School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Oceanography and Coastal Processes

Are you motivated by a desire to understand processes in the world’s oceans that drive phenomena such as ocean circulation, ocean acidification, sea-level rise or coastal erosion? If so, this course prepares you for a career in applied oceanography, coastal zone management or scientific research. You’ll develop the practical skills needed to collect and analyse data from the marine environment alongside an advanced understanding of ocean dynamics and processes contributing to shoreline change.

You will participate in practical activities during field work in Plymouth Sound, and further afield during the residential field week. You’ll benefit from access to a range of high specification oceanographic instrumentation that you will be trained to independently prepare, deploy and recover. You’ll pursue optional subjects that interest you most.

Looking down over the village of Torcross and the beach at Slapton Sands on the south coast of Devon.

Key features

  • Participate in practical activities during field work in Plymouth Sound, and further afield during the residential field week.
  • Benefit from access to a range of high specification oceanographic instrumentation that you will be trained to independently prepare, deploy and recover.
  • Pursue optional subjects that interest you most from a range including meteorology, remote sensing, marine conservation, hydrographic surveying, modelling ocean processes and marine pollution.
  • Progress into work in oceanographic research and consultancy, coastal zone management and related marine-science industries such as the emerging field of marine renewable energy.
  • Develop your range of practical skills with our own fully-equipped fleet of boats, a new £4.65 million Marine Station used as a base for fieldwork afloat and industry-standard oceanographic and surveying equipment.
  • Choose to take the industry-recognised professional diving qualification (HSE Professional SCUBA) alongside your degree and an optional scientific diving module to provide training and qualification for diving-based research projects and employment (limited places and additional costs apply).
  • Experience an overseas field course that integrates ocean science knowledge and understanding from across the different sub-disciplines to address real-world issues.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • Your first year, shared across the Marine Science Undergraduate Scheme, introduces the full range of topics within the degree and develops your underpinning scientific knowledge and practical skills. You’ll develop your understanding of the Earth’s oceans and the key physical, chemical and biological processes that occur in these systems. You’ll build practical skills and enhance your ability to analyse, present and interpret scientific data through field-based activities.

    Core modules
    • OS101 Introduction to Ocean Science

      This module provides an introduction to the breadth and importance of the field of ocean science and aims to develop skills in scientific enquiry and communication.

    • OS103 Biology and Hydrography of the Ocean

      This module aims to develop an understanding of the diversity of life in the sea and how we explore marine environments. Methods of marine exploration will be studied and a general understanding of where different organisms live and how they interact in marine ecosystems will be developed.

    • OS105 Mapping the Marine Environment

      This module will introduce and help students to develop skills in field survey techniques, collation of data within software and presenting results. A range of primary data will be gathered in the field, both on land & at sea and be uploaded into software for visualisation. The assessment will address techniques, analysis and reporting.

    • OS102 Physical and Chemical Processes of the Ocean

      This module provides an introduction to the main physical and chemical processes occurring in the world's oceans and a foundation in key aspects of underpinning science and mathematics.

    • OS104 Measuring the Marine Environment

      This module will introduce stage one students to the basic skills required to collect, analyse, visualise and present marine data. The module has a focus on the collection and analysis of a variety of marine data sources.

    Optional modules
    • GEES1002PP Climate Change and Energy

      This module provides a scientific evaluation of climate change and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It introduces climate change policy, renewable energy options and societal challenges over GHG reduction measures. Students engage in literature searches and review climate change policy options.

    • GEES1003PP Sustainable Futures

      This module explores the concepts and principles of sustainable development and critically examines their application to a range of real-world contemporary issues. The module provides opportunities to enhance knowledge and understanding and develop key skills by exploring an aspect of 'sustainability in practice' through student-led research.

    • GOV1000PP One Planet? Society and Sustainability

      This module addresses some of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century from a variety of ideological and political perspectives. Through real-world case studies and critical reflection of lived experiences, we explore and debate the complex, interdependent processes underpinning sustainability and global inequality and insecurities. You develop an understanding of key drivers and public policy impacts and consider future alternative scenarios. The emphasis is on active, collaborative, learning via field trips and debates.

