Otago Polytechnic

Bachelor of Visual Arts


Dunedin School of Art (P Block, Riego Street - click here for a map) or by distance (year two** Painting and Photography specialties only)

Three years full-time

Dunedin - On campus; By distance - some classes at our Central Otago campus and visits to Dunedin (year two** Painting and Photography specialties only)

  • Location
    Study breaks
  • Distance
    18 February 2019
  • Dunedin
    18 February 2019
    14 May 2019 - 1 June 2019
    16 April 2018 - 27 April 2018
    1 October 2018 - 12 October 2018
Looking for a way to translate your creativity into a career in art? Want to gain experience in a range of specialty subjects and discover where your artistic talent truly lies?

This degree will teach you how to become a creative maker, thinker and active agent in a local, national and global context. A qualification in the Visual Arts will allow you to find employment in a diverse range of professions such as practising artist, curator, art educator or researcher. A variety of roles within the digital and film industries would also be possible.

Gain technical, academic and personal skills which will be transferable to a wide variety of fields including education, design, management and marketing. This qualification provides a perfect bridge into further learning as you select from a range of subjects initially and then move into full specialisation, focusing your talents in your chosen field.

Study art at New Zealand's most established school of art and benefit from the nationally-unique range of workshop facilities and the excellent studio-based teaching. Flourish under the guidance of highly experienced lecturers who have national and international profiles and represent a diverse range of approaches and understandings.  

Fee information

The tuition fees shown in the right-hand column are part of the Government’s Key Information for Students (KIS). This data is pulled from a database that the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) control. It is based on an average fee from the previous year.

This means there is always a difference between the TEC/KIS fee shown and Otago Polytechnic’s current indicative fee (other reasons also affect the KIS data such as fee reductions for students granted Recognition of Prior Learning). Due to this, the indicative fee below is the best guide for prospective students.

Information about compulsory student services levy >

Please note: The KIS data only applies to domestic students. Up-to-date international student fees can be found by clicking the International tab in the top right corner of this page.  

Distance option

Our distance option is perfect for those learners who need more flexibility. This is currently only available to those applicants who wish to specialise in Photography or Painting

  • Year one is completed through our Recognition or Prior Learning process (RPL) or advanced standing. This is for those applicants who have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area or a Level 5 qualification or equivalent. You will need to submit a portfolio to demonstrate your experience so your skills can be assessed and rewarded with the appropriate academic credits. With the right level of experience, you will be able to enter directly into the year two, distance option of this qualification. 
  • Year two of this qualification is then completed via distance learning with some classes in Central Otago and visits to Dunedin. Regular visits by Dunedin School of Art staff to our Central Otago campus will also occur. 
  • Year three - we are also seeking approval to offer the Year 3 Painting and Photography courses in Central from 2019. 
Entry requirements
  • You must be able to demonstrate appropriate ability through the submission of a portfolio and you must have completed five years at secondary school with successful completion of units of study in art OR
  • NCEA credits including:
    • 14 credits in each of three approved subjects at Level 3 or above, and
    • Literacy - 10 credits at Level 2 or above, made up of:
      • 5 credits in reading and 5 credits in writing, and
    • Numeracy - 10 credits at Level 1 or above, made up of:
      • specified achievement standards available through a range of subjects OR
      • package of three numeracy unit standards (26623, 26626, 26627- all three required).
  • If you are a mature student, you must demonstrate appropriate ability through a portfolio and associated writings.
  • All applicants must submit a portfolio (15MB file size limit if you are applying online).
  • International students will be individually assessed to ensure they meet degree-level entry requirements and must have achieved the equivalent of Year 13.

All students (international and domestic) for whom English is not a first language:

  • must demonstrate English Language skills with an IELTS overall band score (academic) of 6.0, with no band score lower than 5.5 OR
  • must provide acceptable alternative evidence of English language proficiency depending on the visa decline rate of the country you are from. See here for acceptable evidence and visa decline rates by country.

