BSc (Hons) Physical Geography with Optional Sandwich Placement/ Study Abroad BSc (Hons)
About the course
Our physical geography degree is aimed at students with a strong interest in understanding our world from natural and environmental science based perspectives. Our flexible course structures also allow you to transfer between our geography programmes depending on how your interests develop. Practical application and fieldwork learning is at the core of this course, supported by our own specialist field station, dedicated laboratories, and facilities for geographical information analysis.
In your first year, you will develop and deepen your understanding of sustainability, the organisation of space and place, the geological evolution of Earth, and the functioning of our global environment. We will also spend time developing your research skills using geographic information systems, data analysis, surveying and map work. Our field course, a week-long residential currently held in the English Lake District, forms a central part of your first year studies.
You’ll visit the Swiss Alps at the start of your second year, developing your research skills in the physical and environmental sciences. You will then develop your understanding of Earth surface processes and landforms. Areas of optional study include perspectives on global change, changing rural Britain and geospatial information.
Your individual research project will be the key focus of your final year studies. This is complemented by modules that focus on developing your understanding of Glaciology, hydrogeomorphology and natural hazards. Optional areas of study are offered in managing environment problems, biological conservation, development and tourism, as well as in the area of geospatial information.
Flexibility and choice
We offer a range of degree titles and other options in our degree programmes. Although you do need to apply for a specific course through UCAS, you do not need to decide between them until you have had the experience to make an informed choice. During year 1 there is a common curriculum shared by our degrees in Geography, Human Geography, Physical Geography, Human Geography with Environmental Studies, and Environmental Management. At the end of year 1 you choose which of these pathways you would like to pursue.
During year 2 you will choose whether to proceed directly into your final year and complete your degree in three years, or whether to undertake an optional year 3 between year 2 and the final year. This can be spent undertaking a sandwich placement year gaining relevant work experience to enhance your CV and improve your chance of a better degree classification. Alternatively, there is the option to spend a year abroad at one of our partner universities throughout the world to gain valuable international experience that is needed to get on in today’s global economy.
Why choose this course?
Other key features of our course include:
- High student satisfaction and a good study community,
- Regular opportunities for students to assist staff with glaciology research and to undertake fieldwork in pursuit of final year dissertations in locations including Iceland, Switzerland and the High Arctic.
- Working with employers in Hertfordshire to address pressing environmental challenges, helping them save energy, reduce waste and put effective techniques in place to manage their environmental impact.
- Working with voluntary organisations to support community energy - overcoming the barriers to installing solar panels on school buildings and improving a community energy toolkit.
- Opportunities to get involved in ecology activities at Bayfordbury such as beekeeping, bat watching, coppicing, etc
Please call the clearing hotline number on 0300 303 6300
Calls to the Clearing and Adjustment hotline will be charged at your local rate and is often included in mobile inclusive minutes, depending on your personal tariff.
Geography graduates are highly sought after in a wide range of professions.
Our graduates have found successful careers in a variety of sectors including:
- Local government
- Recreational and habitat management organisations
- Environmental consultancy,
- Broader graduate recruitment schemes
- Postgraduate study.
Graduates may like to consider further study for example in the University of Hertfordshire's MSc courses in Environmental Management
You will develop your capacity for independent study and interpersonal skills on this programme. There is an emphasis on structured research, well-prepared written and verbal presentations and computer literacy.
You will experience a wide variety of teaching styles on the programme including:
- standard lectures
- case studies
- individual and group projects
In your final year you will normally have the opportunity to hone your independent study and interpersonal skills by undertaking a major project or dissertation
If you are studying part-time you will study for 5-6 years to complete your course from registration. You will complete 60 credits per year. The first and second year are made up of compulsory modules thereafter years three to six contain a mixture of core and optional modules depending on the pathway you are studying on. Your timetable will depend on which modules you pick.
You have the opportunity to take a work placement for a year before your final year. These optional placements will enhance your future career prospects. Successful completion of your placement may also lead to the Licentiateship of the City and Guilds Institute.
This course offers you the opportunity to study abroad in the Sandwich Year through the University's study abroad programme. Study abroad opportunities are available worldwide and in Europe under the Erasmus+ Programme. Find out more about Study abroad opportunities
Topics that may be covered include: environmental concern and the green movement; the environmental spectrum; concepts of sustainable development; Agenda 21 and Local Agenda 21; industrial development and sustainability, sustainable development and waste, sustainable development and water; sustainable development and energy; sustainable development and agriculture; sustainable development and the developing world; and the cost of going green.
Ecosystems and Environmental Change
Includes an introduction to: * biogeography, climate/vegetation patterns and ecological processes * role of major biogeochemical cycles * structure and functioning of major ecosystem types (UK focus) e.g. woodlands, grasslands, agro-ecosystems, aquatic ecosystems * human influences on ecosystems, including examples of management * climate change and air pollutants: impacts of ecosystems * environmental impact assessments * the key UK and EU laws that influence the management of threatened habitats * ecological data handling and descriptive statistics
Investigative Skills and Techniques
This course is designed to provide an introduction and overview of some to the basic analytical methods employed by geographers and environmental managers when undertaking their research work. The application of appropriate statistical techniques is an important research skill and students will develop their skills in statistical analysis from a combination of lectures and workshops. Students will also gain some appreciation for the special issues and problems raised by the use of geographical and environmental data. The course includes the essentials of data collection and entry, questionnaire design and administration, spatial sampling design and presenting research results. Students will develop skills in presenting research results in a meaningful way through producing a short research report.
Exploring Planet Earth
This module provides students with an opportunity to explore the Earths systems. The module provides an account of the history of the Earth, and then considers each of the major environmental systems in turn, focussing on the features and processes that define each system. Students will be able to develop an understanding of how the different systems interact and the importance of these interactions for shaping the surface of the Earth and its biological communities. The implication of environmental change on human activities is a central theme throughout the module.
The aims of this module are to enable students to understand the dynamic processes that produce rocks and geological structures, and be able to recognise them in the laboratory and in the field. The evolution of the Earth and the importance of plate tectonics in the formation of rocks and geological structures will be studied, together with introductory igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic petrology. The module will also consider weathering, erosion, transport and deposition of Earth surface materials and the dynamic endogenic and exogenic processes that impact on anthropogenic activities and cause geohazards. Meteorology will be covered to link atmospheric processes to earth surface processes.
Geographies of Governance
The module provides an introduction to the framework of society with a particular relationship between people and their environment (human space at a range of geographical scales from local to global) helping you to place Hertfordshire and the UK within broader geographical spaces and tiers of governance. Through lectures, field visits, workshops and problem based group learning students explore the interaction of people with the environment and will develop an understanding of the approaches adopted by geographers towards governing and planning human space and society. Lectures will introduce the structure of the UK planning system whilst also looking at European and Global governance and development. Students will have the opportunity to study a range of social and spatial issues and conflicts within human space
Mapping Human Geographies
Students will receive an introduction to the scope of the geographical enquiry at degree level. This will necessarily include an introduction to the philosophical and historical development of geography as an academic discipline and an introduction to the key ideas and concepts. An introduction to cartographic thought and techniques, landscape assessment, observational skills and Geographical Information Systems will be provided as the module covers various spatial perspectives, both historical and contemporary within geography.
Introduction to Field Research
This module includes a residential field course to a UK location. The module will cover a range of topics that may include cultural geography, biodiversity, geology, geomorphology, ecology, climate change and tourism impacts. Underpinning theory and linkage to wider research contexts are introduced in the lectures. Staff-led and student-led data collection methods are introduced and undertaken in the field. Students are then introduced to the analysis and synthesis of this field information through class and IT-lab sessions both during and after the field course.
Graduate and Professional Skills 1
Students will complete assignments, within their discipline of choice, that include opportunities for development of their personal transferable skills. They will reflect on their development with the assistance of a personal tutor and will produce a portfolio of evidence based on the set assignments and wider experience such as from the work place or other areas of responsibility. Skills assessed are: autonomy and taking responsibility for themselves (A); group working (GW), oral and written communication (COM), information management (IM), problem solving (PS), numeracy (NUM), self evaluation and reflective practice (SERP).
Graduate and Professional Skills 2 - GE
Students will complete assignments, within their discipline of choice, that include opportunities for development of their personal transferable skills. They will reflect on their development with the assistance of a personal tutor and will produce a portfolio of evidence based on the set assignments and wider experience such as from the work place or other areas of responsibility. Skills assessed are: autonomy, taking responsibility for themselves (A); group working (GW), oral and written communication (COM), information management (IM), problem solving (PS), numeracy (NUM), self evaluation and reflective practice (SERP). A component of the assessment will be workplace experience. Placement or year abroad students are exempt from this, however all other students will be required to undertake at least one weeks voluntary work experience and to produce a reflective report on their work experience.
