School of GeoSciences

BSc and MA Geography

Each core course consists of a balance of lectures, seminars, lab practicals and fieldwork in and around Edinburgh.

Year one

In Year one you will take three compulsory Geography courses that will give you a grounding across the full breadth of geographical study:

Fundamental Methods in Geography

The overall aim of the course is to provide an introduction to fundamental methods of geographical research. Beginning with field data collection in the Scottish Highlands, the course will provide an introduction to qualitative and quantitative methodologies in Geography, including methods for data collection in the field and using maps and geographical information systems, data description, analysis and tests of association and difference.

The course aims to enhance the student learning experience within the Geography programme by developing underpinning methodological training at an early stage of the curriculum.

Additionally it will assist in developing a strong group identity and better sense of belonging to the degree programme, particularly through the inclusion of the residential field experience.

Human Geography 

The course provides a foundation for the understanding of fundamental concepts and current ideas in human geography for the Geography degree programmes.

The development of cultural, social, political and economic spaces at a variety of scales and the interaction of human societies with the biophysical environment form the basis of the course. Students will be introduced to key geographical theories and concepts and to basic research methods.

Physical Geography 

The course provides a foundation for the understanding of fundamental concepts and current ideas in physical geography for the Geography degree programmes.

The course begins by considering in broad terms the development of physical geography and the key concepts and phenomena of change and evolution, cycles, fluxes and events, the environment as resource and hazard, and the human impact on the environment.

The remainder of the course explores these themes in more detail in the context of the atmosphere, the hydrosphere and pedosphere, and the biosphere.

The course emphasizes the importance of spatial variation, and temporal and spatial scale, and interactions between human society and the biophysical environment.

Year two

In Year two you will select AT LEAST TWO courses from the following electives:


Economic and Political Geography

This course will provide an introduction to some of the core principles and concepts of economic and political geography, including the fundamental factors and relationships which are central to different types of economic and political systems, and how the inter-relationships between changing economic structures and forms of political organisation have shaped the geographies of human societies.

The three main areas of the course syllabus are: (1) pre-modern economic and political geographies; (2) the development of modern political institutions and the growth of industrial capitalism; and (3) current controversies surrounding the regulation of political and economic life on a variety of geographical scales. Students will learn primarily through lecture attendance, and tutorial participation (submitting summaries of weekly topics).

Environmental Sensitivity and Change

This course examines the dynamics of the Earth System, paying particular attention to the concepts of systems, thresholds, feedbacks, sensitivity and fragility. We explore the importance of past events in understanding the present, and vice versa. Students will gain an understanding of the scope of environmental sensitivity change, and of the diversity of scientific approaches to examining past, present and future environmental change. They will also learn how to assess and analyse drivers of environmental change across Polar, Temperate and Tropical Regions.


This course focuses on many aspects of Geomorphology iincluding erosion, fluvial systems; the morphology and behaviour of glaciers and ice sheets; global morphology and its relationship to tectonic processes; and landscape development through time. Megafloods and their importance on landscape evolution on Earth will also be compared to geomorphological features and processes on Mars in the final lecture.

Social and Cultural Geography

Social and Cultural Geography considers why geography matters to the analysis and understanding of social relations as well as cultural identities and values. The course will explore a number of key themes which are central to the practice of contemporary social and cultural geography, including inequality and difference, society, nature, and landscape, space and consumption, and mobility. A variety of local, national and international case studies will be used to illustrate how social inequalities are made, and how identities are negotiated, through categories such as class, gender, sexuality, health, disability, and 'race'.

Year three

In Year three there are four compulsory courses

The Nature of Geographical Knowledge

The course examines the history and contested nature of what counts as knowledge in geography. It deals with how geographers have investigated and understood the world in the past, and the implications of those histories.

The course asks questions about the construction of geographical knowledge. The course will examine the ways geographers create, circulate and evaluate knowledge about the world, with reference to historical and contemporary examples.

Research Design in Geography

This course introduces students to diverse skills required for undertaking independent research and writing. Particular emphasis is given to providing materials and information that will prepare students for the Geography Dissertation.

