BSc (Hons) Physical Geography

Key information

Why choose this course?

  • Pay no extra fees for our year one and two residential field trips
  • Gain a degree accredited by the Royal Geographical Society
  • We are ranked 14th for Geography and Environmental studies in the UK
  • No additional charges for compulsory UK and overseas residential field courses in Year 1 and Year 2
  • Outstanding employability levels after graduation + 10th in the UK for graduate prospects (Guardian 2022)
  • High student satisfaction, a vibrant student society and a strong staff-student community
  • Regular opportunities for students to assist staff with field research and to undertake fieldwork in pursuit of final year dissertations in locations that have included Iceland, Switzerland and the High Arctic
  • Excellent work placement and study abroad opportunities and strong links with local and national employers

You can find out more about our staff in Geography, Environment and Agriculture.

How will I study?

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
  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • laboratories
  • case studies
  • individual and group projects

Modules include a mixture of lectures, workshops, practicals, seminars, and fieldwork visits. 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.

Each student is allocated a Personal Tutor who is a general academic mentor and first port of call if you have academic or personal matters which you need to discuss. Your Tutor will also give personal, one-on-one and small group academic support.

What's the course about?

This course follows a similar path to our geography degree, but after the First Year focuses more on the processes and landforms of the natural environment whilst also looking at human impacts on these. Fieldwork learning, and practical application are at the heart of this course, and you'll develop skills using our own field station, specialist laboratories and geographical information analysis facilities. You will go on two fully-funded field trips in the UK and Switzerland to learn more about the challenges of living in mountainous environments and climate change. Specialist modules include earth surface processes and landforms, quaternary environmental change, glaciology, and natural hazards and disaster reduction. Areas of optional study include conservation and food supplies, environmental problem solving, leisure and tourism, and digital information and location intelligence. Depending on how your interests evolve, you'll have a chance to switch between the different geography courses.

Your main campus is College Lane  

This is where the creative arts, science and health-related subjects are based. This means you’ll share the campus with future nurses, scientists, artists and more. You can use the common rooms to relax with friends, work out in the 24-hour gym or have a drink in our on-campus pub or cafes. We also have restaurants for you to eat in or grab something on the go. Our Learning Resources Centres are open 24/7, which means you can study whenever suits you best. Want to pop over to the other campus? You can take the free shuttle bus or walk there in just 15 minutes.   

Student Blogs

Emily - Week at a glance

My week at a glance

Geography is a continually active and dynamic course to study, so each week looks different to every geographer. In the first year, everyone gets to do the same things, so that’s both physical and human geography, and really get to understand the links between the two sides – so you never really know what to expect each week, which is actually quite exciting because it’s something different to always experience. My week is constantly changing and very crazy so strap in for the ride and let me tell you my journey of a week.

I begin my week by organising all my notes and making sure that I know what lecturers and where they are, that I have that week – just to become extra prepared. The next thing that I do is get a good night’s sleep on Sunday, just so that I feel extra prepared for that long Monday morning and knowing what the rest of the week has in store for me. Every morning, I make sure to stick to a strict routine. I wake up at the same time every morning – usually around 06:30 so that I have enough time to have an easy morning to get ready. I shower and make sure I’m looking... semi-presentable, and then have some breakfast to give me some energy, especially with those nine arms. I go to all my lectures, seminars, workshops, and practicals are just so that I get the most out of my education and to fully immerse myself in the University experience. Of these classes, I usually go back to my room and compile all my notes, organise my work and make sure that my room and all my work is tidy and in order because a tidy workspace is a tidy mind 😊

In my course, I tend to go to a lot of extracurricular activities that the School of Life and Medical Sciences and the Geography Department Organise. Despite all of the weekly field trips that we go on and our fortnightly trips to the ecology field station, I attend their spontaneous TEDx talks on climate change, academic support sessions, attend regular meetings with all of my lecturers to catch up with them, and utilise my role/responsibility as a course representative and student buddy with the University and Geography department

Apart from attending all my lecturers, some other things that I do at university is just going out with friends. My friends and I, all love to just go into each other’s flats and sit and talk. We watch movies, listen to music, and spend a lot of time in spoons. I do love spending time with my friends, but I also love spending time myself. I love just sitting and relaxing in my room, listening to music, and watching Netflix, just getting to be me and be more comfortable in the University environment. One of the best and most important parts of my week is getting to speak with my family every night because I can unload any stress onto them and tell them about all the crazy stuff that I’ve been up to 😊

During my week, I make sure to have a clear balance between University life and University work. I manage my time around sorting out myself and my work, attending wellbeing classes and making use of the Universities facilities, going to talks and extra activities with my course, doing my weekly shopping and eating out with my friends, going swimming as my exercise and spending time focusing and developing on myself. Apart from studying, I work a part-time job as a Senior Student Ambassador at the University, working around my crazy timetable, allowing myself to both work and study at the same time, being incredibly helpful to me so I can still support myself, take time for me, study, learn and learn to live.

Student Blogs

Emily - Why I love Geography

What I love most about my course

The question that I get asked the most about my course is, why the geography of all subjects? What can you even do with geography, isn’t that just rocks and countries? It may not seem all that fascinating to you but let me tell you .... the subject of geography is one awesome thing, but once you see the passion and the energy behind the development of the topics – especially in today’s age, you’ll want to be a part of this community. As geographers, we hold ourselves as the real leaders of the future generation, albeit undercover, as most people don’t really understand what we’re talking about half the time! – but hey, that’s quite cool 😊

One of the main things that are amazing about my course is how we deal with the real world constantly. We don’t just sit in lecturers and listen to the lecturer's talk and talk about theories – like you would think. We tend to dissolve into heated debates about topical climate issues, and even the role of globalisation with this COVID-19 Pandemic. We are a close-knit, small and tight group of people, meaning that we get to know each other well, like a family, and we get more one to one time without lecturers to get the best experience out of enhancing our education.

