School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology

Are you interested in exploring how the Earth and its landscapes have changed over tens of millions of years or developing an understanding of natural hazards? Physical geography and geology examines how the Earth’s surface is shaped by natural and human processes. You'll gain a scientific appreciation of areas including climate change, glaciology and volcanic eruptions, and develop a range of laboratory and field skills in diverse, international settings.

You will undertake fieldwork in a range of exciting locations: Iceland, Sicily, Spain and Cyprus, developing and expanding your scientific and transferable skills. You will also progress your skills at your own pace using our open access laboratory, LABplus. You can spend your second year of study abroad, studying in Canada, Australia, USA or Europe through our direct exchange, Erasmus or ISEP programmes. In the 2016 National Student Survey, 94% of students were satisfied with this course.

Key features

  • Receive essential field equipment and e-books for free as part of your degree package at the start of your first term.
  • Benefit from world-class teaching from our research-active geology and geography staff members, ensuring your learning is always current.
  • Study modules dedicated to addressing the connection between physical geography and geology, such as ‘long-term landscape development’.
  • Take part in fieldwork in a range of exciting locations such as Iceland, Sicily, Spain and Cyprus to develop and expand your subject specific and transferable skills. You can follow a route through this course where all compulsory residential fieldwork costs are met from tuition fees, though some fieldwork options may require additional funding.
  • Progress your skills in our open access laboratory, LABplus.
  • Work towards becoming a Chartered Geologist, our accreditation by the Geological Society helps you to gain the required experience. The world’s oldest and most prestigious national learned society for geology.
  • Develop skills further by applying to spend Year 2 studying abroad in Canada, Australia, USA or Europe through our direct exchange, Erasmus or ISEP programmes.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • In your first year, you'll build a foundation in physical geography and geology to understand mineral- and rock-forming processes. Core modules include Earth history and structure, the fossil record, biogeography, geomorphology, and surface processes. Laboratory classes will help you develop a range of key analytical skills and you’ll acquire essential field skills in the diverse landscapes of south-west England.

    Core modules
    • GEOL1004 Palaeontology and Stratigraphy

      This module provides an introduction to: (a) stratigraphic principles and methods; (b) palaeontology and the fossil record, including the processes of fossilisation and the morphology, ecology, stratigraphic ranges and uses of different groups of fossil organisms.

    • GGP1201 Earth and Environmental Processes 2

      The module continues to provide an overview of contemporary physical geography develops the student's use of the tools needed to investigate contemporary issues in the subject. It focuses on the use of more sophisticated laboratory methods and introduces the students to applied quantitative data analysis, and the examination of geospatial data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

    • PGG1001 Physical Geography and Geology Interactions

      This module introduces key concepts in geology and physical geography to develop a dynamic view of how the Earth operates as a series of inter-related systems. It uses an integrative short field course to demonstrate how geological and physical geographical processes interact to develop landscapes over time, and introduces students to some basic techniques for observing and interpreting Earth's surface environments.

    • GEOL1002 Earth Materials

      This module provides an introduction to the origins and properties of Earth materials including the common rock forming minerals, and the igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rock groups.

    • GGP1200 Earth and Environmental Processes 1

      The module provides an overview of contemporary physical geography and develops the student's use of the tools needed to investigate contemporary issues in the subject. It will also introduce simple geographical data presentation methods and provide foundational knowledge of data manipulation methods and descriptive statistics.

    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.

    • 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.

  • Year 2
  • In your second year, you’ll study Earth surface systems and a range of techniques and methods in physical geography and geology - developing your field skills in the dramatic environments of southern Spain. Core geological modules and the specialist long term landscape development module build on knowledge developed in your first year, while a range of physical geography options allow you to develop your physical geography knowledge in areas that interest you. You can choose to develop your skills further by applying to spend this year studying abroad in Canada, Australia, USA or Europe through our direct exchange, Erasmus or ISEP programmes.

    Core modules
    • GEOL2007 Landscape Evolution

      This module examines the concepts and techniques for reconstructing landscape development over Quaternary or longer timescales. The geomorphological landforms within fluvial, coastal, glacial and planetary settings amongst others are considered and how such landscapes change in space and time when subjected to tectonic, climatic and human related perturbations.

    • APIE217 Preparation for a Year Long Work Placement in Earth Sciences

      This module is designed to assist students in their search and preparation for a year long work placement. It is aimed at students who would like to undertake the placement to enhance both programme specific and employment-related skills during Stage 3.

    • GEOL2001 Sedimentology and Palaeontology

      This module examines the theory and techniques of paleontological and sedimentological analysis. A range of paleontological data will be investigated to analyse past environments. Modern and ancient sedimentary systems will be evaluated in terms of the processes operating at the time of deposition.

    • GEOL2008 PGG Fieldwork

      The module provides training in field data collection techniques, planning for fieldwork and conducting fieldwork in a professional, safe and ethical manner. Techniques are to include mapping, logging, surveying, material descriptions and related methods appropriate for reconstructing terrestrial and marine earth surface processes and environments through time.

