Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

MEarthSci Geology

UCAS code: F640

Duration: 5 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing MEarthSci Geology

In Geology you will study our planet's evolution, understanding how it first formed, how it has changed over billions of years, and predicting what it will be like in the future.

You will develop and apply key scientific and transferable skills to answer fundamental questions in earth science such as: Why is our planet able to sustain life? How does the Earth's interior work, and how do processes affect the surface? How can we sustainably manage earth resources? Can we predict and mitigate the effects of global climate change? Can natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions be predicted?

You will develop key geological skills and cover core topics in modern geology. A strong emphasis is placed on fieldwork, with residential trips, which have in recent years included: the Lake District, various localities in north-west Scotland, Spain, Cyprus, as well as numerous one-day trips throughout. You will also develop a range of transferable skills, including report writing, oral presentations, data analysis and interpretation, critical thinking, group working and, as the programme progresses, the ability to work independently and manage project work.

This five-year programme follows the BSc Geology programme until the end of Year 4. In Year 5 you will develop your analytical skills and a higher level of understanding of the Earth system.


This programme is accredited by the Geological Society, London

Year 1

In addition to the following compulsory courses, you can take further optional courses in different schools or colleges across the University.

Earth Dynamics

Volcanoes, earthquakes, mountain chains and the diversity of the Earth's rocks tell us that the Earth has been a dynamic planet since its formation 4.6 billion years ago. This course aims to impart an understanding of the processes which shape the Earth, and to develop practical skills in recognising the evidence of these processes in rocks, both in the field and in the laboratory. The course will focus primarily on the materials of which the Earth is made, how the major constituents are distributed between core, mantle and crust and how this changes with time through the agencies of plate tectonics and volcanism. From this viewpoint of underlying process, the course will also consider the inherent availability of natural resources and the potential for predicting natural hazards.

Evolution of the Living Earth

This course is intended as a foundation course for all Earth Science students with emphasis on processes that operate at the global scale. In particular, the concept of the Earth System as the operation of inter-linked components of the geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere is stressed. This concept is used to study the interaction between geology, chemistry, physics and biology affecting the surface processes of the planet that together form the characteristics of the environment in which we live.

Introduction to the Geological Record

This course will teach 3D mapping and cross-section skills, as well as 4D-thinking abilities. These will be taught via integration of maps with rock identification and the course will also introduce the application of online digital databases (BGS and USGS maps; DEM; radar interferometry; remote sensing imagery) in solving global geological problems. There is an integrated field trip (one week), which is currently to the Lake District, England, to develop your field skills.

Year 2

In addition to these compulsory courses, you can take further option courses in different schools or colleges across the University.


In Geomaterials we investigate the solid materials which constitute the Earth. We study how atoms are arranged in crystalline materials and how these arrangements influence physical properties, and ultimately, control how our planet functions. The complex relationships between mineral structure, composition, properties and stability are investigated as we consider the main materials which make up the solid Earth, and how their study is used to understand processes which have shaped the Earth through time.

Global Tectonics and the Rock Cycle

This course develops the concepts of plate tectonics on a global scale and analyses the physical processes responsible for the formation and destruction of the plates. It considers the principle active tectonic regimes of the Earth such as mid-ocean ridges, subduction zones and mountain ranges, and develops an understanding of the physical and chemical nature of the lithosphere. You will also consider the different types of rocks formed in these different regions, as well as their recycling and the accumulation of sediment over the planet, how sedimentary rocks relate to the tectonic processes, and how they are preserved in the stratigraphic record.

Introduction to Geophysics

Most aspects of geophysics are covered in this course, such as the origins of planets and their interior physical processes, the use of natural and artificial acoustic waves and sensitive gravity observations to determine the structure of the Earth's core and mantle as well as identifying subsurface petroleum reserves. You will also learn about magnetic storms, the Geomagnetic field, polarity reversals and the palaeomagnetic evidence for plate tectonics.

There are local day trips and a residential field excursion, which usually will be to north-west Scotland, completes Year 2.

Year 3

Year 3 focuses completely on Geology. It contains a range of courses which develop deeper theoretical and practical knowledge of many different branches of the earth sciences, while tutorials give an opportunity to discuss earth science concepts in small groups. To prepare you for your independent field work in Year 4 there are field training excursions to Spain during the February break and to a choice of localities in the north-west of Scotland during the Easter vacation. As the content of the programme is updated to reflect the advancing subject matter, and student feedback, the location of the field courses may change.

Year 4

During part of the summer vacation following third year you are required to complete an independent four-week, field-based project in an area of your choice, as close as the Scottish Highlands or as far away as New Zealand.

Compulsory courses in Year 4 include Formation and Evolution of Continents and Evolution of the Modern Earth; courses which individually provide a critical synthesis of evidence bearing on the Earth's evolution, from planetary formation to its present complex pattern of continents and oceans.