    • ENGL405PP Making Waves: Representing the Sea, Then and Now

      The four-week Plymouth Plus module fosters both analytical and creative skills, through problem-based, self-reflective, collaborative and interdisciplinary learning; students devise a major group presentation. Discipline-based skills are focused on the topic of the sea; close attention to classic maritime poetry and fiction encourages basic literary critical and creative skills. The analytical concept of waves is central to the module, and broadens the topic out to foster more general critical, theory-based thinking.

    • GEES1001PP Natural Hazards

      This module examines the major short-term natural hazards that affect the contemporary Earth. The various different hazards will be covered ranging from geohazards including landslides, volcanoes, earthquakes as well as weather related hazards such as tropical cyclones, extra tropical storms. Emphasis is placed upon natural hazard processes, identification, risk potential and hazard mitigation.

    • OS106PP Our Ocean Planet

      In this module students will explore important topical issues associated with our ocean planet. Students will have a creative opportunity to work in teams on a topic of their choice using a project based learning approach. They will develop a variety of communication skills in order to present their ideas in a medium of their team's choice.

    • OS107PP Space Exploration

      This module introduces the wonders of space and humankind's attempts to explore and understand them. Topics range from telescope making, using weather balloons and observing the night sky, to contemporary issues such as black holes, the space station and the possibility of life on other planets. The Immersive Vision Theatre will be used as a planetarium, and to take the students visually through space to other planets.

  • Year 2
  • In your second year, you’ll deepen your understanding of the core aspects of physical, chemical and biological oceanography as well as beginning to focus on the physical processes that shape the open ocean and coastal environments. You’ll receive advanced training in the preparation, programming, deployment, recovery and maintenance of instrumentation and develop a proposal for your final year research project. You’ll also be able to broaden your interests into areas such as meteorology, remote sensing and scientific diving.

    Core modules
    • OS201 Global Ocean Processes

    • OS202 Monitoring the Marine Environment

      Monitoring of the marine environment provides data that underpins research, exploitation, management and policy development. Through this module, students will learn about the practicalities of reliable data collection, be introduced to the full breadth of secondary data sources from across the subject area and develop associated skills in time-series data analysis techniques and interpretation.

    • OS206 Researching the Marine Environment

      This module will provide fundamental skills in developing research projects and planning and executing field studies with minimal supervision. Students will identify and plan an independent research project. They will be introduced to safety and practical issues before being trained in relevant techniques and instrument programming. They will participate in instrument deployment and recovery and analyse the data acquired.

    • OS204 Waves, Tides and Coastal Dynamics

      This module provides an introduction to the characteristics of ocean waves and focuses on how waves and tides interact with the coast and drive the coastal processes that result in shoreline erosion and accretion.

    Optional modules
    • OS208 Meteorology

      This module provides an introduction to the main physical processes occurring in the atmosphere on a range of spatial and temporal scales, with particular emphasis on meteorology relevant to the UK. Meteorological observations and/or measurements will be used to explore the occurrence of a specific meteorological phenomenon (e.g., frontal weather, cloud development, atmospheric flow, extra-tropical cyclone).

    • OS209 Marine Remote Sensing

      This module introduces the theory underlying remote sensing using introductory lectures and laboratory practicals. An opportunity to apply the theory in the remote sensing context is provided by boat and computing work. Remote sensing imagery is introduced early in the module and students work on image enhancement, analysis and interpretation in the latter part of the course, supported by theory lectures and/or workshops.

    • OS207 Scientific Diving

      This module allows suitably qualified students (HSE SCUBA or equivalent) to develop industry and research-relevant skills in measurement and monitoring in the underwater environment using professional SCUBA and related techniques. These will then be applied in a multi-disciplinary context to the planning, execution, analysis and reporting of a field-based sampling activity.