    • GEOL2004 Stratigraphy and Earth History

      This module provides learners with an understanding of the theory and concepts for of the elucidation of Earth History, including litho- bio- and chronostratigraphy, geochemical correlation and isotopic dating methods, sequence stratigraphy and basin evolution. It also provides training in the use and application of key techniques using real-life scenarios.

    Optional modules
    • GGP2200 Quaternary Environments and Archaeology

      This option module examines climatic and biotic changes and human-environment relations during the Quaternary period, and provides training in, and understanding of, several key palaeoenvironmental and dating techniques. Particular reference is made to the British Isles and to the last glacial/interglacial cycle.

    • GGP2201 Catchment and River Environments

      Catchment and river processes shape and integrate physical and human landscapes. Almost all human-environment interactions take place within river basins which are the fundamental unit for environmental management. Geographical knowledge of land and water processes, i.e. how catchment and river systems work and respond to human impacts, is essential to underpin management decisions that support food and water security.

    • GGP2202 Landscape Ecology

      This module examines the principles and applications of landscape ecology ¿ a young discipline that examines the way in which spatial pattern and ecological processes interact in landscapes. The module examines pattern and process at both the patch and the landscape scale, introducing a variety of methods through which these phenomena can be studied.

    • GGX2203 Geographical Information Systems

      Module provides grounding in theory and practical techniques of GIS. Lectures are on theory, methods and spatial literacy. Practical work covers stages of handling geospatial data, construction of GIS models and automation, provides exposure to a range of techniques in spatial analysis and visualisation, and gives context and experience to spatial literacy concepts. Knowledge and skills are developed in project work.

    • GGP2203 Coastal Environments

      This module provides an introduction to coastal processes and geomorphology. The first part deals with the processes that drive coastal morphological changes, such as sea level, tides and ocean waves. The second part discusses the characteristics of a variety of coastal landforms, and briefly looks at links between geomorphology and coastal management. The module includes a 1-day field trip.

    • GGP2204 Cold Environments

      This module provides an overview of the geomorphic processes operating and the landforms found in cold environments and will focus on present day glacial, periglacial and fluvioglacial environments. It will include material on Quaternary climates, past glaciations and relic landforms.

  • Optional placement year
  • Take advantage of our optional placement year, giving you the opportunity to develop your geological skills in the workplace and gain valuable experience.  Find your perfect placement with the help of our employability service and benefit from specialist workshops and tutorials in your second year, helping you prepare for your year in industry.

    Core modules
    • APIE316 Placement in Earth Sciences

      This module aims to provide an opportunity for professional training of at least six months duration with an approved company or host organisation between stage 2 and 4. While on placement, students will gain experience of how Earth Science is used in the workplace, be able to apply their Earth Science knowledge and expertise, and learn further skills and relevant techniques.

  • Final year
  • In your final year, you will undertake an independent field- or laboratory-based project for your honours dissertation, which is supported by a programme of professional skills development. You’ll also develop specialist knowledge and skills through a wide range of final year option modules spanning the spectrum of geology and physical geology, ranging from geohazards to coastal zone management. Develop advanced field skills during a field course in Iceland, Sicily or Cyprus.

    Core modules
    • GEOL3002 Earth Science Independent Research Project and Professional Skills

      An independent research project on an Earth science topic, normally involving field and/or laboratory work on a topic relevant to the degree programme. Independent work is linked to skills development appropriate to the management of the project and entry and success in the professional workplace.

    Optional modules
    • GGP3200 Restoring Freshwater Environments

      This module develops a critical understanding of how humans have impacted natural catchment processes and the techniques available for sustainably restoring degraded environments where a legacy of historical mismanagement has degraded the environmental value of freshwaters, destroying the aquatic habitat and increasing flood and drought hazards.

    • GGP3201 Long Term Ecology and Conservation

      This module considers the response of organisms (plants, animals) to human impact, climate and ecological change on Quaternary timescales. We examine human-environment interactions in the Anthropocene; origins and trends in biodiversity; evolution & extinction; ecosystem processes and biogeochemical cycling; long-term conservation. The module links modern ecology and biogeography with long-term ecology.

    • GGX3203 Work Based Learning in Geography

      This module provides an opportunity for work based learning. Students work with an appropriate host organisation for a minimum of 100 hours, engaged on activities relevant to geographical skills, knowledge and expertise.

    • GGP3204 Biological Conservation

      This module examinee the pursuit of biological conservation. Drawing on a wide range of case study material, in temperate and tropical, terrestrial and aqueous environments, the module examines the drivers and rationales for biological conservation, and the role of stakeholders, policies, legislation and practices in achieving it.

    • GEOL3010 Engineering Geology

      This module examines the application of earth science techniques and knowledge to civil engineering. Includes desk studies, remote sensing interpretation, database analysis, UK and European Codes of Practice, site investigation design, ground model development, engineering geology in a range of construction situations, and technical reporting.

    • GGX3201 Advanced Fieldwork in Geography

      Students will undertake an advanced field study, relating to key human and / or physical geographical issues in the visited area. After an introduction to key themes in the context of both urban and rural areas, students will conduct a group research project of their own design.

