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Environmental Geography (MSci)

Entry year


Discover how to analyse and solve wide-ranging environmental problems with a focus on learning how to conduct research.

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Environmental Geography fieldwork by the River Towy

Course overview

Are you passionate about finding solutions to the most urgent environmental threats facing our planet today? Our scientific understanding of the natural and physical environment is key to addressing issues like climate change, pollution, and land degradation.

On our Environmental Geography Masters course, you will explore how the Earth functions and the science behind human impact on the planet over time. You will study environments across the world and the pressures they face today and in the future. You will learn about a wide range of environments, from the extreme poles to tropical coral reefs. You will use the latest technologies and develop skills in geographical mapping, research, analysis and problem-solving. 

We make the most of our location and take regular day trips to Gower, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and the Brecon Beacons. There will also be opportunities to do overseas trips, in the past we’ve been to the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Our Masters degrees involve a fourth year of study where you work on an independent research project with a world-leading scientist from the School and their research staff. You will develop the advanced research skills needed for a career in academic research.

Distinctive features

Flexible degree schemes - all of the School’s degrees have a common first semester that introduces you to geosciences and geography. You can then decide whether to stay with your chosen degree or switch to another in the same School.

Hands-on fieldwork in the UK and overseas - you will get plenty of opportunities to develop your fieldwork skills with regular day trips and residential trips in Wales and overseas. Wales is like a playground for environmental geographers. From impressive mountains in the north to a biodiverse tidal estuary in the south, we have a huge range of natural environments to explore.

World-leading experts and facilities – you will be taught by world-leading scientists and have access to the latest technologies in surveying and mapping equipment, chemical laboratories, laboratories with GIS (Geographic Information System) and a 12-metre research boat, the RV Guiding Light.

Industry connections - we have excellent links with our alumni working across the world and with external partners including employers, environmental regulators and local organisations like Natural Resources Wales. These connections help students to find relevant and highly topical research projects and will often offer practical help, advice and summer placement opportunities.

UCAS codeY32N
Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration4 years
ModeFull time

Learn how to tackle contemporary global environmental problems such as climate change or pollution management with your own research project.

Entry requirements

Grades ABB - BBB, including one science or grades BBB-BBC with two science subjects. Science subjects include Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Geology, Biology, Geography, Computer Science, Environmental Science. Please note, General Studies will not be accepted.

Extended Project Qualification: Applicants with grade A in the EPQ will typically receive an offer one grade lower than the standard A level offer. Please note that any subject specific requirements must still be met.

The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.

DDM - DMM in one of the following subjects: Applied Science, Sports and Exercise Science, Health Science, Animal Science or ICT.

34-32 points or 665 in Higher Level subjects, including one science at Higher Level. Alternatively 32-30 or 655 in Higher Level subjects with two science subjects. Science subjects include Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Geology, Biology, Geography, Computer Science, Environmental Science

Alternative qualifications may be accepted. For further information on entry requirements, see the School of Earth & Ocean Sciences admissions criteria pages.

GCSE

Grade C or grade 4 in GCSE English Language.

IELTS (academic)

At least 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each sub-score.

TOEFL iBT

At least 90 with minimum scores of 17 for writing, 17 for listening, 18 for reading and 20 for speaking.

PTE Academic

62 with a minimum of 51 in all communicative skills.

Trinity ISE II/III

II: at least two Distinctions and two Merits.
III: at least a Pass in all components.

Other accepted qualifications

Please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our other accepted language qualifications.

Extended Project Qualification: Applicants with grade A in the EPQ will typically receive an offer one grade lower than the standard A level offer. Please note that any subject specific requirements must still be met. Typical Welsh Baccalaureate Offer: The Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate will be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.   Alternative qualifications may be accepted. You will require GCSE Maths at grade B or Grade 6 and GCSE English Language at Grade C or Grade 4 or an accepted english language equivalent www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/international/english-language-requirements/undergraduate.   English Language Requirements for non-UK applicants Typical IELTS offer: Applicants, whose first language is not English or Welsh, are required to have obtained a score of at least 6.5 in the IELTS (Academic) exam or equivalent with at least 5.5 in each component, i.e. speaking, reading, writing and listening.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Students from outside the EU (2020/21)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Additional costs

The fieldwork costs for your core modules are included but you will need to contribute towards food if it is provided during the trip. You will need to pay for any optional fieldwork modules. The cost of these trips will be capped at an amount determined by the school. Students facing financial hardship may be eligible to apply to the Cardiff Financial Assistance Programme for help with these costs.

Course specific equipment

You will need suitable clothing including warm weather, wind and storm-proof jackets and walking boots. The school will provide all health and safety equipment as well as specialised field equipment.

Accommodation

We have a range of residences to suit your needs and budget. Find out more on our accommodation pages.

Course structure

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 2020 and this page will be updated by end of October 2020 to reflect the changes.

This is a four-year full-time course and you study for your Bachelors and Masters degree at the same time. The first three years are structured in the same way as the BSc course and then in year four you will complete your Masters qualification.     