Real World Research
This module commences with a residential field trip to Switzerland during which students will learn and apply data and information collection techniques in a real world field setting. The remainder of the module will provide students with the skills and understanding to design their own research project and fully understand the different methodological approaches and methods available. Students will also gain first-hand experience of data analysis and interpretation using where possible data sets collected from the Swiss Field Course. These skills will be practised during a group work problem based learning (PBL) exercise that draws on understanding of mountain environments and large data sets from a theoretical mountain location
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
This module investigates the relationships between process, geology and form in Britain and contrasting areas (which may include tropical, arid, fluvial, coastal, glacial and extra-terrestrial environments). The module will focus upon landform development within major geomorphological systems and climatic zones. The relationships between geology and form will be addressed, together with the linkages that exist between geomorphological systems. The module will include field visits and laboratory practical sessions.
Fundamentals of Geospatial Information
This module introduces the underpinning concepts and ideas behind GISci and their application and use in answering geospatial questions. Topics covered may include basic remote sensing as input to a GIS, the two main GISci data models, geospatial data collection and input methods including GPS concepts, digital cartographic issues such as map projections, symbology and visualisation of data, spatial data structures and GISci data models, geospatial databases, basic analysis techniques for both raster and vector data including Boolean logic operations, and a review of current technological trends such as OpenGIS (GML) and Distributed-GIS.
Living in a Changing and Contested World
The module focuses on understanding how the world around us is changing and how such change can be conceptualised and subsequently responded to, and why such change is contested. An understanding of how the world is changing and how such change is contested is developed by focusing on a wide range of topical issues that include: globalisation, trade, water resources, migration, indigenous peoples and cultures, air pollution, tourism, climate change, agriculture, population and food security, species invasion and deforestation. Attention is also paid to exploring and understanding change in the non-human world.
Changing Rural Britain: People, Places, Policy
This module has three key components. 1. The historic development of the British landscape. This sets a timeline for change and students explore the types of evidence used to date the past, including an assessed practical exercise in pollen analysis held at the Bayfordbury field station. 2. The role of agriculture: past, present and future and 3. rural policy and people. These aspects are reinforced by a field visit to the Peak District and the opportunity to visit a working farm and explore local rural community issues. All three elements are supported by relevant field and day visits, practicals and workshops and there is an emphasis on links to practice. The module also deals with pertinent legislation, policy, designation and planning issues as they relate to rural environments. Students explore the roles of agriculture and conservation in the UK and the implications of these factors on driving landscape change and managing different rural environments. This module also investigates topical issues as and when they arise that relate to rural environments and the livelihoods of people living in those environments and on rural futures.
Placement - GE
The sandwich placement will provide students with the opportunity to expand, develop and apply the knowledge, understanding and skills learnt in the taught years of the degree in a work-based situation. The employer will appoint a work-place supervisor, and the student will also have a University supervisor. Students will write a major report on their placement which is normally agreed with and then assessed by both the employer and university supervisor.
Year Abroad - GE
Learning and teaching methods may include taught courses, a research project, field studies or a mixture of these components. The Year Abroad will be for two academic semesters or their equivalent. The students will therefore follow a programme negotiated by the Associate Head of School or nominee and an equivalent representative of the host institution. Prior to commencement of the Year Abroad, the student, the programme officers from the University of Hertfordshire and from the host institution will agree a learning agreement and mode of attendance.
Individual Research Project - GE
The Research Project provides the opportunity for an individual, extended, in-depth study of a selected aspect of those disciplines covered by the programme, and may address one or more of the Division's research objectives. Lecture, workshop and tutorial sessions (which may be group and/or individual) provide support for the student, and students are allocated a University supervisor. The work may involve fieldwork, laboratory work, questionnaire surveys, or many other research procedures.
Glaciology and Hydrogeomorphology
The module examines a number of advanced physical geography topics, including processes and landforms in a range of contexts and environments. Students will develop a critical awareness of the processes and landform development characteristic of specific environments. They will develop an advanced understanding of glacial, fluvial and coastal processes and associated landform development including slope mass movement. They will explore the nature of surface and sub-surface water resources, and current issues in water resource and catchment management, including: hydrology, hydrogeology, groundwater quality and pollution. Students will also undertake physical geography fieldwork.