    • GGP3205 Global Climate Change

      This module is concerned with climate and environmental change in the past, present and future. Different timescales of climate change and their potential mechanisms are examined in detail. We critically review the process of future climate change prediction and review societal response options.

    • GEOL3004 Advanced Palaeontology and Sedimentology

      This module examines paleontological and sedimentological concepts, theory and data via a holistic and systematic approach. Modern and ancient sedimentary systems will be evaluated in terms of facies analysis, geochemistry and petrography. Case studies and related datasets will be investigated to analyse past environments and environmental change.

    • GEOL3006 Geological Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing

      Examines 1) the collection of digital datasets using a range of remote sensing techniques (e.g. satellite imagery, digital elevation models), and 2) the analysis of such remotely sensed data using computer based Geographical Information System software within the Earth Sciences for research and applied purposes.

    • GEOL3008 Advanced Geological Fieldwork

      A residential fieldtrip centred on the analysis of the geological evolution of a region, where students will integrate their own field observations with published work from a variety of locations in developing and understanding of the geological history of that region and its wider significance to the Earth Sciences.

    • GEOL3009 Earth Science Professional Case Studies

      This module allows students to undertake an individual analysis of an advanced geological dataset with an applied or research emphasis. Outcomes are reported in a professional style consultancy document or research paper underpinned by advanced scientific literature. Within groups, students integrate findings and communicate their wider geological significance in a professional public forum.

    • GEOL3011 Petroleum Geoscience

      This module provides a practical based training in the strategies, methodologies and techniques used in exploration for, and production of, conventional and unconventional petroleum reserves (oil, natural gas, shale gas, tar sands). The module also provides a theoretical background to how petroleum resources form and the scientific basis of the techniques used in their exploration and extraction.

    • GGP3202 Tectonic Geomorphology

      The module focuses on how landforms can be created and modified by tectonic processes and how geomorphology can be used to interpret the nature of tectonic activity. An examination of the direct and indirect impact of tectonics on geomorphological systems at local through to regional and global scales.

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 Physical Geography and Geology Programme Specification September 2017 5369

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

116-128

A level
Depending upon subjects studied, from a minimum of 2 A levels, to include grade C from at least one A level subject from list of subjects below: biology, mathematics/use of mathematics, physics, chemistry, environmental science/studies, applied science, geography, geology or technology, excluding general studies.

BTEC
DDM-DDD – science related subjects within a Science related BTEC 18 Unit Extended Diploma.

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.

Access
Pass an Access to HE Diploma (science based) with at least 33 credits at merit. You are encourage to contact admissions@plymouth.ac.uk if you do not meet this criteria.

IB
28 - 30 points. 28 points overall to include 4 at Higher Level in two science subjects. 30 points overall to include 4 at Higher Level in one science subject. English and mathematics must be included.

GCSE 
Mathematics and English language grade C.

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.



Discover more about our course

I work for the largest environmental consultancy in Europe. I am currently on a two year graduate fast-track scheme which offers the chance to gain in-depth knowledge and further qualifications leading to consultant status.

Chris Goatman BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology

Find out more about BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology

Field courses

The field is the best natural laboratory for developing a real understanding of all aspects of the subject, allowing you to put into practice all the theoretical material you learn in lectures, seminars and lab classes.

At Plymouth you will have opportunities for extensive overseas fieldwork.

Discover more about our field courses

Additional fieldwork and equipment costs

This course includes residential fieldwork. Typically, where the fieldwork is a compulsory part of the course, transport, accommodation and the majority of food costs are paid by the Faculty.

Some courses offer alternative or optional field courses with an additional cost.

Find out more information

Dissertation

Recent projects have included studying landslides in the Isle of Wight, glacial geomorphology in Scotland and sedimentary projects in the UK, Spain and Cyprus.

You can choose a project with either a geological or geographical flavour

Find out more about the dissertation

Matt Bishop – graduate profile

Since graduating in 2014, Matt has been working towards his eccentric ambition; to complete the first circumnavigation of the planet with a scooter and a side car, all in the name of charity and giving remote communities a voice.

Research

Our world-class research keeps staff at the cutting edge of recent scientific developments within the field.

Explore the interdisciplinary research carried out within Earth sciences.

Find out more about our research

Careers

Our graduates leave with a highly desirable suite of skills for all types of organisations and careers.

Find out about the career possibilities accessible with a geology degree.

Find out more about careers in geology

Potential High Achievers Scheme

In the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences we recognise that our students are the future leaders in our subject disciplines and core to the development of a sustainable planet. We know that our applicants will thrive in the environment we can provide, and we want to ensure our best applicants become our future.

The scheme is now open for students who have applied to study, from September 2017, any full-time undergraduate course within the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, including chemistry. We will be contacting applicants who are not only on course to achieve top marks but who have an outstanding personal statement, in order to offer them a chance to receive an unconditional offer immediately.

Find out more about the scheme.

Professor Iain Stewart MBE

The overlapping diversity of disciplines here at Plymouth makes it a great place to study geology, and our fantastic geological ‘backyard’ is ideal for an outstanding range of fieldwork experiences.

Find out more about Professor Iain Stewart

People