In your first year you will study core modules and get a strong foundation in environmental geography. In year two to four there are core and optional modules so you have some flexibility to choose to study the areas that you’re interested in. Both year three and four include a research dissertation.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

Year one

In your first year, you will study core modules designed to give you a strong foundation in Earth sciences and geography.  Topics include oceans, climate, earth processes and global environments. You will develop essential geographical skills like map and chart work, GIS and basic geographical data analysis.

We will go on a residential field course to a coastal national park within Wales (either Pembrokeshire or Snowdonia) where you will learn key field skills including mapping and surveying techniques.

All of the degrees in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences study the same first semester. After semester one you can decide whether you want to continue with your original choice or switch to one of the other degrees (e.g. Marine or Physical Geography).

You earn 120 credits for the year with each core module worth 20 credits.

Year two

In your second year, you will build on the knowledge from year one and start exploring more advanced concepts like biogeochemistry, marine ecology and the ocean-atmosphere system. You will gain skills and experience in sampling, data collection and analysis ready for your research dissertation in year three.

We will go on an overseas residential field course to a coastal location in Europe where you will develop your skills in environmental monitoring and surveying. In the past, we’ve been to the Netherlands and Switzerland.

In the summer between year two and three, you will do five weeks of independent research to prepare for your dissertation in year three. In the past students have looked at issues relating to soil and water quality and trends in climate.

You earn 120 credits for the year. This is made up of 40 and 20 credit core modules and a choice of 20 credit optional modules.

Year three

In your third year, you will have more freedom to shape your degree and choose modules that fit with your career ambitions. You will also develop essential professional skills and knowledge that all employers are looking for.

You earn 120 credits for the year. The core modules include your dissertation and investigating extreme environments from a biochemical perspective. For your optional modules, you can choose to do a further residential field course and study a range of specialist subjects like Marine Environmental Systems or Global Climate Change.

Year four

Year four is when you study for your Masters. Your core modules include your dissertation (60 credits) and a fieldwork module. For your optional modules, you can choose from topics like business and consultancy and scanning the research horizon.

You can choose to do your Masters dissertation on any topic related to Environmental Geography that we can supervise in the School. You can either choose from a list of potential projects circulated by the School or you can work with a supervisor to design a project in an area you’re particularly interested in.

You will work one-to-one with a research supervisor throughout the year and possibly with a wider group of research students and industry professionals. Some of our best Masters research projects have been published in the scientific literature.

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.
Students tecting water quality of a river
Environmental Geography students testing a lake in Wales for its water quality.

Learning and assessment

How will I be taught?

We are a friendly and informal school and you will be taught by world-leading experts involved in cutting-edge international research.

Our teaching approach is a mix of theory and practical and includes: lectures, laboratory work, fieldwork, tutorials, workshops and seminars. You will also be encouraged to learn independently and within groups throughout the course, developing a wide range of skills which will be essential for your future employment including project management and organisational skills as well as developing your competence in applying information technology and using state-of-the-art field techniques and equipment. 

How will I be supported?

Supervision

At the start of the course you will be allocated a personal tutor who you will meet with regularly for tutorials. Tutorials are fortnightly in the first year and then monthly in year two and three. Your personal tutor will be a specialist in your chosen degree course and can offer advice on academic and personal matters. In year three and four you will also be allocated a supervisor for your third-year dissertation and final year projects.

Facilities

We have a Learning Central website where you can access videos, images, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, links to further reading, electronic exercises and discussion circles. Where possible, lectures will be recorded so you can watch and study in your own time.

The Learning Central website also has a ‘Personal Development Planning’ module that supports you in regularly assessing your progress and meeting your development needs.

Support services

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

Diversity

We aim to create an inclusive, supportive and welcoming environment that respects the dignity of staff and students of all ages, ethnicities, disabilities, family structures, genders, nationalities, sexual orientations, races, religious or other beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds. Read about our commitment to the Athena SWAN principles and our Bronze status (https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/earth-ocean-sciences/about-us/equality-diversity-and-inclusivity).

How will I be assessed?

We will be assessing your level of knowledge and understanding in each module through a combination of assignments, presentations, fieldwork, examinations and a dissertation. You will receive written and oral feedback on your coursework and there are opportunities for informal feedback throughout the course.

You will complete a wide range of assessments, from traditional essays, data interpretation exercises and posters on topical themes to more interactive assignment experiences including group presentations, technical reports and briefing papers. These different assessments are designed to give you professional assessment experience and help you prepare for employment.

NOTE: The University welcomes applications from students with disabilities and we endeavour to offer reasonable alternative assessment methods wherever possible.   We have an Alternative Fieldwork Policy which is adopted in cases where a student cannot attend a scheduled, taught field course, or part(s) thereof, because of extenuating circumstances.

What skills will I practise and develop?

The Learning Outcomes for this Programme describe what you will be able to do as a result of your study at Cardiff University. They will help you to understand what is expected of you. 

