Marine Geography (International) (MESci)

Entry year


The four year MESci course at Cardiff involves hypothesis testing, critical analysis and problem solving whilst learning about the process and outcomes of research

Marine Geography students carrying out survey work during field course in Jersey
Marine Geography students carrying out survey work during field course in Jersey

The MESci builds upon the equivalent BSc programme by means of a fourth year which enables you to undertake a specialist research project in the area of your choice – and the MESci (International) course also allows you to undertake your third year of study at an overseas university. This is usually, but not exclusively, in North America or Australia. The marks you gain at that university then count towards your Cardiff University degree.

This course is designed for highly qualified candidates who might aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry.

Cardiff is the birthplace of the discipline of Marine Geography in the UK. This degree scheme has been running since 1976 and is an extremely successful training route for employment in the marine and coastal sector or for future academic study. The course is an exciting blend of the physical and human geography of deep sea marine and coastal environments.

A major component of this course is that of hands-on fieldwork including coastal and offshore mapping of the marine environment to understand its physical and biological characteristics. This work involves using some of the most advanced and exciting technology available.

Situated in an estuary with a large tidal range and with access to a wide variety of coastal environments, Cardiff is an excellent base for both traditional fieldwork and innovative sea-time training. The School operates its own Research Vessel Guiding Light, a 12-metre boat used by all undergraduates as part of its research-led teaching programme.

Additional fieldwork currently includes overseas field courses to Jersey, Malta and Spain, where aspects of physical geography (such as biodiversity, water quality and seabed mapping) are combined with applied use within human geography (such as legislation, management and science into policy).

For students interested in professional research careers in Marine Geography, the four-year MESci (International) provides a strong basis for investigation and research in this subject.

Distinctive features

One of the special features of this course is that the credits and grades for year three of your degree assessment are acquired at an overseas institution.

A common first term will allow you to experience aspects of Earth Sciences and Geography before finally deciding upon an honours degree programme.

You will have the opportunity to undertake residential field courses abroad which are led by research active staff and you can experience direct involvement in the research pathway, data collection, monitoring and mapping, and report writing.

This applied and industry-relevant degree draws on the traditional skills of the geographer to observe, measure, map and analyse the significance of a wide range of physical and human variables.

Coastal and offshore fieldwork are an important feature of this degree, enabling hands-on training for students to use modern survey methods rather than just learn about them.

In year four you will complete a master's research dissertation which will widen your career options.

The holistic nature of first year is highly beneficial for those that are still unsure with what career pathway they desire. Alongside the social aspect, the field trips are a great way of developing key skills such as geological mapping, independent research and collaborative fieldwork. The MESci Research Project was particularly valuable as this enabled me to use resources and develop skills directly linked to my current position in industry.

Phalene Gowling, MESci International Marine Geoscience 2013

Key facts

UCAS Code4J26
Next intakeSeptember 2018
Duration4 years
ModeFull time
Accreditations"Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST)"
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 150 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 740 applications.
Admissions tutor(s)

Entry requirements

Typical A level offerAAB, including two sciences (from Chemistry, Physics, Biology,Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Applied Science, Environmental Studies, Archaeology, Computing, ICT, Physical Education (PE), Psychology, or Sports Science) and, where applicable, a pass in the practical element of the science A level. Please note, General Studies will not be accepted.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerThe Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer34 points, including two sciences at HL from Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Applied Science, Environmental Studies, Archaeology, Computing, ICT, Psychology, Physical Education (PE), or Sports Science
Alternative qualificationsAlternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Earth & Ocean Sciences admissions criteria pages.
English Language requirementsIf you are an overseas applicant and your first language is not English, please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our accepted qualifications.
Other requirementsYou will require GCSE Maths at grade C or grade 4 and GCSE English or Welsh Language at grade C or grade 4. 

We are currently working with our students to update and improve the content of this course. The information shown below reflects the current curriculum and is likely to change. The review of the course is expected to be completed by August 2018 and this page will be updated by end of October 2018 to reflect the changes.

This is a full-time four-year programme which follows the BSc route with the equivalent title for the first two years, but with additional small-group teaching on the methodology and philosophy of research. Year three is spent at an overseas university. In year four you will undertake a major research project as well as taking specialised optional modules. 

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2018/19 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2018.

Year one

The degree structure is very flexible. All of our degree courses share a common first semester. This is designed to give you a sound foundation in Earth sciences upon which to build. In total you will earn 120 credits for the year, through a mixture of 10-credit and 20-credit modules.

