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The Master of Arts (MA) degree comes in two pathways, by coursework or by thesis.

The MA prepares candidates for employment in education, regional and national government agencies, the private sector, and industry. The degree is also an entry qualification for the Doctor of Philosophy(PhD).

The MA by coursework

The coursework option normally requires either one year or three semesters of full-time, or the equivalent in part-time, study and entails completion of papers and a dissertation. The normal admission requirement is a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in one of at least 24 subjects but admission on the basis of alternative qualifications and experience is possible. The dissertation is a major piece of supervised research of up to 20,000 words on a topic of current interest.

The primary aim of the MA by coursework programme is to provide candidates with a grounding in their chosen discipline within a wider disciplinary frame to build the skills needed to identify a significant topic, design and implement a significant piece of research, and present the findings in a form acceptable to an expert readership.

The MA by thesis

The thesis option normally requires at least one year of full-time, or its equivalent in part-time, study and entails completion of a thesis. The normal admission requirement is a Bachelor of Arts with Honours(BA(Hons)) degree in one of at least 24 subjects, but admission on the basis of alternative qualifications and experience is possible. Some thesis candidates may be required to pass approved postgraduate papers before embarking on the thesis research, but will be advised of that before enrolment.

The thesis is a major piece of supervised research of up to 40,000 words on a topic of current interest.

The primary aim of the MA by thesis programme is to develop in a candidate skills needed to identify a significant topic, design and implement an extended piece of research, and present the findings in a form acceptable to an expert readership.

Structure of the Programme

The degree may be awarded in any of the subjects listed here. With the approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities) the degree may be awarded in a subject not listed above.

Thesis option

  • The programme of study for this option shall consist of the preparation and submission of a thesis embodying the results of supervised research. A candidate who has obtained a three-year bachelor’s degree will be required to take and pass the fourth-stage papers listed in the Honours requirements for the subject concerned, in addition to completing a thesis. A candidate whose qualification for entry to the programme is the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours, or the Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects in the subject of the degree, will normally be required to complete only a thesis, although in some cases the candidate may also be required to take and pass approved papers, normally at 400-level, in addition to completing a thesis.
  • For a thesis, the research should be of a kind that a diligent and competent student should complete within one year of full-time study.

Coursework option

  • The programme of study for this option shall be as prescribed for the subject concerned in Part 2 of the MA Schedule and shall in each case consist of a research dissertation or studio project (60 points), two 500-level HUMS papers (30 points each) from HUMS 501-503, and further papers worth 60 points at 400- or 500-level for the subject concerned, to a total value of 180 points.
  • 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.
  • A candidate shall, before commencing the investigation to be described in the thesis, research dissertation, or studio option, secure the approval of the Head of the Department concerned for the topic, the supervisor(s), and the proposed course of the investigation.
  • A candidate may not present a thesis, research dissertation, or studio option, which has previously been accepted for another degree.

Duration of the Programme

Thesis option

A candidate achieving the degree by papers and a thesis shall normally follow a programme for the equivalent of not less than two years of full-time study and not more than three years of full-time study, and a candidate achieving the degree by thesis alone shall normally follow a programme of study for the equivalent of not less than one year of full-time study and not more than two years of full-time study.

Coursework option

A candidate achieving the degree by coursework shall normally follow a programme for the equivalent of not less than one year of full-time study and not more than eighteen months of full-time study.

Exceptions to the normal duration of a programme shall be permitted only with the approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities) and no programme of study shall exceed five calendar years from the date of first admission.


Visit the Master of Arts (MA) page on the University of Otago website for more details!

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