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.

2020 NSS results for our Earth Science degrees including BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology

  • 97% of students felt that staff were good at explaining things.
  • 94% of students agreed the course was intellectually stimulating.
  • 94% of students were satisfied overall with the quality of the course.
  • 96% of students felt they had been able to access course-specific resources (e.g., equipment, facilities, software and collections) when needed.
  • 93% of students were satisfied with the teaching.
While no course-specific NSS data are yet available for 2020, we’re very proud of our 2019 NSS results:
  • 100% satisfaction rate for overall teaching on the course.
  • 100% of students said our staff were good at explaining things and made the subject interesting.
  • 100% of students said the course was intellectually stimulating.

Scholarships for outstanding applicants

The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences’ scholarship scheme recognises and rewards students joining our degree courses who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement. 
Scholarships of £1,000 will be awarded to the two applicants in earth sciences who achieve the highest grades in their A level or equivalent exams. The scholarship will be awarded during their first year of study at the University of Plymouth.

Call our Clearing hotline: 0333 241 6929

Contact us today to discuss your options and secure your place on one of our courses with vacancies this September.

Find out more about Clearing

Key features

  • 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.
  • 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’.
  • 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.
  • Receive essential field safety equipment free as part of your welcome package.

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
    • GEOL1001 The Dynamic Earth

      This module introduces a dynamic view of how the Earth operates as a series of inter-related systems and provides students with the factual and conceptual basis required to begin to understand these systems. It integrates different geological sub-disciplines via an introductory field excursion, where the basics of mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, stratigraphy and geological map-work will be put into practice.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • GEOL1006 Fieldwork and Key Skills

      This module introduces Earth Science students to geological fieldwork and will instruct students how to take field notes, make geological sketches. It will also instruct students in a range of key skills necessary, such as, using learning resources to communicate effectively, citing sources of academic literature, avoiding plagiarism, using digital geospatial data and personal development skills for future careers.

    • GGP1206 Environment and Climate

      Here we continue our overview of contemporary physical geography (which begin in GGP1205). The module is structured around key themes that are prominent in geographical thinking about environment al processes and change. Lectures provide a framework for understanding these themes, and we explore in more detail local examples in laboratory and practical sessions.

    • GGP1207 Hydrology and Geomorphology

      Here we begin our overview of contemporary physical geography. The module is structured around key themes that are prominent in geographical thinking about the environment. Lectures provide a framework for understanding these themes, and through supporting laboratory classes we explore examples of their local manifestation using quantitative data, graphic and spatial statistical analysis.

  • 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 the Spanish Pyrenees. Core geological modules and the specialist long term landscape evolution 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.

    Core modules
    • 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.

    • GEOL2003 Geospatial Techniques

      The module develops professional approaches to the collection, analysis and presentation of geospatial data (e.g. geological/geomorphological maps and related Earth imagery) within the Earth Sciences.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    Optional modules
    • ENVS2005 Weather and Climate

      Understanding weather and climate is essential for developing in-depth knowledge on how climate is changing today and will change in the future. This module will develop intellectual and practical skills in critical analysis of weather and climate data. In addition, an examination of the scientific evidence for current and predicted effects of weather and climate will be addressed.

    • GGP2206 Quaternary to Anthropocene

      The Earth has undergone significant and fundamental changes during our current interglacial period (the last ~12,000 years), to the point of a new Geological epoch being suggested: the Anthropocene. This module focusses on deepening students’ understanding of how our planet has moved from one that was nature-dominated to the current culture-dominated environment we inhabit, at both local, continental and global scales.

    • GGP2207 Catchment to Coast

      Practically all human-environment interactions take place within river catchments and the coastal zone. To address key environmental challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change and sustainable resource management, we need to understand how these integrated systems function. This module provides the process knowledge required to contribute to global and local debates, and includes field and laboratory work.

    • GGX2203A 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.

    • GGX2203B 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.

  • Year 3
  • 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. Develop advanced field skills during a field course in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, Sicily or Death Valley (USA).

