Physical Geography

Key Facts

Code F840
  • Typical A-level offer

    BBB with B in Geography, ABB without Geography

  • Course Length

    3 Years

Further details on entry requirements

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In choosing to study Physical Geography at Aberystwyth University you will be taught in one of the largest and longest-established Geography departments in the UK. The Physical Geography degree scheme offers an interactive, varied and exciting course structure that combines theory, field studies and laboratory-based studies. You will be taught by world class staff that will help develop your understanding of the physical processes shaping the earth, from sea to rivers, glaciers to volcanoes, including landscapes from the arid to the Arctic. You will be given the option to travel on an international field trip in your second year of study. Aberystwyth is an area rich in natural beauty, and as a student here you cannot go far without catching glimpses of the sea, beautiful beaches, mountains or rivers.

Top 15 in the UK for student satisfaction in the subject area of Physical Geography (NSS 2016)
2nd in the UK for teaching quality in the subject area of Physical Geography (NSS 2016)
100% student satisfaction for our Physical Geography degree scheme (NSS 2016)

Department of Geography and Earth Sciences: 95% student satisfaction (NSS 2016)

95% of undergraduates from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences who graduated in 2015 were in employment or further education six months after graduating (DLHE 2015)

  • Overview
  • Course Content
  • Employability
  • Teaching, Learning and Assessment
  • Student Views


This BSc in Physical Geography is a specialist science-based honours degree which enables you to investigate the processes which structure the natural world and the environmental management issues which surround them. You will do this on local, regional and global scales, and you will look at the threats to human society that these powerful forces pose. There is also an opportunity for you to explore extra-terrestrial land systems and interplanetary sciences within a Physical Geography context.

Why study Physical Geography at Aberystwyth? 

The Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth is one of the oldest and most well-respected departments of its kind in Britain. As one of the largest and most dynamic Geography communities in the UK, we are able to offer you an extremely broad range of geographical specialisms, ranging from concerns over climate change, the environmental impact of volcanic eruptions, and current trends in geohazards to urban sustainability, regional development and the future of the nation state, amongst others.

Our lecturers are active researchers working at the cutting edge of their disciplines, and you will benefit from being taught the latest geographical theories and techniques. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework assessment (REF 2014) DGES retained its crown of the best Geography department in Wales, with 78% of the research being undertaken classified as either "world leading" or "internationally excellent”. DGES is also in the top ten of UK Geography departments with regard to research power, which provides a measure of the quality of research, as well as of the number of staff undertaking research within the department.

The teaching and research laboratories are equipped with an impressive array of analytical equipment such as mass spectrometers and core scanners, and an extensive range of equipment is available for fieldwork, such as surveying, remote sensing, and water and sediment sampling. Other resources include a digital map library, access to census data, and recorders and transcribers for social survey work. Our computer provision is second to none, with superb web-based support available.

You will have opportunities to undertake fieldwork throughout your course, from Mock-Earth Summits to exploring the local area around Aberystwyth. In your second year you will have the opportunity to travel abroad on an international fieldtrip. In recent years destinations have included New Zealand, Spain, Crete, New York, France and Ireland.

Through our connections with the University Centre in Svalbard in the Norwegian high Arctic we can also offer you the unforgettable experience of studying in one of the world's more extreme climates and seeing climate change in the Arctic at first hand.

The North American Exchange Programme gives you the chance to swap Aberystwyth for a similar degree programme in the US during your second year. Exchange students appreciate the experience of learning about the world from the different perspective offered by a North American University, and you can choose from degrees offered by Washington State, Kansas, Montana, Penn State and Pittsburgh.

The Department offers a number of awards each year to enable its students to travel the world. In the last few years recipients of these awards have travelled to Iceland, Uganda, South Africa, Madagascar, Peru, Ecuador, Mount Etna and the United States to undertake a range of fieldwork, such as discovering how communities function in remote areas of the globe, or witnessing stunning landscapes first-hand.

