Master of Visual Arts


Dunedin School of Art (P Block, Riego Street - click here for a map) or a low residency option is available for students based outside Dunedin. Please contact the Postgraduate Coordinator for further information.

One year full-time; 2 years part-time

On campus

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

Extend your art practice as you develop a deeper understanding through practical- and theory-based research.

This Master of Visual Arts qualification may lead to higher level employment opportunities in the arts sector. Gain transferable skills that are highly valued in a huge variety of industries including education, art and design, arts management, editorial and curatorial practices.

Enjoy the chance to develop and present mastery of the professional, conceptual and technical skills relevant to your chosen field in the production of an original, independently-developed exhibition and associated writings. 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, a focus on individual supervision and the expertise of lecturers who have a diverse range of approaches and understandings in the Visual 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
  • 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

Minimum entry requirements

  • A postgraduate visual arts qualification with a minimum of 60 credits at Level 8, with an overall grade of B (70%) or higher.
  • You must submit an annotated portfolio, curriculum vitae and a project 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 portfolio and associated writings.
  • 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.  

Pathway option into Master of Visual Arts

This option is ideal for those who do not hold a relevant qualification at Level 8 but would like to pathway into the Master of Visual Arts. Successful completion of our Postgraduate Certificate in Visuals Arts (60 credits, six months), with an overall grade of B (70%) or higher, will enable you to meet the minimum entry requirements* for our Master of Visual Arts (another year of full-time study to achieve the remaining 120 credits needed).

*subject to final approval

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 300-500 words should focus on the written component of the project. Please include:

  • Summary of theoretical/historical contexts relevant to your project
  • Information on previous study and research related to your field(s) of interest
  • Links with the studio component of your project

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.

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
  • 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

Additional documentation

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

Selection procedure

Selection for admission includes an interview.

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.

Qualification structure

In semester one, studio work is developed typically as an extension of work from the Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma of Visual Arts and includes the delivery of an oral seminar paper in the School's Public Research Seminar programme alongside an essay draft for critical feedback.

Semester two builds on the work done in semester one with the production of an independently-developed and original exhibition and an extended 7,500 word essay.   




Studio Practice 2A



Art Theory Part One 






Studio Practice 2B



Art Theory Part Two



Programme total


Further study options

Transfer and upgrading to the first year of the Master of Fine Arts programme (two years full-time at Level 9) will be possible by portfolio, interview and research project proposal or by invitation of the postgraduate coordinator after the completion of the first semester review of the Master of Visual Arts. In this case, students forfeit the Master of Visual Arts as a formal qualification and work towards obtaining the Master of Fine Arts instead. Alternatively, choose to expand your career options further by pursuing a Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA) in New Zealand or overseas. 

You will study

Embrace the opportunity to further develop your skills, knowledge and experience of the history and contemporary conventions of your field. Produce a proposal-based body of critically engaged studio work, present this work in a public space and write a conceptual research paper contextualising the body of studio work produced.  

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 will help 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 your postgraduate studies 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 opportunities

Dunedin is a city with many exhibition facilities ranging from small informal galleries to large, public spaces like the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. A number of fine regional galleries offer further exhibition spaces.

The Dunedin School of Art has played a part in visual arts education since its establishment in 1870. It was the first in New Zealand and the world's southernmost school of art and, 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 (12.30pm - 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.

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. 

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification.

Links to useful websites

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

Apply Now