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Physical Geography (BSc)

Entry year


Physical geographers explore the evolution of Earth's surface and the science behind its physical processes.

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Course overview

Our planet is constantly evolving and reshaping itself. We need to understand the science behind physical processes and hazards like flooding and coastal erosion so we can adapt and find solutions to challenges we’ll face in the future. 

On our Physical Geography course, you will explore how the Earth functions and learn about global hazards like volcanoes and landslides and investigate how landscapes evolve over time. You will study physical processes from across the world, from glacial processes to desertification. You will develop skills in mapping and research and gain experience using industry-standard equipment and software. 

We make the most of our location and take regular day trips along the coast and to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. There will also be opportunities to do overseas trips, in the past our geography students have been to Switzerland and Tenerife.

Students on this course are usually interested in the physical world around us and want to use their knowledge and understanding to make a positive difference. Graduates leave with the skills to solve a range of complex real-world problems related to the physical environment and with experience of hands-on fieldwork and cutting-edge research with world-leading scientists.

Distinctive features

Flexible degree schemes - all of our 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.

Placement opportunity - in year three you can choose to do an industry placement and gain invaluable skills and experience.

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 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).

Industry connections - we have excellent links with external employers, consultancies and local organisations like Natural Resources Wales, that will help you to find relevant research projects and placement opportunities.

UCAS codeF843
Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration3 years
ModeFull time

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 Langauge equivalent www.cardiff.ac.uk/study/interntional/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)

Tuition feeDeposit
£null£null

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 (2020/21)

Tuition feeDeposit
£null£null

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.

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. We 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

This is a three-year full-time degree. In your first year you will study core modules and get a strong foundation in physical geography. In year two and three there are core and optional modules so you have some flexibility to choose to study the areas that you’re interested in.   

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) to learn key field skills including mapping and surveying.

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 (such as Marine or Environmental 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 process geomorphology and hydrology. You will gain skills and experience in sampling, data collection and analysis ready for your 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 the physical landscape. 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. You can choose to research an area you’re interested in including topics like hillslope erosion and flooding, future landscape changes and cliff profile changes along actively eroding coastlines.

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 final 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 Environmental Geomorphology. For your optional modules, you can choose to do a further residential field course and study a range of specialist subjects like Global Climate Change.

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.

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 you will also be allocated a supervisor for your dissertation project.

    

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.

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 understanding of spatial and temporal processes relating to a earth system processes, including a broad critical comprehension of the inter-relationships between these at a range of scales
  • a broad understanding of global challenges including risks and hazards associated with earth system processes, including approaches to the governance of these
  • a systematic understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of Physical Geography, including its content, methods and philosophy, and an associated practical understanding of the need for integration of knowledge from cognate sciences, including those related to ocean, atmospheric, physical and environmental sciences

Intellectual Skills:

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

  • Debate, interpret and explain the causes and scales of contemporary and future earth system processes whilst critically applying relevant ideas, concepts and methods
  • Collect, collate, synthesise and critically evaluate a wide variety of Physical Geography data and information, drawing from relevant approaches in cognate areas of science
  • Evaluate current research in selected aspects of Physical Geography, demonstrating an appreciation of the uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of associated scientific understanding
  • Work across disciplines to link knowledge and experience from allied sciences to understand earth system processes

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 physical geography research processes to investigate a range of topical earth surface topics and theoretical concepts
  • Plan, design and execute research related to physical geography, critically using a range of qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis in field, offshore, laboratory and desk-based studies
  • Understand and apply 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 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 applied research

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 applied research environments where decision-making is complex and multi-disciplinary
  • An ability to undertake independent study and personal scholarship, fostered through enhanced personal responsibility, initiative and self-learning experiences
  • An understanding of the skills and competencies needed to secure employment and support ongoing professional development, and be able to apply this to self-reflect, assess and articulate individual employability skills and needs

Careers

Career prospects

With the planet under increasing pressure from climate change and a changing landscape, the knowledge and skills of a physical geographer are in demand. You can use your understanding of the Earth’s processes to find sustainable solutions to many of the complex challenges we face today and in the future.

You can choose to work in a variety of different industries and roles in government, government agencies or consultancies including working as a technical specialist or a geospatial analyst. You will also have employable skills that sectors like insurance, finance, education and planning are looking for.

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.

Fieldwork

Between the impressive mountains in the north and a biodiverse tidal estuary in the south, you will gain a wealth of hands-on experience exploring some of the UK’s most unique areas of geographic interest. We take regular day trips along the coast and to the Brecon Beacons mountain range in South Wales, as well as overseas trips to locations like Switzerland and Tenerife.

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Spring 2020

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