Department of Geology


Course-related terminology used at the University of Otago:

Course: The collection of papers for which a student
is enrolled in a particular semester or year.

Paper: The smallest individual academic components of a course (and thus of a Programme).

Papers are characterised by:

1. being recorded as separate entities on an academic record

2. having some form of result attached to them

3. generating a definable
portion of the tuition fees payable.

Thus the Otago term 'paper' is equivalent to the US term 'course'.

more terminology

International Students - Information

Here you can find application information and links for:

International students are most welcome and important members of our department - adding enthusiasm and diversity to our teaching, research, and social life. Typically, we host around 30 international undergraduate students annually, in addition to our international postgraduate students.

International undergraduate

Our undergraduate teaching draws heavily on our research. We offer undergraduate papers (formal classes) from 100 to 400 level. You can see details under Courses & Subjects> Papers. Topics covered in those papers include introductory geology, New Zealand geology, field mapping, sedimentology, marine geology, paleomagnetism, paleoclimatology, paleoceanography, paleontology, stratigraphy, tectonics, structure, environmental geology, economic geology, geochemistry, mineralogy, igneous and metamorphic petrology, geophysics, volcanic processes, and Antarctic geology.

Some details differ from universities outside New Zealand. For example, we use a different terminology for course structure, as explained on the right. We have a set of core papers (classes) that are taught each year, but we also have optional papers that are taught in alternate years. For a summary of all those papers over a two-year cycle, see the Schedule of Geology Papers.
For international students, the undergraduate paper most commonly chosen is Geol 252 - "Field studies and New Zealand Geology". This first semester (February-June) paper is predominantly field-based, with about two weeks spent at two field schools.

If you wish to apply for admission into our classes, please start at our application information page. If you have specific questions about courses, email or otherwise contact the coordinating adviser for Geology -Professor Ewan fordyce and also send a copy of your email to our Academic Administrator, Adrien Dever. You must provide us with a copy of your formal educational record/transcript, and other evidence of experience in geology/ earth sciences, so that we can advise you on the appropriate courses. We look forward to hearing from you. On the University of Otago main website, see the details under Study at Otago, and the section for international students who are considering coming here for a semester or more.

Important: before you finalise your travel, please check dates for the semesters at Otago. These dates are set by the University, and cannot be changed for personal reasons. For undergraduate courses, you must be here at the start of semester, and you must remain in Dunedin after the end of the semester to sit final examinations after classes finish. If you miss the examinations, you may not gain credit for your course. Examination periods are typically as follows: at the end of Semester 1, for the first 3 weeks of June; at the end of Semester 2, from the 3rd week of October to the end of 3rd week of November.

Important: the exact dates for examinations in particular courses are set by the University administration, and advised about the middle of Semesters 1 and 2. The Department of Geology cannot change these dates to accommodate the plans of individual students.

Important: some field schools (GEOL252, GEOL344) run shortly before the official start of semester - web pages for those classes give details. Some other courses (e.g. Geol 272/372, 263/363) have weekend field trips early in the first semester. Geol 273/373 has a compulsory marine sedimentology course in early July, just before official start of second semester. Please be sure to check the web pages for these papers or others you wish to take.
Remember, semester dates are on the University website at

What’s it like being with us? International students participate in many different geology courses at Otago. Here, the Geology 263/363 Basin Studies class is in the field at the exit to Cave Stream cave.

Geology 263/363 Basin Studies class is in the field at the exit to Cave Stream cave

Comments from previous international students include:

I had a great time in the 252 field course. The labs were pretty challenging, but the field trips made the whole thing more than worthwhile. I know that at home I would not have had the opportunity to spend two weeks out in the field, and definitely not in such spectacular settings. Our trip to Fiordland was absolutely amazing; not only was the scenery beautiful, but the geology was explained in such a way that I could actually understand it despite the obvious complexities. The department is great, too; the professors are friendly and the students form a pretty close group. It was nice to be in a class with so many Kiwis because it was a great way to meet people from down here. If you’re a geology student from the States, definitely take a field course at Otago – you won’t be sorry. Jeb Berman, Brown University, USA

I know that Dave and Lawrence had a great time at your school thanks to everyone in the department. We'll certainly recommend Otago to other students who want to go south.
Raymond A. Coish, Professor Middlebury College, USA

I had a fabulous time at Otago... ...I found my experience at Otago to be extremely fulfilling. The Geology department is a particularly tight knit group. After travelling around NZ I found myself glad to be back in Dunedin. It is a great city and there is never a lack of something to do, whether it be at the pubs or a small cafe.
Lawrence Klein, Middlebury College, USA

If I were to have any advice for anyone it would be to stay for the year if you can. Another piece of advice is to take at least one class that gets you out in the field. How many other Universities take week long field trips? I was so jealous of my classmates when they would talk about their excursions, because as a geologist, that is the fun of it all!
I was highly impressed with the classes I took and heard amazing stories from fellow Americans that were in other, more advanced classes. Above all, I miss afternoon tea in the middle of lab!

Karen Eller, Trinity University, USA

I really, really enjoyed the Field Studies 302 class. It was a wonderful way to make friends, particularly kiwi friends. Most importantly, it made me feel comfortable with the geo department immediately upon my arrival to Otago. I already knew people in my other geo papers on the first day of class due to the field excursion during orientation week.
I also enjoy the friendliness of the department, and the small size. I come from a very small department back home (maybe 30 people), so it was nice to not be too overwhelmed here at Otago.

Suzanne Mills, Bryn Mawr College, USA

International postgraduate

We host a number of international postgraduates each year – mostly at PhD level - and we will welcome other students who would like to complete a degree in a geology department with an excellent international reputation. You should find it helpful to visit our research section to review the research interests of our staff. When you are ready, please contact the appropriate staff member directly and also send a copy of your email to our Academic Administrator, Adrien Dever.

As well as contacting the Department, you must apply for admission to the University of Otago via the international section. If your application is accepted, you will need to pay international enrolment fees – but such fees often may be covered by a scholarship. You may be eligible for a University of Otago scholarship, and you can apply for such scholarships at the same time you apply for admission. The University of Otago PhD Scholarships are competitive scholarships that are awarded to applicants with a strong academic record. These scholarships cover fees and living costs for three years. Many of our international postgraduate students are supported by such scholarships.

Government policy allows international students to enrol for PhD study in New Zealand at the same fee level as for local PhD students. This is not the situation for international MSc students, who must generally pay fees at a higher level – as outlined on the University of Otago website.

Research Higher Degrees & Scholarships Office maintains a PhD website which contains information and forms that postgraduate students will need from time to time.

International fee information

Detailed information about international student fees and scholarships is available on the main University of Otago website.

A section specifically aimed at Study Abroad students is also available. Linked to that there is a page relating to fees and living costs.