Marine Geography (MESci)

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 course by means of a fourth year which enables you to undertake a specialist research project in the area of your choice. It is designed for high-quality 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 programme 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 degree is an exciting blend of the physical and human geography of deep sea marine and coastal environments.

A major component of this course is 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 provides a strong basis for investigation and research in this subject.

Distinctive features

We have a common first term allowing 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 highly 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 course, 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 can widen your career opportunities.

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 Code1D79
Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration4 years
ModeFull time
AccreditationsInstitute of Marine Engineering, Science and TechNlogy (IMarEST)
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 150 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 740 applications.
Typical A level offerAAB. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerAAB. WBQ Core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level, excluding the two required Science/Maths/Geology/Geography A-levels.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-34 points, including at least two Sciences at Higher Level.
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course
Admissions tutor(s)

This is a full-time four-year course which follows the BSc route with the equivalent title for the first three years, but with additional small-group teaching on the methodology and philosophy of research. 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 2017/18 academic year. The final modules will be published by July 2017.

Year one

The degree structure is very flexible. All of our degree programmes 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.

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
Marine EcosystemsEA211510 credits
The Geomorphology of Catchments and CoastsEA213820 credits
Marine Geography Field Skills and Research TutorialEA212920 credits
The Ocean Atmosphere SystemEA211220 credits
Environmental PollutionEA211610 credits
Applied GISEA213010 credits
Coastal HydrographyEA211420 credits
Marine & Coastal Resource SystemsEA213410 credits

Year three

You will complete a marine project based on the practical field or laboratory work you have done in the summer vacation between years two and three.

You will study how research is initiated, funded and executed.

You can also choose specialist modules, although these will vary from year to year and there are sometimes restrictions in availability due to lack of demand, oversubscription, timetable clashes or the need for you to have taken certain other modules first.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Application of Marine ScienceEA310710 credits
Marine Geography FieldcourseEA312510 credits
Research SkillsEA314010 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Marine GeomaticsEA312020 credits
Marine Conservation ScienceEA310610 credits
Environmental Management, Science and PolicyEA311010 credits
Water ResourcesEA311710 credits
Integrated Coastal ManagementEA311410 credits
BiogeographyEA312910 credits
GeomicrobiologyEA313210 credits
Environmental LawEA313410 credits
Coral Reef SystemsEA314510 credits
GlaciologyEA314610 credits
PaleoclimateEA314710 credits
Marine MicrofossilsEA310210 credits
Marine Geography DissertationEA310530 credits
Marine Geography Placement ProjectEA314930 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.

In addition to a year four field course and the Research Project module you have a choice of optional modules.

In consultation with staff, you may seek to publish the principal results of your research project in the scientific literature.

Module titleModule codeCredits
MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits
MESci FieldcourseEA410510 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Evolution of AntarcticaEA410710 credits
ExtremophilesEA411610 credits
Process Geomorphology - from Source to SinkEA411010 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 course 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, environmental geography and water-borne marine geography.

The first semester is common to all degree programmes and you then confirm your chosen course 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 an understanding of how research questions are formulated, funded and executed
  • 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 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, 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.

Based on responses from the 2013-14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey 96% of our graduates were in employment or engaged in further study within six months of graduation, with others taking time out to travel.

Employers included local government plus companies and organisations such as the Environment Agency, Titan Environmental Surveys and Osiris Projects.

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 Environmental Consultant
  • Oceanographic Surveyor

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page 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 are 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 to Greece or even South East Asia to collect data).

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

In your third year the fieldwork programme is more research-led, focussing on interpretative skills, field techniques, teamwork projects and independent study. Again you will undertake day field trips to local areas and also a residential trip to for example, Greece or Spain, looking at marine ecosystems and conservation.

In your fourth 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.

Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.