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Physical Geography with a Year of Study Abroad (BSc)


Entry year

Why study this course

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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) software.

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Strong connections

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.

location

Great location

From impressive mountains in the north to a biodiverse tidal estuary in the south, Wales is a playground for geographers with plenty of natural environments to explore.

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Fieldwork opportunities

Regular field trips in the UK and overseas will help you to develop strong fieldwork skills. The cost of field trips is included in your course fees.

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Year abroad

Learn while you travel and experience the landscapes or coastlines, education and culture of a different country with the opportunity to complete a year studying at a university abroad.

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 the 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 experience using 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.

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.

On this four-year programme, you will have the opportunity, subject to academic performance, to spend one academic year studying at one of our partner universities abroad. Studying abroad is a fantastic opportunity to experience other cultures and viewpoints, learn the different styles and approaches to your subject in another country and explore new physical environments, landscapes and coastlines. You will get the chance to make new friends and contacts from around the world. Plus, you will have the opportunity to develop a wealth of life skills and strengths that will help you to compete in an increasingly global workplace, such as adaptability, resourcefulness, and resilience.

 

Subject area: Earth and environmental sciences

Subject area: Geography (physical)

Entry requirements

We accept a combination of A-levels and other qualifications, as well as equivalent international qualifications subject to entry requirements. Typical offers are as follows:

A level

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.

Learn about eligible courses and how contextual data is applied.

International Baccalaureate

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.

Baccalaureate Wales

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.

You must have or be working towards:
- English language or Welsh language at GCSE grade C/4 or an equivalent (such as A-levels). If you require a Tier 4 visa, you must ensure your language qualification complies with UKVI requirements.
- GCSE Maths grade C/4 or equivalent qualification (subject and grade). If you are taking A-level Maths (or equivalent), GCSE Maths is not required. Core Maths may also be accepted in place of GCSE Maths.

We do not accept Critical Thinking, General Studies, Citizenship Studies, or other similar equivalent subjects.
We will accept a combination of BTEC subjects, A-levels, and other qualifications, subject to the course specific grade and subject requirements.

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 subskill.

TOEFL iBT

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

PTE Academic

At least 69 overall with a minimum of 59 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.

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course. If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Other qualifications from inside the UK

BTEC

DDM-DMM in a BTEC Extended Diploma in Animal Science, Applied Science, Engineering, Health Science, ICT, or Sports and Exercise Science.

T level

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.

Qualifications from outside the UK

See our qualification equivalences guide

Please see our admissions policies for more information about the application process.

Tuition fees for 2024 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £9,000 None
Year two £9,000 None
Year three (sandwich year) £1,350 None
Year four £9,000 None

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.

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2024/25 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

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £28,200 None
Year two £28,200 None
Year three (sandwich year) £4,230 None
Year four £28,200 None

Learn more about our tuition fees

Financial support

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.

Costs for sandwich years

During a sandwich year (e.g. year in industry, placement year or year abroad) a lower fee will apply. Full details can be found on our fees pages.

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 pay 15% of the usual Cardiff University fees during your year of study abroad. You will also need to pay for your living costs while abroad, which may include health insurance costs. Further additional costs include travel and visa application fees. Financial support is available. Under the present system, students remain eligible for Student Finance for overseas placements. The Global Opportunities Centre also currently provides a bursary to assist with some of the costs associated with an overseas placement.  Full details will be confirmed when you are considering your year of study abroad options.

Accommodation

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

Living costs

We're based in one of the UK's most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.

Course structure

This is a four-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 four there are core and optional modules so you have some flexibility to choose to study the areas that you’re interested in.   Your third year is spent studying at a partner university in another country.

You are required to achieve a minimum Year 1 average mark of 60% to progress to applying for a study abroad placement.  If you do not, you will be transferred to the 3-year equivalent programme without the year of study abroad opportunity.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2024/2025 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2024.

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.

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.

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 a residential field course to a coastal national park within Wales (either Pembrokeshire or Snowdonia) to learn key field skills including mapping and surveying.

