UCAS code: L700
Duration: 4 years
College: Science and Engineering
Introducing MA Geography
Do you have a keen interest in cultures and societies?
Are you curious about the relationship between politics and the environment?
Then geography may be for you.
What is geography?
Geography is the study of the way the world works. You can explore the physical processes of our planet, such as:
- climate change
You can also address human issues such as:
- social justice
You can explore geography:
- as a natural science through physical geography, or
- via the social sciences and humanities, through human geography
Understanding geography is becoming increasingly important in today's world. Our planet, and humanity, face some of the biggest challenges we have ever known.
Making a difference starts here. Are you ready?
What will I learn?
The Master of Arts (MA) Geography enables you to specialise in human geography. It is key to understanding and resolving many of society's most pressing problems.
Human geographers study many different aspects of the modern world, including:
- public health
- urban justice
- indigenous struggles
- land rights
- climate emergency
We will learn about the relationships between people and their social, cultural, political, and economic worlds.
You will also study aspects of physical geography. We believe it is important to understand the ways we live in the world, as well as our impact upon it.
This degree is flexible. You will be able to build your degree around topics you are curious or passionate about.
Open to a world of possibilities
We are one of the largest and most successful groupings of geographers, Earth and environmental scientists in the UK. Many of them are world experts in their field. Our staff will incorporate the latest research in your teaching, and share our discoveries with you.
Join us and help tackle today's greatest challenges.
- We are 15th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2023.
- We are ranked 19th in the world and 7th in the UK for geography in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023.
- Enjoy access to a world of experience with our research and industry networks.
- Get advice and guidance with our dedicated careers service.
Life changing field trips
Field trips are at the heart of this programme.
We know that getting out in the world is essential for understanding how it works.
We will take you beyond the classroom so that you can apply your learning to real-life situations.
Our hands-on approach to learning helps build your confidence and practical field skills prized by employers.
What do you do on a field trip?
Oh, the places you will go! The real world is your most important classroom. We place a great deal of emphasis on delivering practical and field-based experiences.
But, what do you actually do on a geography field trip? The answer is...a lot!
Our field courses and day excursions are hard work and fun. Often they will provide some of your most memorable moments. You will have many opportunities to get your hands dirty!
For example, you could be:
- conducting project group work on a biogeographical evaluation of local woodland in Scotland
- investigating the impacts of people, climate and volcanism on the Icelandic landscape
- meeting with community groups about the impacts of urban racial segregation
- examining approaches to mental health in rural areas
A dynamic learning experience
Field experiences will deepen your sense of community within your group. You will engage in a dynamic learning experience through peer learning where knowledge, ideas, and discoveries thrive.
Working on multidisciplinary problems prepares you for the real world, where collaborative solutions are crucial to solving local and global challenges.
Your field training will prepare you for the opportunity to conduct your own independent project. We will support you with the supervision of an experienced academic in your chosen topic.
The locations and experiences of each trip will vary. We want to enrich you with a broad understanding of how the world works. Our goal is to minimise our carbon footprint while providing you with the best training opportunities.
Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation. To ensure our degrees are accessible and inclusive, we offer alternative learning experiences where necessary.
Want to know more?
You can find more information about field trips within our courses by accessing them through the Programme Structure link under 'What you will study'.
You can also access our blog posts and videos about fieldwork experiences on the School of GeoSciences website.
What is it really like to study with us?
No one knows what it is like to study here better than the students themselves.
Our students are sharing their experiences - from studying to living in Edinburgh and everything in between.
Get social with us:
- School of GeoSciences student experience blog
- School of GeoSciences TikTok
- School of GeoSciences Instagram
Edinburgh is your ideal base
Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 10th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2023.
Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in - it is the perfect location to study geography. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life.
You could find yourself in the most remarkable places – researching Scotland’s 7000 miles of coastline, the Gaelic culture of the Highland and Islands, or the challenges of restoring our upland ecology.
Immerse yourself among rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.
It is no surprise we are regularly voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world!
This programme is accredited by the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers.
This accreditation recognises that the programme delivers the knowledge, skills and other attributes expected of high-quality geography graduates.
The exciting nature of geography means you will have a diverse learning experience during your years with us.
For example, you could be discussing climate change and activism in a lecture one day - or splashing in rivers measuring water flow the next.
What (and how) you learn will depend on the courses you take, and the nature of the topics explored.
You can find details for individual courses through the 'Programme Structure' link.
Our geography degrees provide opportunities to switch between degrees in your early years. You should discuss your interests with your Cohort Lead to ensure that these options are still available to you.
One of the most exciting things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is option courses. You have the opportunity to take a significant number of courses outside your degree in Years 1 and 2.