Aberystwyth University offers you the opportunity to study geography in one of the most picturesque locations in Europe. Set on the coast of Cardigan Bay and surrounded by a great diversity of beautiful environments, including marine, moorland, mountain and grassland, the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences is uniquely placed to make the most of the stunning landscapes that surround it, providing you with a fabulous variety of fieldwork and recreational opportunities.

The Department offers a number of modules and degree schemes taught through the medium of Welsh. Further details may be obtained from the department.

Our Staff

Department of Geography and Earth Science: lecturers are all qualified to PhD level or working towards a PhD.

Course Content

Welsh medium modules available

Please note: The modules listed below are those currently intended for delivery during the next academic year and may be subject to change. They are included here to give an indication of how the course is structured.

Year 1 Core (50 Credits) The following modules are core.

Semester 1

The Atmosphere And The Water Cycle EA12210
Key Concepts And Skills For Geographers GG13000

Semester 2

Global Ecology And Soil Systems GG10410
Global Environmental Issues GG12710
Key Concepts And Skills For Geographers GG13020

Year 1 Options Core (20 credits). Welsh medium (DA) and English medium (GG) modules. Welsh speaking students are encouraged to take DA11900/10 instead of GG11900/10, and DA10610 instead of GG10610. Please note that DA11910 and GG11910, DA10610 and GG10610 cannot be taken together.

Semester 1

Amgylcheddau Wyneb Y Ddaear DA10610

Tiwtorial Daearyddiaeth Lefel 1 DA11900

Earth Surface Environments GG10610

Level 1 Geography Tutorial GG11900

Semester 2

Tiwtorial Daearyddiaeth Lefel 1 DA11910

Level 1 Geography Tutorial GG11910

Year 1 Options (50 credits) Students must take 50 credits from the list below, or from appropriate modules offered elsewhere in DGES or in the university. DA10110 and GG14410, DA10210 and GG10210 cannot be taken together.

Semester 1

Cefn Gwlad A'r Ddinas DA10210

Planet Earth EA11510

Rocks And Minerals EA11600

The Dynamic Earth EA11710

The City And Country: Processes Of Conflict And Change GG10210

Place, Culture And Society GG14410

Semester 2

Pobl A Lle DA10110

Newid Hinsawdd DA10810

Methodoleg Maes Amgylcheddol DA10910

Byw Gyda Risg DA12810

Rocks And Minerals EA11610

The Earth In Space And Time EA11810

Climate Change: Impacts, Perceptions, Adaptations GG10810

Power, Place And Development GG14210

Year 2 Core (60 Credits) The following modules are core.

Semester 1

Reconstructing Past Environments GG20310
Analysis And Presentation Of Geographical Data GG21700
Physical Analysis Of Natural Materials GG22010
Glacial Processes And Landforms GG23910

Semester 2

Environmental Management EA20110
Chemical Analysis Of Natural Materials GG21010
Analysis And Presentation Of Geographical Data GG21710

Year 2 Options Core (40 credits). Welsh medium (DA) and English medium (GG) modules. Welsh speaking students are encouraged to take DA22100/10 instead of GG22100/10, DA22420 instead of GG22420, and DA22510 instead of GG22610.

Semester 1

Tiwtorial Daearyddiaeth Lefel 2 DA22100

Geomorffoleg Afonol DA22510

Level 2 Geography Tutorial GG22100

Catchment Systems GG22610

Semester 2

Tiwtorial Daearyddiaeth Lefel 2 DA22110

Gwaith Maes Daearyddiaeth DA22420

Level 2 Geography Tutorial GG22110

Geography Fieldwork GG22420

Year 2 Options (20 credits) Students must choose up to 20 credits from the list below, or from appropriate modules offered elsewhere in DGES or in the university.