    • OS203 Seafloor Mapping

      This module introduces techniques for mapping the seafloor with an emphasis on the nature, propagation and application of sound underwater for sonar surveys.

    • OS205 Managing Human Impacts in the Marine Environment

      This module will introduce how human activities (such as fisheries, energy supply and mineral extraction) can impact the marine environment, including through pollution and biodiversity loss. The concepts of marine management and conservation will be introduced and methods of preventing and managing anthropogenic impacts will be introduced and evaluated and their role in marine conservation discussed.

  • Optional placement year
  • Gain relevant industrial or workplace experience with the Ocean Science placement.

    Optional modules
    • BPIE338 Ocean Science Placement

      A period of professional training (minimum 26 weeks) spent as the third year of a sandwich programme undertaking an approved placement with a suitable company. This provides an opportunity for the student to gain relevant industrial or workplace experience, to apply knowledge from the first two stages of study and to prepare for employment after graduation.

  • Final year
  • During your final year, you’ll complete your core training in advanced aspects of ocean dynamics and coastal processes and participate in a residential field trip where you’ll use and develop your practical skills. A large proportion of your time will be spent completing your individual research project for which you will be given guidance by a member of academic staff. You’ll also be able to pursue an option module, for example to explore ocean modelling, climate science or marine pollution.

    Core modules:

    OS301 Ocean Science Research Project
    OS303 Ocean Dynamics
    OS306 Coastal Geomorphology & Estuaries

    Optional modules:

    OS312 Marine Science Field Course
    OS314 Oceanography, Coastal Processes and Surveying Field Course
    OS305 Coastal Survey
    OS309 Marine Pollution & Environmental Change
    OS310 Oceans and Climate
    OS311 Modelling Ocean Processes

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BSc Oceanography and Coastal Processes Programme Specification September 2017 5172

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

104-112

A typical offer for 112 points from minimum 2 A levels to include grade C in relevant science, geography, environmental, geology, psychology, design technology, applied science and 104 points is from a minimum of 2 A levels to include a grade C in a relevant science, biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics. Excluding general studies.

BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma: DMM - DDM in a relevant science subject.

BTEC National Diploma modules
If you hold a BTEC qualification it is vital that you provide our Admissions team with details of the exact modules you have studied as part of the BTEC. Without this information we may be unable to process your application quickly and you could experience significant delays in the progress of your application to study with us. Please explicitly state the full list of modules within your qualification at the time of application.

Pass Access (Science), (including GCSE English and mathematics grade C or above or equivalent) with at least 33 credits at merit and/or distinction in science. If not science related Access please contact the admissions team at admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

International Baccalaureate: 26 - 28 points overall to include 5 points in Higher Level science.

English language requirements

For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2017 2018
Home/EU £9,250 To be confirmed
International £12,500 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) Check with School To be confirmed
Part time (International) Check with School To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Fees are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.



BSc (Hons) Oceanography and Coastal Processes focusses primarily on the physical processes that govern ocean circulation from a global scale all the way down to millimetre-scale turbulence, the impact of the ocean on climate and the marine life living within it, and the coastal processes that are so important to modern society within which communities are often located adjacent to increasingly stormy seas. 

The course will develop not only your fundamental knowledge of this environment and the processes occurring within it, but also your skills in using the tools necessary for observing and understanding them. This includes the instrumentation used to measure water properties and currents, the computer software required to analyze the data obtained from the instruments, and research skills that will enable you go on and operate independently in the marine environment throughout your career. We’ll support you throughout the course as you develop these skills, and provide you with the access to our outstanding facilities so that you can have the time you need to learn.

The Marine Station

Our newly built award-winning Marine Station houses lecture facilities overlooking the sea, a wet lab for examining samples, and a wide range of state-of-the-art instrumentation and field equipment.

Discover more about the Marine Station


Paul Aldersley – BSc (Hons) Ocean Exploration graduate

The University is large, well-resourced, and a pleasant place to study. With regards to marine science, the facilities, equipment, and fleet are without comparison anywhere in the country.
Learn more about Paul Aldersley

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