Master of Public Health (MPH)
The MPH takes one full-time year of study or two half-time years. Students complete a research thesis or a dissertation plus two papers. The papers that accompany a dissertation are usually DPH papers that the student has not already completed, although one of the papers may be substituted, with the approval of the Faculty, from papers offered for another degree.
The aim of an MPH thesis or dissertation is to give the student the opportunity to research a major public health problem using principles and methods developed within the course as a whole.
Students will master skills in:
- developing a research proposal to explore a specific research question;
- identifying and accessing the resources necessary to undertake the research;
- reviewing and analysing relevant literature;
- choosing a research methodology appropriate to the problem and rigorously applying that methodology;
- reporting the project particularly its purpose, background, methods, findings, conclusions, and recommendations;
- interpreting the findings and identifying the wider implications of the project especially for public health in New Zealand.
Admission to the MPH programme is subject to approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Health Sciences), based on previous training and experience, and the recommendation of the Department and the School of Medicine.
The usual prerequisite for the MPH is the Diploma of Public Health, but other equivalent qualifications may be accepted. Entry to the MPH will depend on available resources for supervision, and on the student’s performance in the DPH. Currently students are required to achieve an average of 73% in their DPH to be considered for entry.
Public Health Medicine registrars may be eligible for early entry to the MPH in order to meet training requirements to start the thesis or dissertation in the first year of their training. Such candidates must have achieved a standard satisfactory to the Board of the Faculty of Medicine in the papers taken in the first semester of the DPH.
Early Development Research Projects
Students who meet the prerequisites and wish to proceed to an MPH should contact Professor Rob McGee, the convener of the postgraduate research student programme, early in the process to discuss projects and supervision arrangements. This applies to all students, even if you are already involved with one of the research groups or involved in an existing project. Prospective supervisors should advise the student to make contact with the convener. A general outline of the Department’s approach to supervision of research student’s projects is given in the Departmental Guidelines for Research Supervision.
If you are an overseas student wishing to enrol in a MPH in the Department you should first contact the International Office for advice about studying at the University of Otago (click here).
The topics listed here are MPH projects for supervision in the Department:
- Family size, pets, atopy and lung function - longitudinal analysis from the Dunedin Study
- Sleep and obesity in children
- The social supply of cigarettes to young people in New Zealand
There is a range of other research areas and topics in the Department. Click here to see a list of staff research interests.
Once they have identified a topic and supervisors, prospective MPH students will be required to submit a research proposal to the Research Advisory Committee for approval before commencing their research.
MPH Scholarships and Other Financial Support
Master's students can now apply for scholarships at any time during the year. Scholarship applications must accompany your research proposal and admission form to be submitted to the Research Advisory Group. Refer to Admission above. Further information on scholarships available can be found here.
Once a student is enrolled in a MPH, the Department is able to offer financial support for students to attend a scientific conference each year, and some supplementary funding may also be available to support the student’s MPH research. Requests for support need to be endorsed by the supervisors. Request for Research Student Funding.
Research Advisory Committee Review of MPH Proposals
The RAC is a committee of experienced researchers from our Department, which meets once a month, from February to November. The RAC is responsible for the Department’s policy on postgraduate research students, including their admission and supervision. This is a positive process, designed to ensure that the proposed research is feasible and properly planned, and the process provides a further safeguard for the student’s best interests.
A MPH student based in our Department needs to submit a research proposal to the RAC, which meets on a Thursday. Click here for a template outlining the format of the proposal, together with dates for RAC meetings. This information is also available from Rob McGee or Nicola Casey. The proposal is to be submitted by the student to the Research Student Convener by email, and copied to Nicola Casey. It must arrive by the Monday morning preceding the Thursday meeting. Proposals should be accompanied by an admission form.
Submission of a proposal may take place after the student has enrolled. However, in most instances a student may be able to prepare and submit a proposal prior to enrolment.
The proposal that is submitted to the RAC must be endorsed by all named supervisors. This can be confirmed by signing a hard copy or by an email to the convener. Feedback from the committee meeting will be provided by letter to the supervisors and/or verbally within a week of the meeting. This can then be discussed with the student.
Biostatistics: Biostatistical advice should be sought early in the planning phase of quantitative research projects. Depending on the nature of the project, it may be appropriate to have a biostatistician named as a supervisor or advisor on the proposal and to include a data analysis plan in the proposal for the RAC.
Review of proposals for MPH students external to the Department: Students who are based in other Departments, Schools or Universities but are co-supervised by staff of our Department, also have their projects reviewed by the Research Advisory Committee but using a different process. The supervisor from our Department is responsible for submitting the proposal to the RAC and the feedback goes to the research team via this person. In this instance, the RAC review is aimed at offering constructive feedback on the project.
Enrolment takes place through the Student Records Office in the Student Information Centre, Information Services Building, Cnr Cumberland and Albany Sts. Information on enrolment is found here.
There is an online handbook which provides information and guidance for all research master's degrees at the University of Otago.
Memorandum of Understanding for Master's Supervision
The Department now expects an MoU to be completed between each new
research student and his or her supervisors. These templates include
information about the expectations that the Department has of students
and supervisors, and should be used in preference to the University
Students are required to be enrolled for a minimum of one full-time equivalent year for the thesis component of a Master’s degree. Students are also required to be enrolled at the time of submitting their thesis. More information can be found here.
Candidates must submit three copies of their thesis or dissertation to Nicola Casey following completion of their work. One of these copies will be returned. A temporary/soft binding should be used to enable any required corrections to be made.
Every thesis/dissertation submitted must include an abstract, not exceeding 500 words, in a form suitable for publication. Masters’ theses are limited to 40,000 words of text, excluding appendices, footnotes and bibliographies. Dissertations are limited to 20,000 words excluding appendices, footnotes and bibliographies.
Notes on the preparation of theses are available.
Masters’ theses are assessed by at least two examiners, at least one of whom is external to the University. These examiners will be appointed by the Dean of the Faculty on the recommendation of the Head of Department. The candidate’s supervisors can’t be examiners, but may make a report on the work for the examiners to consider.
Dissertations are assessed by at least two examiners appointed by the Head of
Department, at least one of whom is from outside the Department in which the student is enrolled. Supervisors can’t be examiners, but may make a report on the work for the examiners to consider.
Written reports are required from all internal and external examiners, and a
final recommendation is made by the internal examiner(s) on the grade for the thesis or dissertation and the level of award of the degree. The reports and final recommendation are sent to the Assistant Vice-Chancellor for approval and transmission to the Registry.
The grade for the thesis/dissertation is A+, A, A-, B+ etc.
The level of award of the degree, which may depend on paper results as well as the thesis/dissertation result, is:
- With Distinction (80 or above, A- to A+)
- With Credit (70-79, B and B+)
- Pass (50-69, C- to B-)
Resubmission of a thesis or dissertation is not permitted except on the recommendation of the examiners.
There is no specified timeframe for the completion of the examination process.
Students will be notified of the result of the examination by a letter from Student Records. They will then be required to submit two hard-bound copies of the thesis, corrected if necessary, before the Master of Public Health can be awarded.
These are available to most master's thesis students for up to two months after submission while their theses are being examined. They are paid at the rate of $13,000 per annum pro rata. For further details: Application Form and Conditions; Reporting Form.
University Website for Prospective MPH Students
Please look at the University website for further information about studying for a MPH in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine. This website has detailed information on regulations, scholarships, MPH handbooks, etc.
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