Master of Fine Arts


Dunedin School of Art (P Block, Riego Street - click here for a map) OR a low residency option for study in this programme for students based outside Dunedin. Please contact the Postgraduate Coordinator for further information.

Two years full-time; up to four years part-time (flexible movement between these two options is possible)

On campus

March and September
Flexible start dates are available - talk to us about your situation
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Dunedin
    1 March 2021
  • Dunedin
    30 August 2021
  • Dunedin
    7 March 2022

If you've already decided that you're serious about art, and want to develop further as a professional arts practitioner or expand your employment potential, then this is the qualification for you.

The Master of Fine Arts is an applied research degree benchmarked against national and international standards with a distinct emphasis on art-making and writing. The programme is shaped by your proposal and can be completed in one discipline, or across several, and provides a qualification necessary for careers such as tertiary teaching, writing or critiquing, museum or gallery curatorship. 

Practising artists will especially benefit from a focused, in-depth research project, culminating in a public exhibition and dissertation, reflecting your knowledge and competence in art practices and theories, and contemporary society and culture. Choose to study at the Dunedin School of Art and enter into a lively and challenging environment where you will benefit from the nationally unique workshop facilities and the expertise of lecturers who have a diverse range of approaches and experience in the fine arts and design.

Please note: We offer a low residency option for study in this programme for students based outside Dunedin. Please contact the Postgraduate Coordinator for further information.

Skills required
  • To have a current arts practice.
  • The ability to think laterally and independently.
  • To be motivated and have a good work ethic.
  • Confidence and the ability to accept criticism.
  • To be adaptable and open to new ideas.
Entry requirements
  • You must hold a recognised bachelor's degree in fine arts OR an equivalent four year programme with at least a B grade average. Three year undergraduate degrees may be considered but you must have achieved an A pass average in the major subject.
  • You must submit an annotated portfolio, curriculum vitae and a research proposal, including an annotated bibliography. The portfolio must be no larger than 2MB.
  • Selection for admission includes an interview.
  • If you do not hold the above qualifications, you must demonstrate appropriate ability through a current portfolio and a related project proposal which will be approved by the Master of Fine Arts Admissions Committee.
  • International students will be individually assessed to ensure they meet the entry requirements. 
  • If English is not your first language, you must provide:

If you need to improve your English Language skills, we offer a wide range of English programmes.

Application and portfolio requirements

Research Project Proposal

The research project proposal is an important part of your application and should reflect your previous and current practice.

An introduction of approximately 500 words should provide a clear indication of the key areas of focus in the proposed research project and should demonstrate integration of theory and studio practice. Please provide:

  • Project title
  • Field of research interest
  • Brief description of project
  • Outline of research questions and proposed methodologies
  • Annotated bibliography, listing approximately 15 items
  • Nominated supervisors (please discuss with the Postgraduate Coordinator)

Approximately 1000 words should focus on the studio component of the project. Please include:

  • Summary of previous research and outputs related to the field of interest
  • Statement of aims and a list of relevant studio areas
  • Forecast of anticipated resources (facilities and materials)
  • Information on training already undertaken or to be undertaken
  • Refer to the annotated portfolio

Approximately 700 words should focus on the written component of the project. Please include:

  • Summary of theoretical/historical contexts relevant to your project
  • Indications of research approaches/methodologies you propose to adopt
  • Information on previous study and research related to your field(s) of interest
  • Links with the studio component of your project.
  • Plus (i.e. not included in the 700 words) annotated examples of writing (i.e. include examples plus notes on the style and context of the examples in relation to studio practice where possible)

Annotated Portfolio

You should provide approximately 15 images of work (including images of installations where applicable). Each image should be numbered and correspond with an annotated list including information as to title, date, size, materials and position within your practice. Images should illustrate a range of work as well as development over a period of time. If available, you should attach exhibition catalogues, reviews, articles or any other material relevant to your work. There is a 15MB file size limit for the portfolio.

Please note: While all reasonable care will be taken, Otago Polytechnic does not accept responsibility for damage or loss of portfolio material.

Referees' Reports

Please provide the name of three people who can be contacted to supply a referee's report if required. For example, tutors, colleagues or a head of school. Referee's details should include the name of the referee, the position of the referee and their contact details. A referee should be someone you know who is able to comment on your ability to complete a long-term project requiring both independent and collaborative work. 

Application Checklist

The items listed below should be completed and included in your application. You are welcome to seek assistance from the Postgraduate Coordinator.

  • Certified copies of qualification certificates
  • Academic record (from relevant institutions)
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Names and contact details of three referees
  • Birth certificate and deed poll (if relevant)
  • Annotated portfolio no larger than 15MB (five copies of annotated list)
  • Research project proposal (five copies)
  • Otago Polytechnic application form, preferably completed online.

Contact details

Alexandra Kennedy, Postgraduate Programme Coordinator  
Senior Lecturer: Professional Practices, Art History and Theory, Painting 
Phone: 03 479 3741 / 0800 762 786 
Location: Room P203, Dunedin School of Art, Riego Street, Dunedin 

Te Reo Māori

If you indicate a preference in your application, you may use Te Reo Māori in dissertations, to submit documentation and/or to present orally in studio practice. Otherwise, only English is used within this programme.