You can choose courses related to your degree, or you can try something completely different and new to you.
Changes to teaching and learning
We are committed to offering high-quality education to all our students. However, please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery. All decisions are made to ensure we can provide the highest standards for your educational experience.
Additionally, places on optional courses can be limited due to course capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.
Changes to field trips
Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19. Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated, rescheduled or alternative arrangements provided. Decisions will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community - and to ensure the highest standards of educational experience.
Accessibility on field trips
We are committed to making our degree as accessible and inclusive as possible. In the event that you cannot attend all trips or only some of them, we will provide alternatives with comparable learning outcomes where necessary.
Your programme begins with a broad grounding across geographical topics. For example:
- urban processes
- cultural and political geographies
- environmental change
In Year 1, all geography students take the same foundational courses in physical and human geography.
You will also participate in a field trip. This provides you with training in the research methods that geographers use to study the world. It is also an excellent opportunity to get to know your fellow students and staff.
Approximately half of your courses will be in geography on the MA programme. The other half will be your chosen option courses.
From Year 2, you will focus on human geography in areas such as:
- economic and political geography
- social and cultural geography
You can also choose physical geography courses.
As in Year 1, you will have significant flexibility in your option course choices.
In Year 3, you will focus on the aspects of human geography that interest you the most.
There will be courses in geographical research skills and research design.
- guide you through the process of planning independent research for your dissertation in Year 4
- teach you important transferable skills
You will also take part in fieldwork opportunities. Fieldwork will equip you with skills essential for higher-level study in human geography. We will introduce you to:
- geographical research design
- data collection
- data analysis in field settings
You can also choose from a wide range of option courses in physical or human geography. You will have opportunities to specialise in either or both disciplines.
A significant focus will be on your dissertation. This is an independent, original piece of geographical research in your chosen specialist field. You will receive individual supervision from an academic with experience in your chosen subject area.
You will also take additional geography courses. These include options in physical or human geography that can involve fieldwork.
Fieldwork opportunities in Year 4 can be in a variety of locations and are subject to student interest and demand.
There is a compulsory course at the end of your programme. It will summarise:
- the breadth and value of geographical research
- its practical applications to your future career
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.
You will have access to the University's facilities across all University sites.
- study spaces (some study spaces are open 24 hours)
- computing facilities
- social spaces
- leisure facilities
Institute of Geography
The Institute of Geography building is part of our Central Area campus. It is on Drummond Street, bounded by the 16th Century Flodden Wall.
You will have access to:
- well-equipped lecture, seminar and tutorial rooms
- a state-of-the-art IT laboratory with software for image processing, geographical information science and modelling
- labs for physical geography, including soil, pollen and sediment analysis
The Institute is also close to many teaching spaces and facilities within the Central Area campus. For example, the Main Library and gym.
Depending on the option courses you choose, you may also study at various campus locations in Edinburgh.
Take a virtual tour
You can take a closer look at the School of GeoSciences and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.
Discover our city's landmarks, our campuses, accommodation and get video tours - all in one place.
We can help you with self-arranged internships or summer work placements.
Your research dissertation project provides the opportunity to collaborate with an external partner.
There are exciting opportunities to study abroad as part of the University's exchange programmes.
Many of our students spend their third year abroad in Europe or further afield. A year abroad can give you invaluable academic and life skills.
How will I learn?
The types of learning styles depend on the courses you choose and the nature of the topics explored.
You will learn from a wide range of experienced academics at the forefront of their fields. Our research-led, industry informed teaching incorporates the latest developments. Our staff will ensure the latest research in your teaching and share our discoveries with you - keeping your degree up-to-date, diverse, and exciting.
Teaching can be through a mix of:
- practical classes
- field trips and field courses
- project work
You will also design and execute your own project dissertation in your final year.
You can find more information about teaching methods for individual courses by accessing them through the Programme Structure link under 'What you will study'.
Our teaching draws on various external experts, leaders and thinkers who can give us insights into the application of geographical ideas in professional, community and activist spheres.
- be invited as external speakers on our field courses
- deliver guest lectures
- contribute to discussions
- highlight links between in-class materials and real-world projects
- provide possible dissertation opportunities
How will you support me?
We want to help you make the most of your studies with us.
You will have access to a range of resources and activities to support you during your studies. You will be assigned a Student Adviser for the duration of your degree, who will be your main contact if you have any questions related to academic or pastoral support. The Student Adviser works closely with academics in your degree, as well as with wider University support services. They are also able to help you with a wide range of administrative and practical issues, and they can direct you to relevant resources or people.
