmental Politics 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS208 2023 Democracy 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS210 2023 Politics of the Middle East 18 points Semester 2
POLS211 2023 Global Political Economy 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS213 2023 New Zealand Foreign Policy 18 points Semester 2
POLS216 2023 Politics of the European Union 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS217 2023 War and Politics 18 points Semester 2
POLS218 2023 Interventions, Peacekeeping and the Global South 18 points Semester 1
POLS221 2023 New Zealand Political Parties and Elections 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS228 2023 Contemporary Issues in Global Politics 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS230 2023 Special Topic: Settler State Politics in Aotearoa and Australia 18 points Semester 1
POLS234 2023 Asian Security 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS243 2023 Political Ideologies 18 points Semester 1
POLS250 2023 International Security in a Globalising World 18 points Semester 1
POLS301 2023 Power and Liberty 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS303 2023 New Zealand's Political Economy 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS306 2023 Politics and the Media in New Zealand 18 points Semester 1
POLS307 2023 Nature, Conflict, and the State 18 points Semester 1
POLS308 2023 United States Foreign Policy since 1945 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS310 2023 Turkey and Its Neighbours 18 points Summer School
POLS312 2023 Ethics and International Relations 18 points Semester 2
POLS315 2023 Nationalism and Identity 18 points Semester 2
POLS318 2023 Chinese Foreign Policy 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS319 2023 Treaty Politics 18 points Semester 1
POLS321 2023 Public Policy in New Zealand 18 points Summer School
POLS323 2023 Marxism: Classical and Contemporary 18 points Semester 1
POLS325 2023 International Relations: Concepts and Theories 18 points Semester 2
POLS326 2023 Politics of the Arabian Peninsula 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS330 2023 Special Topic: Politics of Climate Change 18 points Semester 2
POLS375 2023 Human Rights - From the Cradle to the Grave 18 points Not offered in 2023
POLS390 2023 Research Project 18 points Semester 2
POLS402 2023 Community, Culture and Rights 20 points Not offered in 2023
POLS475 2023 The Ethics and Politics of Resistance 20 points Semester 2
POLS490 2023 Dissertation 60 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period
POLS501 2023 The 'Political': Theory and Practice 30 points Semester 1
POLS510 2023 Community, Culture and Rights 30 points Not offered in 2023
POLS512 2023 The Ethics and Politics of Resistance 30 points Semester 2
POLS520 2023 New Zealand Government and Politics 30 points Semester 2
POLS521 2023 Politics and Society 30 points Semester 1
POLS530 2023 Politics Internship 30 points Not offered in 2023
POLS540 2023 International Relations Theory 30 points Not offered in 2023
POLS541 2023 International Relations and the Global South 30 points Semester 1
POLS550 2023 Comparative Regional Conflicts 30 points Semester 2
POLS552 2023 Comparative State/Minority Politics 30 points Not offered in 2023
POLS553 2023 The Global Politics of Poverty and Inequality 30 points Not offered in 2023
POLS590 2023 Research Dissertation 60 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for students

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