Please note: All scores must be achieved in a single test completed in the preceding two years. You cannot combine scores from multiple tests. If you have achieved NCEA Level 3 University Entrance you are not required to provide evidence of English Language skills.

Bridging options

The New Zealand Certificate in Arts and Design (Level 4) and New Zealand Certificate in Digital Media and Design (Level 4) provide a great pathway into this degree if you don't hold the entry requirements or have the necessary portfolio.  

Portfolio and writing requirements

Portfolio Requirement

We require examples of your artwork and the ways that you develop your ideas. Your examples need to show us your working processes and your ability to use a range of materials.

If you have been working in the NCEA system, please send us twelve (12) examples of your finished works and of your working processes from your folders.

If you have not been working in the NCEA system, please send us six (6) examples of finished work and six (6) pages of sketches or workbook pages.

Please submit your portfolio digitally (15MB file size limit if you are applying online) or in an A4 folder. Please do not submit originals as we do not return application folders.

Writing Requirement

Please include with your portfolio:

  1. An essay or written text (at least 300 words). You may include writing produced for any of your NCEA subjects or you may write a new piece on any topic of your choice.
  2. A double-spaced letter of not more than one page (300 words) explaining why you want to come to art school and what your experiences of art may have been to date. This may include all or some of the following:

    > Why art is important to you, the community and the wider world
    > Your expectations for your own future after your studies
    > Art galleries you may be familiar with
    > Artists whose work you may know
    > Art skills you may have already gained.

Please contact artoffice@op.ac.nz with any further questions.

Additional documentation

You must supply certified copies of proof of identity, academic records, proof of residency (where appropriate) and a curriculum vitae.

Selection procedure

All submissions are viewed by a panel of academic staff and applicants are accepted on merit based on an evaluation of a portfolio of art practice and evidence of academic skills. An interview may be required. Where the number of successful applicants exceeds the places available, a waiting list will be kept and applicants will be offered vacant places in waiting list order.

Additional costs

The cost of materials, on top of those provided, vary according to individual projects. 

Further study options

This programme perfectly prepares you for further learning and you may go on to study for a Postgraduate Diploma in Visual Arts, a Master of Fine Arts or a Master of Visual Arts.

Programme specific risks

You will complete Health and Safety checklists for specific hazards in your courses. During your study, you will use a range of technical equipment and chemical substances. If you have known allergies or reactions to materials, please indicate these in your application.

You will study

In the first semester, you will gain experience in each of the studio disciplines listed below. This will be supported by visual arts courses in Studio Methodologies, and Art History and Theory that will introduce you to a range of key skills in art-making and research. In the second semester, you will extend your knowledge in two of these studio areas and continue with Art History and Theory. In the second year, you will specialise in a single studio subject, developing your core skills and techniques, experimenting widely and engaging with critical debates as you move towards more independent learning in your chosen area. You will also continue to study Art History and Theory, and Studio Methodologies. In your final year, you will extend your art practice into a sustained body of work for presentation in a public exhibition. The Studio Research and Professional Methodologies courses provide critical, historical and vocational contexts for the development of your studio project in your final year.

Specialist Studio Disciplines

Study Ceramics
We have the largest ceramics arts department in New Zealand with wood, salt, electric and gas kilns, electric wheels and online research facilities. You will benefit from an emphasis on hands-on experimentation in clay-making workshops which explore ceramics as a medium with its own language, skills and history.

Study Electronic Arts
Specialise in Electronic Arts, which inhabit a constantly shifting location in art and media practice. You may choose to explore 2D and 3D animation, film, installation, electronics, projection and online media and audio/video production. Through the study of contemporary practice, you will engage with media arts and reflect on their historical and contemporary position in the art world.

Study Jewellery and Metalsmithing
Develop your artistic eye and practical skills with the understanding that the fundamental reference for jewellery is the human body. Jewellery uses a visual language based on interaction, communication and contact, and may be expressive and intimate or aggressively provocative. Art, objects and adornment for the body use an unlimited palette from precious metal recycled materials. 