A variety of skills are introduced including: Research question formulation; Choice of appropriate methodologies; Critical reviewing of literature; Planning, analysis and write-up of work; Use of Computer-based and IT skills to enable efficient working.

Quantitative Methods in Geography

This course provides a further introduction to statistical methods in Geography using relevant example from across the discipline.

Course work is designed to give students experience in using the methods to analyse real world data and thereby gain insights into their value and limitations.

Qualitative Methods in Geography

This course provides an introduction to the use of qualitative methodologies within Geography. Course work is designed to give students experience in using the methods to evaluate real world information and thereby gain insights into the characteristics of the techniques and their overall value as a means of study.

Fieldwork or Research Project

Students should select one of the following Geography Fieldwork options according to their interests. In the case of University approved special circumstances, they may instead undertake the Small Research Project.

Geography Fieldwork Foundations (Physical)

Geography Fieldwork Foundations (Human): Cape Town

Geography Fieldwork Foundations (Human)

Geography Small Research Project

Year four

In Year four there are two compulsory courses

Geography Dissertation

The dissertation gives the student an opportunity to carry out an original piece of research.

Geography, Science, Civil Society

The course provides final year Geography undergraduates with a coherent conceptual basis to their studies, and a means through which they can use their own UG experiences to engage with the relationships between geography as a form of knowledge, the politics of geography's making, and the several publics with whom geography and geographers work. The course will draw upon the philosophy of social constructivism as a principal analytic frame.

You will also select ONE from the following FOUR electives:

Geography in the Archive

This research elective introduces students to the nature, purpose and function of the archive as a "knowledge space" - a site for the safe keeping, curation, and production of scholarly and other materials. Using lectures, tutorials, and visits to archives within three institutions in the city of Edinburgh, attention will be paid to the ways in which the archive as a space and archiving as a process determine the nature of knowledge and the questions that can be asked by researchers.

Physical Geography Fieldwork: Iceland

This course builds on second year course work and fieldwork to develop the practical aspects of Physical Geography through the study of environmental change. It is based in Iceland- one of the finest areas of the world for the study of both the processes and landforms of glaciation and volcanism. Historical, cultural and economic aspects of Icelandic society are also assessed because these human dimensions are vital to the wider understanding of environmental change, and offers unique insights into the interplay of culture and environment in marginal areas. Ten days is spent in the field, five of which are devoted to project work.

Human Geography Fieldwork: Journey to the Western Isles

This course runs in June and builds on Year 2 & 3 coursework to develop research design and fieldwork in Human Geography. The field trip incorporates tuition and practice of social science methods, archive use and oral histories as applied to individual research projects.The trip is based in Lochmaddy, North Uist, usually with one full day trip to the adjacent arhipelago of St Kilda.

Human Geography Fieldwork: Journey to the Western Isles

Advanced Ethnography: Documenting City Life

Advanced Ethnography: Documenting City Life is a research elective that provides an opportunity to develop skills in designing, planning and doing research in Human Geography. The primary aim of the field class is to successfully design and execute a group research project. The fieldwork for the research project must be conducted in Berlin. The research project is an opportunity for students to deepen their engagement with a substantive conceptual issue in Human Geography, develop a central research question, and design appropriate research methods to gather, analyse and present research materials. The ideas, initiative and energy for the research project must come from students, although they will receive guidance before the field class via lectures, a research design workshop and feedback on research proposals, and during the field class. The research elective will be of particular benefit for students doing dissertation research in Urban, Social or Cultural Geography, and those using research methods from the social sciences and humanities. 

Researching with media: ordinary, popular and indigenous people's knowledges

Drawing upon a range of techniques and approaches, students will consider the ways that indigenous peoples and popular knowledges have been used in geographical research. The course will also introduce the foundations of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis as an approach for studying internet-based interactions and videos. The course will emphasise the value of careful and critical description of the perspectives of the people they are studying. Much of the learning on the course will take place through groupwork in lab sessions.

Please consult the relevant Degree Programme Table for details of all core and option courses and specific requirements.

Combined Degrees

MA (Hons) Geography is also available combined with many other subjects. Please click on the links to view the Degree Programme Tables for these Programmes.