Master of Fine Arts

This degree is suitable for you if you want to become a professional arts practitioner. You will carry out original research culminating with a public exhibition and dissertation.

About the programme

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.

Part-time study and low residency 

We know full-time study isn't always possible so we offer a part-time, four year option (flexible movement between our full-time and part-time options is available).

We also offer a low residency option for students based outside Dunedin. Please contact us for more information.

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.

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.

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.