Specialised options are selected from a list that may include topics such as hydrocarbon reservoirs, the behaviour of magma chambers, evolutionary palaeontology, geophysics or rock deformation processes and in which you can develop your presentation as well as practical skills.

Final year fieldwork takes you to Cyprus (future locations may differ subject to course updates) where many aspects of these courses come to life in the spectacular rock exposures.

Year 5

Year 5 involves a fundamental change in emphasis. You will conduct a masters-level research project in any area of earth science of your choice. You will learn the high-level analytical skills and critical understanding needed to become an independent researcher, through a combination of small group learning, independent student-led research, and extensive one-to-one interaction with a project supervisor. Additional courses, including a fieldtrip to Iceland (future locations may differ subject to course updates), will promote peer-interaction and the development of core research skills.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2019/20)

Our facilities

In Year 1, many of your lectures will be taught in the Central Area close to the city centre. Practicals and other teaching take place within the School of GeoSciences, located at the University's King's Buildings campus.

You can access the University's libraries and IT facilities, and the School's laboratories provide personal workspace with computing and microscope facilities during your honours years.

The School houses a wide range of cutting-edge facilities and services and is involved in a number of collaborative centres of research excellence. As part of your programme, you will have access to this range of high-tech facilities enabling chemical and physical analysis of various types of samples. Some of these samples will be collected by you during field excursions, which are a central component of our programmes. During these excursions, you will also conduct field measurements using various techniques used in ecological, atmospheric and earth sciences.

In addition to these analytical facilities, there are excellent computing facilities including geographic information systems (GIS), meteorological and geophysical computer models. You will become familiar with many of these facilities and techniques while studying here.

Research and Teaching Facilities

Field trips

Due to the continued support of our generous Alumni community, all travel and accommodation costs associated with compulsory field trips will be waived from 2019. Earth Science, Ecological & Environmental Sciences and Geography degrees all involve a significant element of field study and we are pleased to be able to support our students as they learn practical and highly prized skills.

Find more information about field trips on the GeoSciences website.

Field trips

Study abroad

You will have opportunities to study abroad through the Erasmus programme or the University's international exchange programme.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will be taught through a mixture of lectures, seminars and tutorials, group work, practicals and fieldwork, self-directed learning and project work. In your honours years, you will devote more time to self-directed study and will receive individual supervision for final-year project work.

You will have access to the University's specialist research facilities and laboratories for analysing rocks, minerals and fluids and measuring the physical properties of rocks.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment will be both formative and summative, with a combination of practical work, essays, oral and written examinations, independent project work, field reports and notebooks, depending on the course.

You will also be assessed on computer programming exercises, and in the final year of all our programmes there are elements of assessed presentation and scientific writing skills. Most senior honours courses and projects will also involve modelling elements.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme details (2019/20)

The vast majority of our graduates move straight into degree-related employment or further study. Our graduates are highly sought after by energy (including renewables) and resource companies, environmental consultancies and the financial sector, and many also find employment in the areas of environmental planning and regulation, geoconservation, science communication and education, and engineering.

We have a professional advisory board that provides support on employability skills.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAA - ABBB by end of S5. If you haven’t achieved this by the end of S5 we may consider your application based on a strong performance in S6. A minimum of BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB in one set of exams.
  • IB: 37 points with 555 at HL - 32 points with 555 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6, with a minimum of BBB achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 32 points with 555 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Higher: two of Biology*, Chemistry*, Geography, Mathematics* or Physics* (*include at least one). National 5: Mathematics at grade A; if you achieved a grade B, please contact the admissions office.
  • A Levels: Two from Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Mathematics or Physics. GCSE: Mathematics at grade A or 7; if you achieved a grade B or 6, please contact the admissions office.
  • IB: HL: two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) or Physics. Diploma must include Mathematics SL 5, if not held at HL. If you do not have SL Maths please contact the admissions office.

Additional requirements

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

For direct entry to second year the minimum requirements must be exceeded, including the following:

  • SQA Advanced Highers: AAB to include two of Biology, Chemistry*, Geography, Mathematics* or Physics*(*include at least one).
  • A Levels: AAA in one set of exams to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Mathematics or Physics.
  • IB: 38 points overall and award of IB Diploma with 666 at HL to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) or Physics.
Other entry pathways

Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 Grade C

  • SQA Standard Grade 3

  • SQA Intermediate 1 Grade A

  • SQA Intermediate 2 Grade C

  • GCSE Grade C or 4

  • Level 2 Certificate Grade C

  • IB Standard Level Grade 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component

  • TOEFL-iBT 92 or above with 20 in each section

  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component

  • PTE Academic: Total 61 with at least 51 in each "Communicative Skills" section

  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

(Revised 05/06/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MEarthSci Geology

Additional costs



For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding

More information

How to apply

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering