Please note there are no vacancies on this course for September 2014

Three students looking at a map on a table

About this course

Accreditations and partnerships:

Virginia Commonwealth University Institution of Environmental Sciences
  • Entry year: 2014/15
  • Course code: FF89
  • Applications: UCAS
  • Level: Undergraduate
  • Tariff points: 300
  • Department: Geography and Environmental Management
  • Campus: Frenchay
  • Duration: Three years full-time; four years sandwich
  • Delivery: Full-time, sandwich, part-time (not day release)
  • Study Abroad: Yes
  • Programme leader: Dr Chris Parker
  • Key fact: This course is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences and the Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences.


Would you like to understand the science behind the key environmental challenges facing human society, including: climate change, resource shortages, flooding, and ecosystem endangerment?

Would you like to be able to make informed recommendations on the most appropriate approaches for managing the natural environment?

This course studies both the science of the natural environment and the way in which it is managed by society. As is typical of many physical geography degrees, this course develops your understanding of the biological, chemical and physical processes that operate across our planet. However, this course also encourages you to consider the different ways humans can manage these natural forms and processes.

You will develop a critical understanding of environmental systems (including rivers, coasts, ecosystems, deserts and climate), environmental resources (including water, forests, soil and energy) and environmental management approaches.

If you think you might be more interested in a degree that focuses on:

>> Structure

Student's view

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my three years on this course and it has enabled me to learn some of the skills needed to pursue a career in the environmental field." 3rd year BSc Geography student



This course initially provides a solid grounding in geography before you choose a selection of areas to specialise in. These specialisms include ecology and conservation, resource management, river and coastal management and climate change. Alongside, you will also develop key analytical, communication and business skills.

See descriptions of the module content and assessment.

Year 1

During your first year, you will develop fundamental geographical knowledge and skills within the following modules:

  • Environmental Challenges
  • Earth Science
  • Geographies of Globalisation
  • Geographical Field Study
  • Geographical Skills

See how a year one student's timetable may look.

Year 2

As you progress into your second year, you can start to tailor your course to suit your interests.

You will take two core modules:

  • Researching Physical Geography
  • Professional Development for Geographers and Environmental Managers

In addition, you will select optional modules from the lists below:

Two of the following:

  • Climate Change: Tracing the Record
  • Understanding Coastal Dynamics
  • Geo-Ecology

Plus two of the following:

  • Understanding River Dynamics
  • Hot Deserts: Surviving Extremes
  • Managing Global Resources

Optional Placement Year

You are encouraged to spend their third year in a work placement. Undertaking a placement is a fantastic opportunity to get yourself a foothold on the employment ladder. The curriculum in the second year provides support in securing this.

Final year

In the final year you have complete flexibility to study the aspects of physical geography and the environments that are of most interest to you. You will complete an independent project on a topic of your choosing and choose a further three modules, typically from:

  • Global Warming and Environmental Hazards
  • Managing Rivers and Coasts
  • Biogeography and Conservation
  • GIS and Remote Sensing Applications
  • Advanced Geographic Expedition
  • Environmental Management in the Global South
  • Renewable Energy
  • Integrated Water Management

Please note:

  • Course structures and module contents are regularly reviewed to ensure that they remain up to date and relevant, so some of them may change before the course starts or whilst you are on it. However, the overall aims and broad content of the course will remain the same.
  • This structure is for the full-time course delivery only. For part-time delivery, the same modules will be studied over a longer period and the structure will differ.

"In the 'Research in Physical Geography' module, through lectures and the field trip, I learnt a lot about how research for a dissertation is carried out. This has helped me feel much more confident about my dissertation." 2nd year BSc Geography student

"I have immensely enjoyed my final year of this degree and think the modules I chose have been an influencing factor... Overall I think that this final year has seen my academic skills progress whilst allowing me to have an enjoyable, relaxed university experience."  3rd year BSc Geography student.

Learning and Teaching

Our lecturing staff achieve consistently high scores on the National Student Survey and provide a friendly, enabling environment for learning. They are active researchers or industrial consultants and are aware of modern advances in the discipline.

The course is taught through a blend of learning activities, which include lectures, seminars, small group work, laboratory classes, fieldwork and workshops.

Through our Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme, first year students receive mentoring and support from second year students. Find out how we use PAL to enhance the learning experience across our courses.

Find out more about our department's approach to learning and teaching.

For more details see our full glossary of learning and teaching terms.

Study time

Lectures, workshops/seminars, group project work, and tutoring account for 12 hours of contact time per week. However, as a full-time student, you will be expected to spend at least as much time again in essential independent study and preparation for assessments.


Modules are assessed through various combinations of examinations, essays, projects, presentations and field exercises. Most coursework is undertaken individually but there are some group assignments. Examinations take place at the end of the first, second and final years.

See examples of module content and assessment.

For more details see our full glossary of assessment terms.

>> Features

Special Features

Professional accreditation

This course is accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) and the Committee of Heads of Environmental Sciences. The IES is a leading professional body for professionals and academics in environmental science.

Professional accreditation is often favoured by employers and indicates that the course's teaching, learning and research are aligned to high-quality professional development.

IES Student Membership

As a student on this degree you can apply to become a Student Member of the IES free of charge. You may then use the post-nominal StMIEnvSc. You can download the Student Membership Pack online.


We strongly recommend that you do a work placement after your second year. Your placement will help you gain valuable work experience and apply knowledge and skills in a practical situation. It will also give you a firmer idea of your career goals and will help guide your final year options and dissertation.

We offer support and guidance to help you find a placement. You will be assigned a tutor who may visit your workplace and will be available if you have any problems.

See some examples of student placements.

"I want to go into environmental consultancy after graduation. I realised this after spending last summer volunteering at a renewable energy network (WREN), the planning department at Cornwall County Council and at a sound consultancy firm. Each of these provided me with real life insight and I was able to see what I enjoyed." 3rd-year BSc Geography student


Field trips are an important part of this physical geography degree and you will be able to take advantage of three residential and numerous day trips during the programme.

In Year 1 you will spend a week studying river ecology, coastal management, woodland ecology and landscape evolution in Dartmoor.

During Year 2 you will develop your ability to perform rigorous research and deliver effective presentations during a week spent around the Brittany coastline.

In Year 3 there is the opportunity to spend two weeks on an advanced geographic expedition to an exotic location (recent destinations include Iceland, China and Kenya).

"I participated in a field trip to Brittany to pursue a series of research activities and conduct assessed presentations based on our findings. The presenting aspect was one that scared me, however, I surprised myself by how quickly I became comfortable and more confident."2nd year BSc Geography student

Find out more about our field trips.

Study abroad

You may have the opportunity to spend your second year in a study exchange at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the US. Places on the exchange are competitive and are usually allocated on the grounds of academic achievement during Year 1 and an interview.

Study facilities

Laboratory classes and fieldwork are important elements of all years of study. Geography students have access to physical geography laboratories, which are equipped for soil and water analysis, palaeo-environmental work, geological analysis and surveying. A suite of computer rooms support software for word processing, data analysis and presentation and spatial enquiry.

Find out more about the facilities and resources UWE has to offer.

See where your degree could take you.

In 2011, a group of final year students went on "From Ice-cap to Ocean". The aim of the six-week Iceland research expedition was to study the impact of hydropower on glacial windows.

Supported by funding from the Royal Geographical Society, RANNIS (Icelandic Centre for Research) and UWE, the team studied river corridors and hydropower development. 

Have a look at some of their photos from the expedition.

>> Careers

Careers/further study

You can use the geographical skills acquired on the course to pursue a career in this discipline. Alternatively, seek one of the traditional graduate occupations, where employers recognise the personal and academic qualities of geography graduates. You could go into employment in a wide range of sectors, including environmental consultancy, conservation, logistics, business management, education, finance and research.

The job roles our graduates take up are varied and include local authority development officer, teacher, environmental consultant, business manager, environmental business co-ordinator, marketing manager, planning analyst, local authority environment officer, energy consultant, armed forces officer and GIS analyst. For those wishing to teach geography at secondary school level, this degree course offers a good foundation for a postgraduate teaching qualification. 

Graduate destinations

Find out what our graduates are doing six months after graduating - includes examples of careers, employers and further study. Download a PDF from graduate destinations.

Creating employable students

UWE places emphasis on employability and skills development at every level. Students gain valuable real world experience and graduate with diverse career opportunities and a competitive place in the job market thanks to work placements, volunteering, opportunities to study abroad and UWE initiatives that nurture talent and encourage innovation.

In the first year of this course, you will study a variety of employability-related activities to enhance your job prospects. These include presentation skills, report writing, time management and team working. As you progress, you can customise your employability and professional skills to suit your needs.

See great graduate prospects for further information.

Be inspired

Read Louise's story of becoming a Permitting Officer within the Environment Agency within six months of graduating from her degree.

Useful links

Prospects Career options with a degree in geography

Guardian - what to do with a degree in environmental science/physical geography

The UWE careers service provides guidance and support throughout your studies in addition to useful resources, CV checks, career coaching and details of current job vacancies.

>> Fees


FeeCost (£) / per year
Full-time home / EU9,000
Full-time home ( ELQ )9,000
Full-time home / EU placement1,125
Part-time home / EU (per 15 credits)1,125
Full-time offshore9,000
Full-time offshore placement1,125
Part-time offshore (per 15 credits)1,125
Full-time International10,750
Full-time International placement3,000
Part-time International (per 15 credits)1,344
Full-time International (per 15 credits)1,344

Supplementary fee information

For information about fees and funding for courses please see our fees and funding pages.

>> Entry


Joining instructions

For students starting this course in September 2014, view your joining instructions. For more information about joining the University, please see our New Students pages.

Typical offers

  • Tariff points: 300
  • GCSE: Grade C or above in English Language and Mathematics
  • A-level subjects: No specific subjects required. Points from General Studies and AS-Level subjects (not taken onto full A-Level) can be included towards overall tariff. You must have a minimum of two A-Levels.
  • Relevant subjects: Geography, Environmental Studies, Land and Environment
  • EDEXCEL (BTEC) Diploma: A minimum of DDM from the BTEC Diploma
  • Access: Achievement of the HE Diploma; to include 30 Level 3 credits at Merit; Level 2 credits giving GCSE equivalency (where appropriate) in English Language and Mathematics.
  • Baccalaureate IB: 26 points

Entry requirements

Students who successfully complete the Built and Natural Environments Foundation course may be permitted to transfer onto the first year of this degree course.

We welcome applications from students without the conventional entrance requirements but who do have substantial relevant work or other experience and whose motivation and skills would enable them to succeed on the course.

Please read the general information about entry requirements.

Students with disabilities

We welcome applications from people with disabilities. We are committed to supporting students with disabilities, and wherever possible we will make reasonable adjustments to these activities to enable students with disabilities to successfully complete the course. We encourage applicants to disclose any disabilities or support needs in their application forms, so that we can offer information, advice and support. There is a Disability Service at UWE Bristol and a Disability Support Co-ordinator in the Department. The course normally requires students to be able to:

  • Use a computer
  • Read and produce drawings, plans and maps
  • Participate in field courses or activities away from the University
  • Team working and negotiation
  • Laboratory work involving observations and physical manipulation
  • Take part in discussions and presentations

Open Days

We run Open Days throughout the year when you can meet lecturers and current students, see the facilities and resources that we offer, and visit the student accommodation. Please view our Open Day web pages for details.

How to apply

Please see the general information about applications.

For further information

Copyright 2014 © UWE better together