Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts


Dunedin School of Art (P Block, Riego Street - click here for a map)

One year full-time; two years part-time

On campus

February and July
  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Dunedin
    22 February 2021
  • Dunedin
    19 July 2021
  • Dunedin
    21 February 2022
  • Dunedin
    18 July 2022

Advance your art studies and enhance your career prospects in the Arts industry.

This programme gives you the opportunity to undertake practical and theory-based guided art research in a structured learning environment. A postgraduate qualification in the Visual Arts can lead to an exciting and diverse range of art professions, and the skills you develop are transferable to a wide variety of employment situations in education, or the arts industry and management. Perfect as a springboard into further postgraduate study, the Master of Visual Arts would be a logical extension to this qualification and may lead to higher level employment opportunities in the art and design sector.

With support and advice from highly experienced tutors, create a systematic and professionally-exhibited body of work, accompanied by two written texts that demonstrate your intellectual rigour and contemporary relevance. Benefit from Otago Polytechnic's nationally unique range of workshop facilities and the Dunedin School of Art's focus on individual supervision and student-centred learning, supported by an active community of artists to enhance professional development.

Skills required
  • The ability to think laterally and independently.
  • Motivation and a good work ethic.
  • Confidence and the ability to accept criticism.
  • Adaptability and open-mindedness.
Entry requirements
  • You must have completed a Bachelor of Visual Arts OR equivalent qualification at a bachelor's level OR any other undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline.
  • Exceptional applicants not meeting the entry requirements but with appropriate documented professional experience may also be considered.
  • You must submit an annotated portfolio, curriculum vitae and a project proposal. 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 which will be approved by the Postgraduate 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

Your application should contain the following:
  1. A curriculum vitae of no more than two pages which lists the relevant qualifications and previous exhibiting histories and references or includes any reviews or responses which are relevant.
  2. An annotated portfolio with images that indicate the scope of the work to date in a focused way (2MB file size limit). These images should relate to your project proposal.
  3. A project proposal of 500-1,000 words with an annotated bibliography. 

Annotated portfolio details

You should provide approximately 15 images of your artwork (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 2MB 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. 

Contact details
Alexandra Kennedy
Postgraduate 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. 

You will study

This programme provides you with the opportunity to further develop your undergraduate experience of the history and contemporary conventions of your chosen field, within appropriate learning contexts at a postgraduate level.

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. Postgraduate candidates 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 are appointed for each candidate. 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 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

Semester one includes coursework on research methodologies with the completion of a 2,000 word essay relevant to a body of critically-engaged studio work.

Semester two builds on semester one leading to further development of the studio work and the completion of a 3,000 word essay on related contemporary practices. 




Studio Practice 1A



Research Methodologies






Studio Practice 1B



Contextual Studies



Programme total


Further study options

If you achieve an overall grade of B (70%) or higher during your Postgraduate Diploma, you’ll meet the minimum academic entry requirements* for our Master of Visual Arts (another year of study).

Alternatively, you could choose to pursue our Master of Fine Arts (another two years of study).

*entry requirement subject to final approval

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.

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