Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts

The perfect opportunity to undertake practical and theory-based guided art research. Develop and display mastery of the professional, technical and conceptual skills through an original exhibition and associated writing. The Master of Visual Arts is a logical extension to this programme if you decide to continue your study journey.

About the programme

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.

Studying part-time

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


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 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 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 art access field. The skills they learn are transferable to a wide variety of employment situations.

Programme 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. 

Semester One Level Credits
Studio Practice 1A   45
Research Methodologies   15
Semester Two    
Studio Practice 1B   45
Contextual Studies   15
Total   120

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