You will also be assigned a Cohort Lead who will organise activities to help you get to know the other students on your degree. They will also advise and support you on a range of topics, including course choices, how to develop and improve your academic skills, how to effectively use feedback and provide advice on your future career opportunities.
How will I be assessed?
You will be assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the courses you choose and the nature of the topics explored.
Assessment can be through a mix of:
- written or practical exams, including multiple-choice exercises
- practical evaluation in the field or field notebooks
- coursework such as essays
- individual or group projects and presentations
Details about assessment methods for individual courses can be found through the Programme Structure link under 'What you will study'.
Our geography graduates are highly prized for their:
- independent research skills
- ability to assess quantitative and qualitative data
- analytical understanding of environmental and societal challenges
By studying with us, a range of career opportunities are open to you. Our students have embarked on a diverse range of occupations after graduation.
For example, you could work in:
- environmental consultancy
- conservation and natural heritage management
- environmental and social justice advocacy
- natural science, social science and humanities research
- planning and surveying
- the financial services sector
- charitable organisations
- corporate environmental management
- geospatial data analysis
You can also move into areas such as:
Where do our graduates find employment?
Our graduates have gained employment in roles such as:
- Member of Scottish Parliament (MSP)
- Advisor to the COP26 President
- Head of transport
- Documentary Filmmaker
- Data Journalist
- Political Advisor
- University Academic
- Carbon Management Project Officer
- United Nations Refugee Partnerships Officer
- GIS Technologist
- Science Engagement Officer
- Land Use Advisor
Our graduates work in a variety of organisations, including the:
- UK civil service, local government and the Scottish Government
- United Nations
- BBC, CNN and other broadcasters
- Ecometrica Space Programme
- Centre for Sustainable Energy
- Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)
- Barclays Bank
- National Museums of Scotland
- satellite and mapping organisations like Geocento, esriUK, and MapAction
- several world-leading universities
A sustainable future
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action to address the significant global challenges of our generation.
There are 17 overarching goals with a timeline set to 2030. Nearly all countries in the world have committed to this plan.
They address challenges such as:
- climate change
- food inequality
- protecting our planet
Changes are taking place in every sector, including government, civil society, and the private sector.
With this degree, you can work in fields that directly contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
By studying geography with us, you will join one of the largest groupings of geographers in the UK.
This means you will have access to our wide range of research and industry networks. We have excellent relationships with various organisations. These range from local communities to government, industry, and academia.
Our links can provide you with valuable networking and potential employment opportunities.
All of this ensures your degree has real-world relevance.
Learn about our research
You can also participate in the research life of the programme by attending seminars and reading groups of our various research groups within our Geography and Lived Environment Institute:
- Cultural and Historical Research Group
- Geographies of Social Justice Research Group
- Environmental Change and Societal Transitions
Population, Health and Place
We will support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead.
Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience. We also support you after graduation.
- tailored advice
- individual guidance
- internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
- access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network
We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying here is about laying the foundations for your future success. Whatever shape that takes.
Our programmes also prepare you for competitive entry into relevant postgraduate degree programmes. A significant proportion of our students progress to further postgraduate study and research.
Standard entry requirement
The standard entry requirement is:
- SQA Highers: AAAA (achievement by end of S5 preferred). BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: AAA - ABB.
- IB: 37 points with 666 at HL - 32 points with 555 at HL.
Minimum entry requirement
The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:
- SQA Highers: AABB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
- A Levels: ABB.
- IB: 32 points with 555 at HL.
The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:
- SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. Applicants with Geography are preferred. National 5s: Mathematics, Applications of Mathematics, or Lifeskills Mathematics at C and English at C.
- A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. Applicants with Geography are preferred. GCSEs: Mathematics at C or 4 and English at C or 4.
- IB: HL: no specific subjects required. Applicants with Geography are preferred. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics: Analysis and approaches, Mathematics: Applications and interpretation, or Mathematical Studies at 5 (if not at HL).
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.
(Revised 12 September 2023 to remove second year entry requirements as second year entry is not avilable.)
Other entry pathways
Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).
Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.
SQA, GCSE and IB
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 at C
- GCSE at C or 4
- Level 2 Certificate at C
- IB Standard Level at 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
- TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
- C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
- Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
- PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.
(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)
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 degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
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.
The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses.
This degree involves a significant element of field study. We are proud to be able to support you as you learn practical and highly-prized skills.
Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme, thanks to the continued support of our generous alumni community.
- you are responsible for any incidental/personal expenses.
- excursions as part of optional courses entail extra fees, which vary depending on the nature of the field trip.
There may be some costs associated with your dissertation research project, including field costs. You can design your dissertation project to minimise 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.
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