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: Sandwich year

Module titleModule codeCredits
Year of Study AbroadEA3300120 credits

Year four

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 study a range of specialist subjects like Global Climate Change.

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.

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 you will be taught during your year of study abroad will depend on the host institution.  All our overseas partners are of at least a comparable standard to Cardiff University and the partnership goes through a rigorous approval process. You will look in detail at teaching methods in your host institution and discuss these with the School Director of International as part of your application process and Study Abroad learning agreement.

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 four. Your Personal Tutor can offer advice on academic and personal matters. In year four  you will also be allocated a supervisor for your dissertation project.

Academic support for the year of study abroad will be provided to you during your second year by the Director of International for the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and planning support by colleagues at the Global Opportunities Centre. Advice regarding choice of university, aims of the year, academic regulations and module choice will be given by the Director of International, who will be available to discuss ideas, concerns and issues with you..

The School Director of International works closely with the Global Opportunities Centre to support you  in applying to the host university, provide advice on finances, visas and all the practical arrangements involved in studying abroad. Global Opportunities  will organise a pre-departure session and provide you with a pre-departure pack which includes an informative guide. Members of staff from the Global Opportunities Centre will happily answer any questions you may have.

The School Director of International will meet with you to review and agree your courses abroad as part of signing off your Study Abroad Learning Agreement.  This will give you the opportunity to review the teaching, learning outcomes and assessment methods at the partner university and we will ensure these are appropriate for you as a Cardiff University student. If there are assessment methods that are new to you, we will support you in being prepared for this.

A requirement of the Year of Study Abroad module is that you complete an online reflective journal and meet to discuss this monthly with your Personal Tutor.  This provides a structured and required monthly meeting with your Cardiff University Personal Tutor to allow you to review your study progress and for any concerns or needs to be raised and addressed. You can also contact your Personal Tutor or the Director of International as and when needed.  You will have access to the full Cardiff University online resources and Student Support Services while abroad.  The comprehensive support services of the Students’ Union are also available to you throughout. 

The School Director of International will work with you and with their contact at the Partner Institution to resolve any issues with the partner Institution itself, drawing on support from Global Opportunities where there are University-wide partnerships, as appropriate.

All partner universities are of similar standing to the Cardiff School Earth and Environmental Sciences, and have mechanisms for academic and pastoral support, so you will be additionally supported through the academic and pastoral care arrangements of your host university.

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-environmental-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 a disability or extenuating circumstances.

How you will be assessed during your year of study abroad will depend on the host institution.  All our overseas partners are of at least comparable standard to Cardiff University and the partnership goes through a rigorous approval process.  The marks gained from all your credits at your host institution will be reviewed by the Chair of the Exam Board and the Director of International in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.  The marks are collated and converted into one equivalent Cardiff University mark for the 120 credit Year of study abroad module.  This will be calculated using the University mark conversion tool. This mark will count 10% weighting in the calculation of your degree average.  You will discuss the grade conversion methodology with the Director of International to ensure you understand it thoroughly before you sign your Year of Study Abroad learning agreement, as you will not be able to challenge it at a later date.

You will be required to complete a reflective journal during your Year of Study Abroad and to discuss this monthly with your Personal Tutor.  This is to ensure you meet the study abroad learning objectives of evaluating your own experience, noting the challenges and benefits of your year abroad and comparing and contrasting the study of your subject in your host institution with that in Cardiff University.  There will be no mark for this work and it will not count towards your module or degree outcome.  Discussing your reflective journal with your Personal Tutor every month will also ensure that you remain connected to Cardiff University and supported by the School, and will allow you the opportunity to raise any concerns or needs within a required activity.  

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:

  • The flexibility, resilience, open-mindedness and ability to approach a subject from different perspectives, that can be gained in the year of study abroad.
  • 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 and placements

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.

Placements

Yes.  The opportunity to undertake a study placement in year three at a partner institution in another country.  In recent years, study has been available at universities in the USA, Canada, Australia, Sweden and the Netherlands.

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 a residential trip to Snowdonia, and an overseas trip to Europe. Previous locations include Switzerland and Tenerife.

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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.