You will study the following general topics:  The Sedimentary System; Marine Geography Data Analysis; Earth Science Skills; Global Oceans; Marine Geography Fieldwork; Earth and Planetary System Science; Natural Resources and Energy; Environmental Chemistry and Biology; Marine Charts and Hydrography; Dangerous Earth.

At the end of your first semester you will decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of our Earth Science degrees.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Planet EarthEA120110 credits
Earth Surface ProcessesEA120220 credits
Dangerous EarthEA120310 credits
Geographical Information SystemsEA120410 credits
Marine Geography Field SkillsEA120720 credits
Chemistry of the EnvironmentEA121210 credits
Biological EnvironmentsEA121310 credits
Geographical Data AnalysisEA121410 credits
Science and Policy for GeographersEA121510 credits
Exploring the OceansEA121710 credits

Year two

In year two the modules you will take are chosen to provide a wide knowledge base and transferable skills base to make you as employable as possible in a competitive job market. In total you will earn 120 credits for the year, through a mixture of 10-credit and 20-credit modules.

You will study the following general topics: Applied GIS (Geographic Information System); Coastal Hydrography; Marine Geography Field Skills; Marine Ecosystems; Marine & Coastal Resource Systems; The Geomorphology of Catchments and Coasts; The Ocean Atmosphere System; Environmental Pollution.

Module titleModule codeCredits
The Ocean Atmosphere SystemEA211220 credits
Coastal HydrographyEA211420 credits
Environmental PollutionEA211610 credits
Applied GISEA213010 credits
Marine Geography Field Skills and Research TutorialEA214430 credits
Marine EcosystemsEA221710 credits
Coastal Processes and GeomorphologyEA221810 credits
Marine and Coastal Resource DevelopmentEA222110 credits

Year three

You may undertake a research project during your year overseas, usually on a one-to-one basis with an international research expert in the host institution. You will also be able to enrol in courses overseas that are unavailable at Cardiff. You will acquire a wide range of transferable skills and the additional experience will improve your employability and prospects of postgraduate studies.

Our partner institutions are increasing all the time but in the past students have gone to the University of Miami, Rutgers University (New Jersey), University of British Colombia, Wyoming University, University of Vermont, the University of Western Australia or Macquarie University (Sydney).

Module titleModule codeCredits
Research SkillsEA314010 credits
Earth Sciences' International YearEA3198110 credits

Year four

You will complete a master's research dissertation in any Marine Geography related topic that can be supervised in the School. You will work one-to-one with a research supervisor and may interact with a research group.

Since the School is very large and of international research standard, this means you have a wide choice of dissertation topic. Many students develop their own topics and contact a researcher to see if they can supervise it. Alternatively a list of projects is published each year for you to choose from.

The research dissertation is complemented by a Research Frontiers module, in which the latest ideas in Earth Sciences research are discussed. In addition to a year four field course and the Research Frontiers module you have a choice of optional modules:

  • Evolution of Antarctica
  • Marine Carbonate Chemistry
  • Extremophiles
  • Process Geomorphology – from Source to Sink
  • Coastal Science and Policy

You may also be able to choose year three modules you were unable to take previously as options.

Module titleModule codeCredits
MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits
MESci FieldcourseEA412720 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Evolution of AntarcticaEA410710 credits
Process Geomorphology: from Source to SinkEA411010 credits
ExtremophilesEA411610 credits
Coastal Science and PolicyEA411710 credits
IPCC: The Physical Science BasisEA412310 credits
The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences has an excellent tradition of teaching, delivered by lecturers who are experts in their field. In addition the School is able to maintain a friendly and informal approach brought about by staff-student interactions during fieldwork.

The modular degree structure enables the School to offer an exciting and relevant spectrum of vocational degree courses. These cover a wide range of modern geosciences from the traditional geology approach to the more industry-focused exploration and resource geology through to the equally applied environmental geoscience and water-borne marine geography.

The first semester is common to all degree programmes and you then confirm your chosen programme in January of your first year. This offers you a chance to sample university teaching styles before committing to a particular degree or pathway.

Core and advanced knowledge and understanding are acquired via a diverse range of teaching and learning styles including lectures, practicals, seminars, fieldwork, laboratory projects, guided study and small group tutorials with a research scientist.

