Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

MA Geography

UCAS code: L700

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing MA Geography

Why is the world configured as it is? That's the core of geography - the study of how our planet works.

Do you have a keen interest in cultures and societies? Curious about the inter-relation of politics and the environment? Geography may be for you.

Through geography, you can explore biophysical processes, from volcanic eruptions to flooding and landslides. You can also study the human processes that give shape to cities, states, and communities – all against the backdrop of a changing climate.

You can explore geography:

  • as a natural science that examines the Earth's surface processes through Physical Geography, or
  • through the social sciences and humanities as Human Geography

Through this Master of Arts (MA) Geography, you will be able to specialise in Human Geography. This discipline is key to understanding and resolving many of the most pressing problems faced by society.

Geographers study many different aspects of the modern world. They bring their research to inform on topics such as:

  • immigration
  • mobility
  • public health
  • deprivation
  • urban justice
  • indigenous struggles
  • land rights
  • everyday life

You'll learn about the relationships between people and their social, cultural, political, and economic worlds.

Our MA in Geography also includes aspects of physical geography, as it is important to understand our impact on the world and our ways of living within it. The degree is flexible, so you will have opportunities to build your degree around areas that you are most curious or passionate about.

If you choose to study geography at the University of Edinburgh, you will become part of an academic community in one of the leading geography departments in the UK, and one of the top-ranked universities in the world. As a result, you will learn from geographers who are at the forefront and drivers of change and are undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas.

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. This requires learning in all sorts of settings, both locally and overseas.

You could be meeting with community groups about the impacts of urban racial segregation one day, or examining approaches to mental health in rural areas the next. These trips not only take you out of the classroom, but they give you the hands-on experience to become the next generation of researchers.

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary, enriching you with a broad understanding of how the world works. Previous locations have included the Scottish Highlands, Greece, South Africa and Germany.

Please note:

As the content of the programme is updated to reflect the advancing subject matter and student feedback, the location of field trips may change. Field trips may also be changed due to Covid-19, and where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled.

We will also look at alternative arrangements that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree. Any changes will be announced as soon as possible.

Decisions will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure the highest standards for educational experience.

*(Revised 13 November 2020 to included notice about field trip changes.)

The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses. Our geography degrees involve a significant element of field study. As such, we are proud to be able to support our students as they learn practical and highly prized skills.

Due to the continued support of our generous Alumni community, all costs of travel, accommodation, and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme. However, incidental/ personal expenses are to be met by the student.


The MA Geography 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.

We encourage you to review the Programme Structure - Degree Programme Table to see compulsory and option courses.

Year 1

Your programme begins with a broad grounding across geographical topics focusing on global economic, social, and environmental problems and 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 that will provide you with fundamental training in the research methods that geographers use to study the world. It is also an excellent opportunity to begin to know your fellow students and staff. Previous field trips have been to the Scottish Highlands.

One of the most exciting things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is the fact that you have the opportunity to take a significant number of courses outside your degree programme in Years 1 and 2. On the MA programme, approximately 50 per cent of your courses will be in Geography, and 50 per cent will be outside courses. You can choose courses that are closely related to your degree or try something completely different and new to you.

Year 2

You will focus on human geography in areas such as economic and political geography, social and cultural geography. You will also have a choice of option courses giving you flexibility in your studies.

As in Year 1, you will have significant flexibility in your option course choices.

Year 3

In Year 3, you will be able to focus on the aspects of geography that interest you the most. Courses in geographical research skills and research design lead you through the process of planning independent research for your dissertation in Year 4 and teach important transferable skills.

You will also take part in fieldwork opportunities equipping you with skills essential for higher-level study in Human Geography. You will be introduced to geographical research design, data collection, and data analysis in field settings. Previous locations have included Cape Town and Athens.

You will also choose from wide range of option courses in Human or Physical Geography, with opportunities to specialise in either or both disciplines.

Year 4

A significant focus will be on your dissertation, which is an independent, original piece of geographical research in your chosen specialist field. You will also take additional geography courses, including options in physical or human geography that can include fieldwork.

Fieldwork opportunities in Year 4 can be to a variety of locations subject to student interest and demand. Recent locations have included the Scottish Western Isles and Berlin.

At the end of your programme, a compulsory course will summarise the breadth and value of geographical research as well as its practical applications to your future career.

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 (2020/21)

Our facilities

The Institute of Geography building is located within the University’s Central Area campus. It is on Drummond Street, bounded by the 16th Century Flodden Wall and also just along the road from where David Bowie first adopted his Ziggy Stardust persona.