    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
    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • GGP3207 Desertification and Dryland Change

      Drylands comprise 47% of the world’s land surface, and are home to well over 2 billion people. Although there tends to be a perception of drylands as barren, dead landscapes, these environments are environmentally dynamic, complex and highly sensitive to change on a very diverse range of timescales. This module focuses on the physical dynamism of desert landscapes through the lens of land degradation in the 21st century.

    • GGP3208 Restless Landscapes and Resilience

      The earth’s surface has been shaped throughout its history by rapid-onset natural processes. With large human populations now occupying many landscapes vulnerable to such geohazards, understanding high-magnitude, low-frequency natural events is crucial. This module explores geophysical and hydrological hazards, how geomorphology assists in understanding them and how communities can build resilience to them.

    • 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.

    • GGX3204 Big Data & Spatial Analytics

      This module provides an overview of advanced spatial analysis concepts and facilitates practice of data processing and management skills. Data manipulation through programming is introduced and the concept of big data is presented. Themes and practice around the acquisition, processing, analysis, visualisation and application of big data are explored, drawing on examples from across the natural and social sciences.

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 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

112 - 120

A level
112-120 points range including a minimum of 2 A Levels, relevant subjects Biology, Mathematics/Use of Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Environmental Science/Studies, Applied Science, Geography, Geology, Design Technology. Excluding General Studies.

BTEC QCF Extended Diploma/RQF National Extended Diploma: DMM – science related subject. You are encouraged to contact admissions@plymouth.ac.uk if you do not meet this criteria.

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 encouraged to contact admissions@plymouth.ac.uk if you do not meet this criteria.

IB
28 - 30 points overall. English and mathematics must be included.

GCSE 
Mathematics and English language grade C.

English language requirements.

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

Fees, costs and funding

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

New Student 2020 2021
Home/EU £9,250 To be confirmed
International £13,800 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) £770 To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. For more information about fees and funding please visit www.plymouth.ac.uk/money.

Undergraduate scholarships for international students

To reward outstanding achievement the University of Plymouth offers scholarship schemes to help towards funding your studies.

Find out whether you are eligible and how you can apply

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Science and Engineering and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Additional fieldwork and equipment costs.

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.

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.

Discover more about our field courses

Pembrokeshire fieldwork


2nd year geology students on a field trip to Pembrokeshire.

The focus of this trip is to further develop geological mapping expertise, using the dramatic landscape and geology of St David's Head, where you will be set the task of mapping a section of coastline and moor in an independent mapping exercise. Subsequently you’ll undertake a series of exercises tailored to your mapping camp destination. 

Inspiring lecturers

Geology Professor Iain Stewart recently worked as scientific consultant on the series Seven Worlds, One Planet, hosted by Sir David Attenborough and produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit.  

“The Natural History Unit and Sir David Attenborough are absolutely at the top of their field when it comes to programmes of this nature, and it has been fascinating to work with them. I believe the final series will ignite people’s interest in the planet once again as it sparks that personal and emotional connection required for people to really take notice.”

Read more about Iain's work with the BBC

Where could a career in geology take you?

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

Listen to our graduates

Jess - Trainee Geophysicist at Fugro

Our graduate, Jess talks about her time at the University of Plymouth and her course, BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology.

Lydia

Our graduate, Lydia talks about her time at the University of Plymouth and her course, BSc (Hons) Physical Geography and Geology.

People

Geologists are in demand globally. From meeting challenges associated with sustaining energy supplies, to developing low-carbon economies, and understanding, designing and mitigating against changing climates, there are many exciting opportunities available.

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

Updates and news from our students and staff

Gain insight into what's happening in earth sciences at the University of Plymouth. Enjoy reading about staff success, research, field trips, learning opportunities, placements and more.

Read our latest newsletter




Celebrating 50 years of geography

2019 marked the 50th anniversary of geography as a degree subject at the University of Plymouth.

In the last half century, 6,394 students have graduated from our geography programmes and 154 staff have worked with us, supporting and carrying out world-class research and teaching.

*These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Unistats is updated annually in September.