Study Painting
Here is an opportunity to develop your artwork so it is relevant to today's society and to national and international contemporary practice. That is the focus of this specialty, although you will also be encouraged to investigate painting movements and methodologies in recent centuries.

Please note: This studio discipline can be studied via distance learning (in year two) with some classes at our Central Otago campus and visits to Dunedin. We are also seeking approval to offer the Year 3 Painting courses in Central from 2019.   

Study Photography
Gain a solid foundation in the practical and theoretical components of black and white, colour and alternative photographic processes. Use and explore a range of equipment and techniques in our well-designed facility. Understand the principles and history of photography as you study different photographic approaches, such as the antiquarian, formalist, documentary, fabricated or manipulated. 

Please note: This studio discipline can be studied via distance learning (in year two) with some classes at our Central Otago campus and visits to Dunedin. We are also seeking approval to offer the Year 3 Photography courses in Central from 2019.  

Study Print
Our internationally-renowned Printmaking Department is well-established and is one of the leading departments of its kind in New Zealand. You will work and learn in its spacious studios and well-equipped workshops, designed to enable you to study and practice a comprehensive range of printmaking processes and related techniques. Experienced and award-winning staff members monitor these programmes, which help you research, explore and develop creative concepts.

Study Sculpture 

Develop a sculptural language through studio workshops focusing on drawing, form and spatial analysis. This department is equipped to international standards with separate workshops for wood, metal and plastics fabrication, a modelling and casting studio and specialist facilities for ceramic shell bronze casting, metal forging, vacuum forming and spray painting. 

Study Textiles
Major in textiles in a visual arts context, examining the value of cloth and its relationship to the body, different genders and classes, and material culture. The field of textile practice can encompass many approaches such as sculptural, 2D and site-specific artworks. We specialise in construction and a variety of print processes such as screen-print methodologies using pigment ink, dye, discharge and burnout applications, manual and digital embroidery and 3D sewing.

Your workload

A full-time programme entails five full working days (or the equivalent) for 32 weeks. Studios are open for extended hours for senior students.

Qualification structure

Bachelor of Visual Arts






Studio Methodologies 1



Art History and Theory 1



Introduction to Studio Practices 1



Introduction to Studio Practices 2



Studio Methodologies 2



Art History and Theory 2



Studio Practice 1



Studio Practice 2



Year One Total






Studio Methodologies 3



Art History and Theory 3



Studio Practice 3



Studio Practice 4



Year Two Total






Studio Research



Studio Practice 5



Studio Practice 6



Professional Methodologies



Year Three Total



Programme Total






Visual Arts Core Studio - Ceramics



Visual Arts Core Studio - Electronic Arts



Visual Arts Core Studio - Jewellery and Metalsmithing



Visual Arts Core Studio - Painting*



Visual Arts Core Studio - Photography*



Visual Arts Core Studio - Printmaking



Visual Arts Core Studio - Sculpture



Visual Arts Core Studio - Textiles



*These studio disciplines can be studied via distance learning (in year two) with some classes at our Central Otago campus and visits to Dunedin. We are also seeking approval to offer the Year 3 Painting and Photography courses in Central from 2019. 

Student loans/allowances

Student loans and allowances are for domestic students only. For information about student loans and allowances please visit the Studylink website. It is important to apply for your student loan/allowance at the same time as you apply for this programme, due to the length of time Studylink take to process. Loan/allowance applications can be cancelled at any time if you decide to withdraw your programme application or if it is unsuccessful.

Recognition of prior learning

If you have extensive knowledge and skills due to practical experience in this area, enquire about our recognition of prior learning process at Capable NZ. You may have already gained credits towards this qualification.

Links to useful websites

Connect with School of Art students, graduates and staff on our very active Facebook page.


While every effort is made to ensure that this sheet is accurate, Otago Polytechnic reserves the right to amend, alter or withdraw any of the contained information. The fees shown in this document are indicative ONLY. Both domestic and international fees are subject to change and are dependent on the development and implementation of Government policies. Please note that additional fees may from time to time be required for external examination, NZQA fees and/or additional material fees.

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