For the first three years the taught content parallels the relevant BSc degree with, in addition, specialist research training including:

  • in year one a literature review and analysis
  • in year two a research poster
  • in year three (spent overseas) you learn how research questions are formulated, funded and executed via an online module from Cardiff.
  • in year four an extended research project

The fieldwork programme spans all four years and includes both residential and day trips in the UK and abroad. Year two posters and year four oral presentations of research come together for the annual MESci Research Conference which is open to all staff and students.

How will I be supported?

All students are assigned a personal tutor who will hold regular timetabled tutorials. Your tutor will be a specialist in your degree course and will advise you on both academic and pastoral matters.

You will have a nominated supervisor for your major final year project.

You will have access through the Learning Central website to relevant multimedia material, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, further links, electronic exercises and discussion circles. Opportunities for you to reflect on your abilities and performance are available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module.

The University offers a range of services including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, and excellent libraries and resource centres.


You will receive written feedback for written coursework assignments and oral feedback for assessed presentations. 

How will I be assessed?

Modules will be assessed to test knowledge and understanding through:

  • practical assignments
  • essay assignments
  • fieldwork
  • oral presentations
  • dissertation
  • formal examinations.

NOTE: The University welcomes applications from students with disabilities and we may be able to offer alternative assessment methods.

What skills will I practise and develop?

You will acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both those which are discipline specific and more generic ‘employability skills’.

These include:

  • communicating ideas, principles and theories effectively by oral and written means
  • work effectively in a team and as an individual
  • using the internet, databases, spreadsheets, word processing and graphic packages
  • effective time management and organisational skills
  • a commitment to lifelong learning through engaging in the process of personal development planning and ownership of your own learning
  • problem solving, reliability, loyalty, social conduct, tact, attitude to learning and research, leadership, resilience, decision-making and reasoning. 

In 2015/16, 90% of the School’s graduates who were available for work reported they were in employment and/or further study within six months of graduation.

Employers included local councils and government agencies such as the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency, in addition to companies such as Gardline Geosurvey, Anglo American, Geolog International, Sirius Resources and ExCAL.

Typical career destinations for graduates in Marine Geography include hydrographic surveyor, marine conservation officer, water industry, marine environmental consultant, oceanographic surveyor, waste management, port authority officer and marine research.


  • Hydrographic Surveyor
  • Marine Conservation Officer
  • Marine Enviornmental Consultant
  • Oceanographic Surveyor

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2018/19)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

The University reserves the right to increase tuition fees in the second and subsequent years of a course as permitted by law or Welsh Government policy. Where applicable we will notify you of any change in tuition fee by the end of June in the academic year before the one in which the fee will increase.

Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

Students from outside the EU (2018/19)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

Tuition fees for international students are fixed for the majority of three year undergraduate courses. This means the price you pay in year one will be the same in years two and three. Some courses are exempt, including four and five year programmes and Medical and Dental courses. Visit our tuition fee pages for the latest information.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

Specialist equipment for working in the field and any other equipment appropriate for your degree will be provided by the School.

Fieldwork is an integral part of this degree, providing hands-on experience in real field situations.

You will be out in the field with us during the first week of teaching, taking part in a variety of induction events which will help embed you in Cardiff, meet other students on your course in informal surroundings, meet some of your lecturers away from the constraints of the classroom and see some of our local field areas.

Throughout year one you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential fieldtrip, learning field skills relating to coastal survey work and marine management.

Fieldwork is a major component in year two and students currently go on a residential trip either to Malta to study marine ecology and management or Jersey to look at beach processes and hydrographic surveying.

You will also undertake various local day field trips including trawling and hydrographic survey work on the School’s research vessel. We will train you how to accurately make and record field observations, take field measurements and produce professional reports, all skills highly sought after by employers.

Between years two and three you will undertake a five-week individual project, producing a substantial dissertation at the end of it worth a quarter of your final year’s marks. As a Marine Geographer your dissertation will be on a topic and in an area of your choosing (some students gather data locally while others go Greece or even South East Asia to collect data).

Every student will have supervision from a member of staff and depending where you are based you may also have a visit in the field.

In your third year you will have opportunities for fieldwork at your host institution.

In your final year, your residential field trip takes place in an area in the UK or abroad selected by the student cohort. In recent years the MESci field trip has taken place in the northern Pennines, Malta, Ibiza, Sicily, Naples and Southern Spain. Students design and carry out field-based projects to explore their individual research interests with academic staff on hand to direct and help out.

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