Master of Visual Arts

Deep dive into practical- and theory-based research through this advanced qualification. In semester one, you will develop studio work, an oral seminar paper and an essay for critical feedback. You will build on this work in semester two by producing an original exhibition and an extended 7,500-word essay.

About the programme

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. 

You can choose to study at our Dunedin Campus or we offer a low residency option for students based outside Dunedin. Please contact the Postgraduate Coordinator for further information.

Studying part-time 

We know that full-time study isn't always possible. We also offer this programme part-time over two years.


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 presentations of work during seminars and research workshops provide opportunities 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, the 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 art access field. The skills they learn are transferable to a wide variety of employment situations.


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.  

Semester one Level Credits
Studio Practice 2A 9 45
Art Theory Part 1 9 12
Semester two  Level  Credits 
Studio Practice 2B 9 45
Art Theory Part 2 9 15
Total   120

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.