Semester 1

Earth Materials I: Introduction To Geochemistry EA22310

Earth Resources EA22500

Sedimentary Environments GG23410

Sustainability And Resilience GG28910

Semester 2

Hanes Amgylcheddol DA22710

Hydrochemistry EA20410

Earth Resources EA22520

Geohazards EA22810

The Welsh Environment GG29110

Final Year Options (40 credits) The following modules are core. Welsh speaking students are encouraged to take DA34000/40 instead of GG34000/40.

Semester 1

Traethawd Estynedig Daearyddiaeth DA34000
Geography Dissertation GG34000

Semester 2

Traethawd Estynedig Daearyddiaeth DA34040
Geography Dissertation GG34040

Final Year Options (80 credits) Students must take 80 credits from the list below, up to 20 credits may be taken from appropriate modules offered in IGES or in the university.

Semester 1

Adnoddau Dwr A Hydroleg Bydol DA31620

Oceanography And Marine Geology EA30520

River Systems And Global Environmental Change GG30420

Earth Observation From Satellites And Aircraft GG32020

Geographical Information Systems GG32820

Palaeoenvironmental Change Beyond The Ice Sheets GG33120

Palaeoglaciology GG33920

Semester 2

Volcanic Activity: Hazards And Environmental Change EA30420

Engineering Geology EA32620

Welsh Mineral Resources: Origins, Exploitation And Planning EA34120

Process Glaciology GG30320

People, Climate And Environment: A Palaeoenvironmental Perspective GG33720


A degree in Geography or Earth Science provides a solid foundation for a vast array of careers across a range of sectors. In a rapidly shifting global economy, our graduates are adaptable and able to draw on a range of transferable skills, ensuring that they are always in demand among employers. DGES graduates have, for example, found work as surveyors, environmental consultants, planners, civil servants, teachers and researchers, among a range of other occupations.

Support from the Careers Service

Alongside a Departmental Employability Co-ordinator, DGES has a dedicated link Careers Adviser who provides targeted careers talks, workshops and one-to-one advice. Students can also access the Careers Service drop-in service, or book a longer guidance appointment with a careers adviser.

Alumni mentoring and graduate talks

The department facilitates regular in-house careers events, where students are given the opportunity to interact with potential employers and gain insights into specific occupations. Events of this type in recent years have included workshops with senior representatives from Natural Resources Wales and Air Worldwide catastrophe modelling.

Former students are an integral part of these activities, providing first-hand accounts of their graduate work experiences. Recent sessions have considered environmental design and commercial geophysics. In addition DGES students are able to enrol on the university Alumni Mentoring programme, which connects them with a graduate mentor and gain advice to support careers in a range of sectors.

Employability provision in teaching, learning and assessment

Employability is embedded within all courses provided by DGES and the different modes of learning, teaching and assessment employed across our modules ensure that our students gain a strong and varied skillset including:
• research and data analysis skills
• enhanced mathematical and computational skills
• effective problem-solving and creative thinking skills
• a thorough grounding in information technology skills
• the ability to work independently
• time-management and organisational skills, including the ability to meet deadlines
• the ability to express ideas and communicate information in a clear and structured manner, in both written and oral form
• self-motivation and self-reliance
• team-working, with the ability to discuss concepts in groups, accommodating different ideas and reaching agreement

Personal Development Planning

DGES students are assigned to personal tutors who support Personal Development Planning (PDP). Regular one-to-one meetings are used to identify possible career options, plan strategies to increase employability and set personal targets. This includes academic goals and extra-curricular activities, including involvement in clubs and societies, travel, voluntary work and placements.

Year in Employment Scheme (YES) and Student Placements

Gaining work experience during your degree is a sure way to boost employability after graduating. To help with this DGES students are encouraged to participate in the YES scheme between the penultimate and final year of their degree, which involves spending 12 months in paid employment prior to completing their degree.