Natural Hazards and Disaster Reduction
This module will investigate the types, causes and effects of the main natural hazards, which may include geological, geomorphological, hydrological, biosphysical and atmospheric hazards that result in significant mortality, ill-health and damage to the built and natural environment around the world. The causes and effects of hazards such as earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides and other ground movements, tsunami, floods and droughts, storms, glaciers, and diseases, may be studied. The role of humans in turning natural hazards into disasters will be evaluated using case histories. Disaster risk reduction, including, hazard and risk assessment, mitigation, adaptation and disaster management will be covered. Vulnerability modification will be discussed, which may include: environmental controls, hazard-resistant design, planning, preparedness, forecasting and warning systems. The implications for public health and sustainability, and the effects of climate change will be considered for these natural hazards.
Development, Tourism and the Marginalised World
This module tackles the uneasy relationship that exists between development and tourism in the marginalised world. It critically examines key theories and concepts that relate to development, tourism and marginalisation. The module also analyses the impacts that marginal geography and development have had on the relational identity of ‘others’ and ‘insiders’ working in the tourist industry in different parts of the World. Students will learn to conceptualise, understand and offer solutions to some of the problems surrounding development and tourism in the marginalised world with special emphasis on mountain development. They will also learn how to apply participatory theory through the use of participatory techniques in order to problem solve in marginal environments. A residential field course is integral to this module.
This module will analyse, evaluate and discuss various aspects of both the science and practice of biological conservation, especially of species. Topics covered will include: speciation and extinction rates and risks; types of rarity; minimum viable populations and metapopulations; fragmentation, isolation and dispersal; genetic issues; population management strategies; captive breeding programmes; landscape scale conservation issues; the evaluation of sites for nature conservation; the special issues relating to the conservation of different taxonomic groups (eg mammals, birds, insects, plants, lower plants, fungi); International Conventions and Wildlife Laws; Biodiversity Action Plans and their implementation. Field visits and practicals form an important part of the module.
Solving Environmental Problems
Topic areas that may be covered include- sustainability and sustainable development; the economy and the environment; business opportunities and the environment; environmental governance; environmental ethics; corporate social responsibility; water management; energy management; waste management; environmental economics; environmental management systems; strategic environmental assessment; environmental impact assessment; environmental risk assessment and environmental auditing.
Implementing Geospatial Information
This module enables students to critically engage with some of the issues surrounding institutional implementation of GISci and systems, in a context appropriate for future employment. The students will be introduced to corporate implementation issues and historical issues and problems to enable them to avoid these in the future. The Internet will be heavily used to research developments in GISci, as well as for data discovery and mining for student projects, Internet-delivered advances, such as distributed GIS, Location Based Services and real-time updated GIS will be discussed. Following training on how to manage GISci projects, students will be expected to undertake both group and individual projects, producing reports for both. Where possible, the group project will be undertaken for an external organisation as a consultancy project.
Fees & funding
Full time: £9,000 for the 2016 academic year
Part time: If you decide to study this course on a part time basis you will be charged on a modular basis. The cost is £1,125 for each 15-credit module
Full time: £11,500 for the 2016 academic year
Additional course costs
This course offers fantastic opportunities for field work which gives students the chance to study human, environmental and physical interactions in both UK and International settings.
As a part of this course students will be going on compulsory residential field trips and will have to pay a fee prior to the trip. Based on the current costs of these trips:
- The Lake District will cost in the region of £250 (Year 1)
- Switzerland will cost in the region of £390 (Year 2)
- Spain will cost in the region of £390 (Final Year optional module)
This represents a contribution to cover transport and accommodation. These trips are significantly subsidised by the University giving students a heavily discounted rate.
Other financial support
Living costs / accommodation
The University of Hertfordshire offers a great choice of student accommodation, on campus or nearby in the local area, to suit every student budget.
Ready to apply now? Call the Clearing hotline on 0300 303 6300
Key course information
- Institution code H36
- UCAS codeF804 BSc (Hons) Physical Geography
- Course codeHHGEP
- Course length
- Full Time, 3 Years
- Part Time, 5 Years
- Sandwich, 4 Years
- University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield