Why study this course
Physical geographers explore the evolution of Earth's surface and the science behind its physical processes.
High quality facilities
You will have access to the latest technologies in surveying and mapping equipment, chemical laboratories and laboratories with Geographic Information System (GIS).
Our excellent links to local organisations, such as Natural Resources Wales and the Severn Estuary Partnership, helps our students to find projects and placement opportunities.
In most cases, you may request a transfer to programmes with a professional placement year, with a year of study abroad, or to the MSci. You may also request a switch to another course in the School at the end of the first semester.
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 get hands-on with industry-standard equipment and software.
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.
Our Master's degree includes 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 and consultancy.
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 go on overseas field trips, in the past we have taken our geography students to Switzerland.
We accept a combination of A-levels and other qualifications, as well as equivalent international qualifications subject to entry requirements. If you are applying to study this course via Clearing, entry grade requirements may be higher than those advertised. Typical offers are as follows:
ABB-BBB (with 1 science subject) or BBB-BBC (with 2 science subjects). Acceptable science subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Maths, Physics.
Extended/International Project Qualification: Applicants with grade A in the EPQ/IPQ will typically receive an offer one grade lower than the standard offer. Please note that any subject specific requirements must still be met.
Our grade range covers our standard offer and contextual offer. We carefully consider the circumstances in which you've been studying (your contextual data) upon application.
- Eligible students will be given an offer at the lower end of the advertised grade range.
- Where there is no grade range advertised and/or where there are selection processes in place (like an interview) you may receive additional points in the selection process or be guaranteed interview/consideration.
32-31 overall or 665 in 3 HL subjects (with 1 HL science subject) or 31-30 overall or 665-655 in 3 HL subjects (with 2 HL science subjects). Acceptable science subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Maths, Physics.
From September 2023, there will be a new qualification called the Advanced Skills Baccalaureate Wales (level 3). This qualification will replace the Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate (Welsh Baccalaureate). The qualification will continue to be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.
Other qualifications from inside the UK
DDM-DMM in a BTEC Extended Diploma in Animal Science, Applied Science, Health Science, ICT, or Sports and Exercise Science.
Acceptance of T Levels for this programme will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Academic School. Consideration will be given to the T Level grade/subject and grades/subjects achieved at GCSE/Level 2.
Please see our admissions policies for more information about the application process.
Tuition fees for 2023 entry
Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.
Fees for home status
Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland
If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2023/24 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.
Fees for island status
Learn more about the undergraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
Fees for overseas status
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.
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.
We have a range of residences to suit your needs and budget. Find out more on our accommodation pages.
We're based in one of the UK's most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.
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 marine 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 2023/2024 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2023.
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 Environmental 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.
|Module title||Module code||Credits|
|World of Dynamic Environments||EA1300||20 credits|
|Exploring Planet Earth||EA1301||20 credits|
|GIS, Maps and Analytical Skills||EA1303||20 credits|
|Geography Field Skills||EA1305||20 credits|
|Understanding the Living Planet||EA1308||20 credits|
|Fundamentals of Geographical Science||EA1309||20 credits|
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 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.
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 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.
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 advanced geographical modelling.
You can choose to do your Masters dissertation on any topic related to physical 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.
Learning and assessment
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 earth system processes, including a broad comprehension of the inter-relationships between these at a range of scales
- A broad and critical understanding of global challenges including risks and hazards associated with earth system processes, including approaches to the governance of these
- A critical systematic understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of Physical Geography, including its content, methods and philosophy, and a critical awareness of the need for integration of knowledge from cognate sciences, including those related to 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
On successful completion of the entire Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following :
- Debate, interpret and evaluate 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
- Critically evaluate current research in selected aspects of Physical Geography, 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 evaluate the science related to earth system processes
- An ability to solve complex scientific problems both creatively and independently
- Model and interpret physical 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 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
- 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 physical 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 to problem-solve as well as reliability, loyalty, social conduct, tact, attitude to learning and research, leadership, resilience, decision-making and reasoning
With the planet under increasing pressure from climate change and a changing landscape, the knowledge and skills of a physical geographer are in demand. As a physical geographer, 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 environmental 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.
Your advanced research skills, innovation and initiative from your Master's degree will be invaluable to employers in academia, government and industry. Many senior positions in physical geography-related careers ask for a minimum of a Master's 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.
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.
HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.