Bursaries are also available to support shorter student placements during the holiday period. Each year we host a competition which invites students to share their work experiences via a report and oral presentation, with the winners receiving a prize and feedback from members of the business community who sit on a judging panel.

International Opportunities

Alongside employment experience, independent travel is also acknowledged as a key ingredient in student development. To support this we offer bursaries to support undergraduate travel. Recent destinations have included Uganda, Madagascar, Peru, Mount Etna and the United States.

DGES has also established Erasmus Exchange Programmes with the University of Bergen, the University of Oulu, Finland, and the University Centre in Svalbard, giving students the unique experience of studying in one of the world’s most extreme environments. We also have strong links with a number of universities in North America, where students can complete their second year of study. In recent years, our Exchange Co-ordinator has overseen placements at Purdue University (Indiana), the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, the University of Montana and the University of Ottawa in Canada.

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

How will I be taught?

The Geography degree schemes are delivered through a range of teaching activities, including lectures, seminars, laboratory or computer practicals, small group tutorials, field courses, and individual supervision of project work. In some first year lectures, up to 200 students may be present but many second and third year lectures contain 40 or fewer students. In addition to formal teaching activities, you will find yourself becoming involved in a whole range of other activities such as social media discussion groups and self-directed research projects, and you will be encouraged to undertake extensive reading and engage in informal discussions with staff.

Geography students at Aberystwyth are assessed through a range of different methods, reflecting the breadth and diversity of the subject. Some modules are assessed in part through traditional exams, but many also involve some element of coursework. This may involve the submission of essays and practical reports, or involve oral presentations, the design of webpages, the making of short films, or contributions to online discussion forums. Some modules, notably the tutorials and field courses, are assessed entirely through coursework.

What will I learn?

In your first year, you will take a range of modules designed to introduce you to key concepts in geographical study, and to issues and techniques in the collection, analysis and presentation of geographical data. You will become familiar with the key environmental issues affecting the world today, including climate change, landscape processes, economic development, and globalization. Optional modules allow you to follow particular topics of interest.

In your second year, you will develop your field, laboratory and computer research skills in preparation for your independent research project. You will learn how to analyse quantitative datasets and to produce maps and other graphical representations of geographical data. You will also participate in a residential field trip in the UK or overseas. A choice of optional modules will enable you to specialise in particular geographical themes or to maintain a broad interest across geography.

In the third year, you will undertake an independent research project that involves the collection, analysis and interpretation of your own data. You will be allocated an advisor to provide guidance during completion of the research. Optional modules covering topics as diverse as glaciology, hydrology, volcanic hazards, past climate change, urbanization, and rural change will enable you to tailor your study to suit your own interests.

Student Views

Physical Geography starts with a love for the outdoors. It's brilliant because it's real, it's out there; you can't walk down a street without noticing geography. So many people have a fascination for the natural process which take place around us, but few truly understand them. By studying Physical Geography you can gain valuable knowledge about the world around you. By engaging with the world we live in we can understand it, promote it and conserve it for future generations, and that's pretty cool! Emily Brown

Physical Geography is EVERYWHERE - especially in Aberystwyth. You can't go far without catching glimpses of the sea, beaches, mountains or rivers, and what better subject to take than one that allows you to explore how these came to be and how they're changing today. It's a subject that will never cease to amaze me, and the course itself explains it in such an engaging way, and in such brilliant detail. Rachel Say

The thing I love about my course is that here in Aberystwyth, it's all around me - We have the sea, we have the mountains, we have the rivers, we have the valleys. My degree is the only one that wherever I am in the world, I can look and see it all around me. Jonathon Ackroyd

Entry Requirements

A Levels BBB with B in Geography, ABB without Geography

GCSE requirements (grade C min):
English or Welsh, Mathematics

BTEC National Diploma:
DMM-DDM with specified subject

International Students

International Baccalaureate:
28-30 points overall with 4-5 points in Geography at Higher Level

European Baccalaureate:
65-75% overall with 70% in specified subject

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