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Department of Mathematics & Statistics

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The following gives basic information for anybody who is considering studying towards a PhD in the Department.

The University of Otago Handbook for PhD Studies states:

“The degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Otago is acquired solely by the submission of a thesis prepared under supervision. There is no coursework ... Examiners are specifically asked to include in their report comments on the following:

  • Does the thesis give evidence of the candidate’s ability to carry out research?
  • Is there evidence that the candidate has shown originality, and that the thesis makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the particular field?
  • Do you consider that some of the work in the thesis is worthy of publication?”


If you have an honours degree in mathematics or statistics with first or upper second class honours, or a Master’s degree in mathematics or statistics, from the University of Otago or a comparable institution, you are eligible to enrol for a PhD in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. You may be eligible if you lack these formal qualifications but have appropriate proven research experience. You may also be eligible if your degree is in another discipline


Application forms along with various other downloadable documents can be found at the University PhD page. The Head of Department of Mathematics and Statistics will write to you with an assessment of the suitability of your background for PhD study and whether adequate supervision is available in the Department for your proposed research. Your acceptance as a candidate for the degree is dependent on the Department being able to provide expert supervision.


Registration is the mechanism by which the University formally accepts you as a candidate for the degree. Application forms are available from either the Academic Registrar, Student Enquiries or the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Applications may be submitted at any time of the year and should be submitted and approved before the research formally begins. Initial registration is provisional and is reviewed after one year.


PhD students are required to enrol and pay fees each year until the thesis is completed. 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.


The Board of Graduate Studies has agreed that no registration of a PhD candidate should be approved in circumstances where a candidate would be entirely dependent on the advice and guidance of one supervisor only. Choose your main supervisor with care. Stimulating and successful PhD research depends on a good working relationship between student and supervisor.

Staff members and their interests

Consult the research groups or academic staff pages for details.


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.


You must submit a report on your progress to your supervisor by 1 December each year. Your supervisor will also write a report (which must be seen and signed by you) which is forwarded to the Deputy Academic Registrar via the Head of Department.


Three copies of your thesis are submitted in temporary bindings. Usually three examiners will be appointed, none of whom is a supervisor. Two are external (one from overseas and one from within NZ) and one internal. The options open to examiners are that the thesis be accepted (with or without minor amendments), be rejected in its present form but be revised and resubmitted, be accepted for another degree (with or without minor amendments), or be rejected with no right of resubmission. You will be informed of the result by letter from the University Registry. If the thesis is accepted, permanently bound copies are made.

Essential documents

  • Handbook for PhD Studies (Board of Graduate Studies) contains regulations and guidelines for the PhD degree, notes on thesis presentation, general information on registration, enrolment, funding etc.
  • Notes on the Presentation of Theses (University of Otago Library)