The Learning Outcomes for this Programme can be found below:

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the entire Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • A systematic and critical understanding of spatial and temporal processes relating to a range of environments, including a broad comprehension of the inter-relationships between environmental, chemical and physical systems at a range of scales
  • A broad and critical understanding of environmental  resources and associated global challenges, including approaches to the governance of these
  • A critical and systematic understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of Environmental Geography, including its content, methods and philosophy, and an associated critical awareness of the need for integration of knowledge from cognate sciences, including those related to Earth System, ocean, atmospheric, physical and environmental sciences
  • A rigorous appreciation and application of the scientific process, including the design and testing of hypotheses, and the formulation of new concepts
  • Formulation, design and use of appropriate laboratory, field, and/or computational methodologies relevant to a high level research project

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the entire Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following :

  • Debate, interpret and evaluate the causes, scales and impacts of contemporary and future environmental issues whilst critically applying relevant ideas, concepts and methods
  • Collect, collate, synthesise and critically evaluate a wide variety of environmental data and information, drawing from relevant approaches in cognate areas of environmental science
  • Critically evaluate current research in selected aspects of environmental science, demonstrating an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of associated scientific understanding
  • Work effectively across disciplines to link knowledge and experience from allied sciences to critically understand the science related to a range of environments and to evaluate the relationship between environmental processes and society
  • Ability to solve complex scientific problems both creatively and independently
  • Model and interpret environmental geographical data to generate hypotheses that can be tested with additional data or observation

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the entire Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Critically analyse and interpret a range of different types of data related to the environment as part of research processes to investigate a range of topical environmental issues and theoretical concepts
  • Plan, design and execute research related to the environment, critically using a range of qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis in field, offshore, laboratory and desk-based studies
  • Critical application of methods used to acquire geospatial data and represent such data in appropriate cartographic and graphic formats using appropriate platforms, including GIS
  • Address research problems involving the integration and analysis of diverse and often incomplete and uncertain data using appropriate qualitative and quantitative methodologies and approaches
  • Demonstrate advanced practical skills and competence in information technology, geographical information systems, cartographic, statistical and other analytical techniques
  • Undertake effective project management and organisational skills through independent working and team work
  • Understand and the practical limitations, logistics, safety and ethical aspects of data gathering in various environments, and apply this understanding, as appropriate to advanced, applied research
  • An ability to independently plan a complex project at the frontier of a research topic
  • Model complex numerical environmental geographical data and draw appropriate conclusions from such modelling

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the entire Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • An ability to effectively communication of knowledge, ideas and arguments in a variety of formats using oral, written, and visual media to both specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • An ability to work competently individually or as part of a team in both problem-setting and problem-solving within a range of advanced, applied research environments where decision-making is complex and multi-disciplinary
  • An ability to undertake independent study and advanced personal scholarship, fostered through enhanced personal responsibility, initiative and self-learning experiences
  • A commitment to lifelong learning through engaging in the process of personal development planning and ownership of own learning
  • An ability in problem-solving as well as reliability, loyalty, social conduct, tact, attitude to learning and research, leadership, resilience, decision-making and reasoning
Student working on a mapping exercise
Student completing a mapping exercise on Caerphilly Mountain.

Careers

Career prospects

With the planet under increasing pressure from climate change, over-exploitation and pollution, the knowledge and skills of an environmental geographer are in demand. An environmental geographer will play an important role in a greener, low carbon future, using their understanding of the Earth to find sustainable solutions to the challenges we face in the future.

You can choose to work in a variety of different industries and roles including conservation and environmental management, as an environmental consultant or a geospatial analyst. You will also have essential employable skills that sectors like insurance, finance, education and planning are looking for.

Your advanced research skills, innovation and initiative from your Masters will be invaluable to employers in academia, government and industry. Many senior positions in Environmental Geography related careers ask for a minimum of a Masters level qualification.

Some of our past students have gone on to work at the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, local government, environmental consultancies and environmental charities.

In 2016-17, 92% of the School's graduates who were available for work said they were in employment and/or further study within six months of graduating.

Jobs

  • Environmental Advisor
  • Software Analyst
  • Environmental Consultant
  • Pollution Monitor

Fieldwork

Our location in South Wales is perfect for studying environmental geography. We have easy access to a huge range of natural environments, with mountains to the north and the Severn tidal estuary in the south. Naturally, we will spend some time studying these varied landscapes and training you in essential fieldwork skills, such as map-reading, landscape identification and the use of a compass.


We also take our students on several residential field trips. In the past these have included exploring the impacts of glaciations on the environment of Snowdonia National Park, visiting a modern glaciated landscape in the Alps, and investigating hydrology and river systems in the south of France.

All of the travel and accommodation on our field trips is paid for by the School. We will only ask you for a small contribution towards food and drink for each trip.

Students on fieldwork in the Swiss Alps
Environmental Geography students on residential fieldwork in the Swiss Alps.
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