Another cool thing about studying Geography, especially at Hertfordshire, is that we get to study every aspect of geography. We don’t just study human geography, but we also study everything in the realm of physical geography too. In our constant practical’s, we deal with real-life objects, machinery, and field equipment, so that we get first-hand knowledge on how to complete these activities in real life. The opportunities that we get are incredible, and through being a student representative and student buddy, I can stand up for my course and get the absolute best that we all can out of it.

The University of Hertfordshire is one of only two universities in the UK that has its own field station – Bayfordbury, which carries out its own research, in which we as the students can get involved with. We also go on two “compulsory” field trips, the first to the lake district and the second to Switzerland and they are the highlight of your university experience for sure – I know for one that I will never forget these experiences in my life, as they have completely made my whole University experience forever 😊

Geography is a different course. It is a unique and special subject that is incredibly employable, which can be a pathway into a successful future. You get to experience so many amazing things and going to university is an incredibly rare experience, but Geography so interesting and current, especially because you will be a part of the future.

Student Blogs

Jimmy - Why I chose Herts

Why I chose Herts

Hey, I’m Jimmy and I just finished my final year of Physical Geography at the University of Hertfordshire. One of the main reasons I was attracted to the Physical Geography course at Herts was the sandwich year abroad in a country of your choice. I got the chance to study abroad in Oklahoma, USA. During this year I was able to take new classes that weren’t available to me at UH (University of Hertfordshire), with my favourite being ‘Unusual Storms and Weather Systems.’ I was even lucky enough to go storm-chasing! (an unforgettable experience as the state of Oklahoma is situated in Tornado Alley). I made some great friends whilst I was away - if I ever want to go travelling, I know there is a guest room or sofa!

Favourite trips summary

Studying Physical Geography at university enabled me to specialise in a range of areas that I will utilise in my career, most notably through the extensive field trips. In the first year, we studied hydrology and learnt about river discharge and how to measure the water flow rate through salt dilution experiments. This required a lot of teamwork which I found a vital attribute for successful field days. In the second year, we went to Switzerland and studied glacier dynamics with Dr Phil Porter and paraglacial landforms with Dr Alastair Curry. This trip put into perspective a lot of the content we had seen in course books and photographs. Nothing backs up your study notes quite like seeing the environment with your own eyes. For the final year, my Natural Hazards class included a trip to Folkestone where we completed a landslide risk assessment and evaluated flood impacts on Romney Marsh.

Final year

Returning from my study year abroad put me in a great position mentally. My mindset was focused on doing the best I could for my final year at university. Final year success is heavily reliant on staying motivated and pushing forward bit by bit, though this was made all the easier by the incredibly dedicated Geography and Environment staff at Herts. This was best shown during the COVID-19 outbreak where lecturers and supervisors went above and beyond to put the well-being of students first. Aside from their willingness to support you academically, for me, it was the tight-knit community of the department (coffee mornings, wine-tasting and other events) that I will cherish the most.

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Student Blogs

Noor - Unibuddy

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Alumni Stories

Laura McNally

Meet Laura McNally who has turned her passion for the environment into a career. Since graduating in 2005, she has excelled in her career and is currently an Area Visitor Services Manager at Forestry and Land Scotland

Read more stories Find out more about this course
Current job roleArea Visitor Services Manager at Forestry and Land Scotland
Year of graduation2005
Course of studyBSc (Hons) Geography and Geology
Laura McNally

Laura did not know what she wanted to do after graduating or what career she would end up in. Her studies led her towards a career in sustainability and she is currently an Area Visitor Services Manager at Forestry and Land Scotland.

Her role involves a variety of responsibilities including the management of and improvement to the visitor offer at Forestry and Land Scotland sites around Strathspey (northern Cairngorms), south shore of Loch Ness and Inverness including the Black Isle. She deals with a variety of local stakeholders to ensure that all are involved in the successful management of the sites.

Laura remains passionate about sustainability and has recently begun studying for an MBA alongside her job. Her final project is entitled  ‘Visitor management and adaptation in a climate emergency’.

When talking about sustainability Laura has some very clear advice for individuals and business alike, 'In sustainability, be open and honest. There are contradictions and compromise everywhere (e.g. between plastic reduction and carbon footprint, between electric cars and their lithium batteries).

Be clear about your or your company's priorities and be open if you have to make compromises to achieve that but seek ways to minimise those compromises.'

Real-world application

Laura says her time at the University has been hugely useful in her professional career. She says, 'The geographic information system (GIS) element of the course was particular useful as both a GIS Manager and in the Royal Air Force which placed heavy use on remote sensing. I also took a placement year at a local authority who offered me a part time position throughout my final year and a permanent role upon leaving.'

She says she had a lot of flexibility in her studies and the University offered many opportunities to combine her personal interests and professional goals. Placement years are a fantastic aspect of study that gives students invaluable practical experience in the professional world which often leads to employment and fruitful careers.

Laura adds, 'The placement opportunity helped me figure out how my interests could fit into a job and set me up for my career.' She also says the flexible module structure on her degree helped her increase her employability by tailoring her degree to match her career goals.

Be clear about your or your company's priorities and be open if you have to make compromises to achieve that but seek ways to minimise those compromises.