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Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Master of Science (MSc)

According to the University of Otago Handbook for Masters’ Degrees:

  • Masters’ degrees introduce candidates to research at the frontiers of knowledge and analysis, and train them in relevant techniques. The common element is a sustained piece of independent research conducted under supervision. The work should demonstrate that the candidate has the ability to carry out research and/or constructive criticism, and to report the results of such work clearly, accurately and succinctly. It is not a requirement that the results should necessarily represent a substantial contribution to knowledge in the field.

Note: The following information is for the degree of Master of Science. There may be slight variations in regulations for the Master of Arts, which candidates for the MA should check.


If you have a degree in mathematics or statistics with a grade of B+ or better, from the University of Otago or comparable institution, you are eligible to enrol for an MSc (or MA) in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. You may also be eligible if your degree is in another discipline.

With an Honours Degree (or Postgraduate Diploma or its equivalent), the course of study is usually one year and the examination is by thesis. With an ordinary degree, the course of study is usually two years — the first year consists of a selection of papers at Honours (400-) level, which you are expected to pass satisfactorily, and in the second year you proceed to a thesis. The overall grade for the degree is based on your thesis except that, if the thesis is marginal, weight may be given to your performance in the papers.


Application forms along with various other downloadable documents can be found at the University Masters page. Applications may be made before the publication of exam results.


One you have been notified of admission, contact the Head of Department who will advise you on academic matters. Information about enrolment can be found here. Information about fees can be found here. Fees for students who do not have residency status are considerably higher than for those who do.

You may want to check this information about scholarships.


MSc students have a supervisor to provide advice and direction for the thesis component of their studies. Your thesis study may cross disciplines or involve work in industry or some organization outside the University, and then two or more supervisors may be needed. If you have decided on an area in which you wish to work, approach a member of staff with similar interests and discuss your plans. If you do not yet have a definite area of interest, consult the Director of Graduate Studies.

Staff members and their interests

Consult the research groups or academic staff pages for details.

Thesis Topic

An MSc thesis in mathematics or statistics takes various forms, from a survey of the existing literature, if the topic is well-known, to the solution of a new problem. The nature of your thesis and its subject matter is decided between you and your supervisor. This may take a little time, especially if your area of interest is unclear, and may actually evolve in the course of study.


You will be assigned a workspace in the Department and given access to computers, stationery, photocopying, and interloan facilities; see the Departmental Secretary. Funds for conference travel are available; other requirements should be discussed with your supervisor or the Director of Graduate Studies.


For an MSc that includes coursework, if the results of your exams at the end of the first year are satisfactory, you will begin research for your thesis in the second year. Otherwise you may be advised to withdraw. In such circumstances you may qualify for the award of a Postgraduate Diploma in Science. The progress of your thesis will be monitored by your supervisor, who may suggest that you sit in on courses or seminars in the Department. If your thesis seems to be expanding beyond the bounds of an MSc, it is possible for your enrolment to be changed to that for a PhD. Copies of recent theses in the Department are available as guides to length, layout, style etc.


Three copies of your thesis are submitted in temporary bindings. Two examiners will be appointed, neither of whom is a supervisor. At least one examiner is external. The thesis may be passed (at a certain grade) at once, or passed subject to certain changes or corrections, or failed. If the thesis is passed, permanently bound copies are made.

Award of the degree

The degree of MSc is awarded at the level of Pass, Credit or Distinction, and with an associated grade. You will be informed of the result by letter from the University Registry.

Essential documents

  • Handbook for Masters’ Degrees (Board of Graduate Studies) contains regulations and guidelines for Masters’ degrees and thesis presentation, general information on enrolment, funding etc.
  • Notes on the Presentation of Theses (University of Otago Library)