Additional documentation

You must supply certified copies of your passport and visa (where appropriate).

Selection procedure

This programme is distinguished by relatively small class size and an attentive focus on each individual project, therefore admission to the qualification is competitive. Applications from eligible candidates will be considered on their individual merit. The annotated portfolio and research project proposal outlining studio and written components, and the articulation of links between these, are central to selection for admission.

Additional costs

Material costs vary according to individual projects. As an indication, you may borrow up to $1,000 in addition to any student allowance for course-related costs.

Further study options

This qualification provides you with the necessary degree to pursue a Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA), a Doctor of Fine Arts (DocFA) and/or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in New Zealand or overseas.

You will study

The Dunedin School of Art and the School of Design at Otago Polytechnic consist of a community of several hundred people united by an abiding interest in material making and theoretical research. As artists, designers and scholars we are a very diverse community with differing backgrounds, languages and cultural contexts. Our environment is lively and challenging, making for good art and a rich life.

The Master of Fine Arts programme offers you a space in which ideas can be manufactured through processes of making and writing undertaken in close conversation. It is a space in which you can test yourself against a rigorous community of peers and supervisors; a space within which you can reach out to the wider national and international community and to professional opportunities for your future. The programme invites you into this space by offering possibilities for creative thinking, applied research and networking with members of our international community of contemporary artists and other cultural workers. The experience of being in a postgraduate programme of distinction and high expectations will expose you to debate and different perspectives, which contribute to a productive process of learning during your studies.


From application onwards, you work towards four integrated goals: a public exhibition, a related dissertation, documentation of work over the period of your study and an oral presentation of work in the exhibition.

Studio Practice

The Dunedin School of Art has eight areas of studio practice: Ceramics, Electronic Arts, Jewellery & Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture and Textiles. The School of Design has four specialist areas: Communication, Fashion, Interior and Product Design. You may evolve unexpected relationships between traditional subjects or create new syntheses from them.  As the organisation of your programme is shaped by your own proposal and desired end result, this qualification may be completed in one discipline, or across several.


A studio and a theory supervisor will be appointed for you. The Postgraduate Coordinator helps you to interface with staff and other students at the School of Art and the School of Design and with the arts community within Dunedin and elsewhere.

Group Work

Regular studio critiques and more formal presentation of work during seminars and research workshops provide opportunity for feedback, discussion and debate.

Visiting artists and designers

An international visiting artists and designers programme feeds into the Master of Fine Arts and contributes to a community of practice, currency of ideas and valuable contacts.

Studio space and facilities

You are allocated a studio space and have around the clock access to project-related facilities. The Dunedin School of Art has consistently focused on the development of excellence in the material aspects of art-making; it is now one of the best-equipped art schools in New Zealand and is fully supported by fine technical staff. The School of Design is recognised as being at the forefront of design education in New Zealand and features include the best-equipped advanced prototyping facility in Australasia.

Exhibition and career opportunities

Dunedin is a city with many exhibition facilities ranging from small informal galleries to large, public spaces like the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. The Master of Fine Arts opens doors for exhibitions and a number of fine regional galleries offer more choice as you will typically exhibit several times before your final work is shown in public.

The Dunedin School of Art has played a part in visual arts education since its establishment in 1870. It was the first art school in New Zealand and is the world's southernmost college of art. Under the helm of Con Hutton followed by Gordon Tovey, it developed a legacy of academic excellence and artistic individuality. Over the years the school has attracted such students as Colin McCahon, Anne Hamblett, Doris Lusk and Lisa Walker; more recent graduates include Rachel Rakena who exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 2008 and Emma Bugden who became director of ArtSpace Auckland in 2008.

Individuals choose the Dunedin School of Art at Otago Polytechnic for its resource competitiveness, quality of teaching and supervision and its sense of community. Our points of difference are our interest in an integrated theory/studio learning environment and our ability to retain well-equipped workshops in all technical areas with appropriate technical support. Our position within a supportive Polytechnic enables this.

Our graduates work in all fields of art, often complementing their own practice with curatorial work, teaching, public art projects, design projects or work in the arts access field. The skills they learn are transferable to a wide variety of employment situations.

Your workload

You will participate in a weekly public seminar and postgraduate workshop (12.30-5.30pm) where you will have the chance to interact with your fellow students. A one hour weekly meeting with your supervisor(s) will also give you the opportunity to hone your ideas and seek specialist advice in a more intimate environment. The rest of your time will be spent in self-directed study in your studio alongside your postgraduate peers, producing the necessary work to successfully complete the qualification. The School provides around the clock access to its facilities, allowing you the flexibility to study alongside part-time employment or other commitments.

Qualification structure

This programme is ideal if you are a practising artist who has a specific research interest or project you wish to pursue within a formal and supportive institutional context. Expand knowledge and competency of your practice while undertaking an in-depth research project over two years, culminating in a public exhibition and associated written outcome. 




Semester One



Semester Two 






Semester One



Semester Two



Programme total


Student loans/allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful. 

Links to useful websites

 Connect with School of Art students, graduates and staff on our very active Facebook page.

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