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Tag Archives: Tradition

The History of the Chocolate Fish: A Slice of Fishy Otago History

It’s a huge thing to successfully complete a PhD and Otago is incredibly proud of all the research candidates that achieve this massive milestone.  Because the achievement is so significant we reward successful submissions and completions with a gift of significance.

A gift of significance you say?  Jewellery?  A gold pen?  An embossed shiny name plate with Dr on it?  No!  At Otago we give you a chocolate fish*.

We sent Executive Administrator Susan Craig out in the field to find out about the history of the Chocolate Fish at Otago.

*Note: no fish are harmed in the making of a chocolate fish.

Claire Gallop, Graduate Research School


It’s covered in shiny burgundy foil….

It’s made of delicious Belgian milk chocolate…

And it’s the reward that’s been enjoyed by hundreds of completing PhD candidates for over 13 years…

It’s the prized Graduate Research School Solid Chocolate Fish!

I am in charge of mailing out a chocolate fish to every candidate who is awarded a PhD.  I send chocolate fish right around the world to make sure our PhDs know that we really appreciate the work they do.

Rewarding a PhD with a chocolate fish is an Otago tradition that started over 16 years ago.  The late Margaret Sykes, then manager of the Postgraduate Office within the Research and International Division, bought Cadbury Chocolate Fish from her own purse to gift candidates as they submitted their thesis for examination.  Legend has it that Margaret also waved a sparkly pink magic wand over the thesis to wish it well on its examination journey.

Susan and the wand

When Dr Charles Tustin, the current Head of Abbey College, was appointed Director of the then Research Higher Degrees and Scholarships Office in 2001 (now the Graduate Research School) he continued the tradition of gifting candidates a marshmallow fish on submission.  Charles, always keen on excellent chocolate, added in an even more luxurious treat – the handmade Belgian chocolate fish we give out today, accompanied by a card of congratulations for every completing PhD candidate.

So, if you’re at the start of your PhD journey and receive a Cadbury choccy fish in a workshop, remember – it’s just a wee taster of the delicious treat still to come on that magic day when you finish that PhD!

Make sure you let us know if you think we should reinstate the sparkly pink wand over the thesis for extra luck!

Susan Craig