The building contains well-equipped lecture and seminar rooms, and IT laboratory (with software for image processing, geographical information science GIS, and modelling). It also has laboratories for Physical Geography (including facilities for soil, pollen and sediment analysis, and cosmogenic sample preparation). The Institute is also close to many of the teaching spaces and resources available on the University’s central campus.

Depending on the option courses selected in your programme, you may also study at various University campus locations in the vibrant city of Edinburgh.

Study abroad

There are opportunities to study abroad as part of the University's exchange programmes.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

The exciting nature of geography means you will have a diverse learning experience throughout your years with us. You could be discussing climate change and activism in a lecture one day, or splashing in rivers measuring water flow the next. Teaching can be through a mix of lectures, tutorials, practical classes and workshops, field trips, and project work.

Through your degree, you will be expected to study for approximately 200 hours per 20 credit course. How this time is divided varies, and is dependent on the courses you choose to study as well as the nature of the topics explored.

Typically you will study three courses each semester. Each course will have around 30 hours of contact time (on average, three to four hours contact week). This contact time could be lectures, tutorials, practicals, or field trips. Beyond lectures, you will be expected to undertake independent learning (reading, preparing for lectures and tutorials, completing an assessment, and developing your study skills).

In your final year, you will design your own project dissertation with guidance from our expert academics, helping you develop skills to become a researcher in your own right.


One of the main ways we teach is through lectures, and these are the main form of contact you have with academic staff. Most lectures last 50 minutes.


Practicals allow you to apply the knowledge acquired in lectures and tutorials and develop a range of practical skills. It’s important to recognise that the skills you learn in practicals are transferable beyond the immediate course. They can be applied in other courses, in dissertations, and even beyond your degree.


Many courses include tutorials. Tutorials are a form of small group teaching that is facilitated by a tutor. Tutorials are an essential opportunity for you to:

  • discuss specific topics in more depth
  • develop skills in critical thinking
  • communicate your understanding
  • work as part of a team
  • receive feedback
  • ask questions

Field trips

Field trips are a significant component of our Single Honours Geography degrees. Field trips are hard work, fun, and will provide some of the most memorable moments of your degree. They are excellent ways of learning, enabling you to apply the knowledge and skills you have developed in lectures to real-world contexts. Field trips are part of your course, and there are no additional costs.

Self-directed study

Emphasis is placed on independent work, and you will need to be well-motivated and organised.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the courses you choose to study in your programme and the nature of the topics explored.

Assessment might include:

  • written or practical exams and quizzes
  • practical evaluation in the field or field notebooks
  • coursework such as essays
  • individual or group projects
  • presentations

In your final year you will complete a dissertation.

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 (2020/21)

Studying geography gives you a wide range of career opportunities, and is reflected in the diversity of occupations and employers our students take up after university.

You can seek employment in a variety of areas, including:

  • scientific and humanities research
  • environmental consultancy
  • conservation
  • planning and surveying
  • teaching
  • government
  • charitable organisations
  • environmental management
  • geospatial data analysis

Graduates have also moved into areas such as finance, marketing, law, and communications and media.

Types of roles our graduates have obtained include Political Committee Specialist, Carbon Management Project Officer, UN Refugee Partnerships Officer, GIS Technologist, Criminal Intelligence Analyst, Science Engagement Officer, Government Liaison Officer, Head of Transport, and Film Maker.

Examples of organisations where our graduates are employed include local government, the United Nations, Dynamic Earth, Ecometrica Space Programme, BBC, Scottish Government, Centre for Sustainable Energy, Nestle, Accenture, CNN, Barclays Bank, Geocento, esriUK, and MapAction.

The School of GeoSciences is one of the largest groupings of geographers in the UK. You will have access to our wide range of research and industry networks, as well as a world-class experience with real-world relevance. Under the guidance of academics who are leaders in their field, you will be equipped with sought-after skills in geographical research.

Additionally, our programmes 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 - AAAB (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.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

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 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 and either Mathematics or Mathematical Studies at 5 (if not at HL). From 2021, both the Mathematics Analysis & approaches and Applications & interpretation pathways will be accepted*.

    *(Revised 13 October 2020 to correct information on accepted Mathematics pathways.)

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 standard requirements must be exceeded, including the following:

  • SQA Advanced Highers: AAB to include Geography.
  • A Levels: A*AA in one set of exams to include Geography.
  • IB: 38 points with 666 at HL to include Geography at 6. Applicants with more than one science are preferred.
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 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 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 module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component
  • 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 degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

English language requirements

*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)

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 MA Geography

Additional costs

The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses. Our geography degrees 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.

Due to the continued support of our generous Alumni community, all costs of travel, accommodation, and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme. However, incidental/personal expenses are to be met by the student.

Excursions as part of optional courses entail extra fees, which vary depending on the nature of the field trip.


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