Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

MA Geography

UCAS code: L700

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing MA Geography

Do you have a keen interest in cultures and societies? Are you curious about the relationship between politics and the environment? Geography may be for you.

What is geography?

Geography is the study of the way the world works. 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

The MA Geography

The Master of Arts (MA) Geography enables you to specialise in human geography.

This discipline 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
  • deprivation
  • urban justice
  • indigenous struggles
  • land rights
  • migration
  • mobility
  • climate emergency
  • everyday life

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

You will also study aspects of physical geography, as it is important to understand our impact on the world and our ways of living within it.

The programme is flexible, so you will have opportunities to build your degree around areas that you are most curious or passionate about.

Open to a world of possibilities

By studying the MA Geography at the University of Edinburgh, you will:

  • join one of the top-ranked universities in the world
  • become part of an academic community in one of the leading geography departments in the UK
  • enjoy access to a world of experience with our research and industry networks
  • learn from geographers at the forefront of their fields, undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas

Our staff will incorporate the latest research in your teaching, and share their discoveries with you.

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.

Our field trips:

  • take you out of the classroom
  • give you hands-on experience prized by employers
  • help you develop the skills 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.

Past field trip locations include:

  • the Scottish Highlands
  • Greece
  • South Africa
  • Germany

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation.

Field trips may be subject to change

As we update the programme 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. 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 for educational experience.

What is it really like to study with us?

Visit our student blog, where students in the School of GeoSciences share their experiences of undergraduate study, living in Edinburgh and everything in-between.

Student experience blog


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.

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. This provides you with fundamental 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. Previous field trips have been to the Scottish Highlands.

Option courses

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 this 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

From 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.

Year 3

In Year 3, you will be able to focus on the aspects of human 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. Past fieldwork locations include 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. This 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 in a variety of locations subject to student interest and demand. Recent locations include the Scottish Western Isles and Berlin.

At the end of your programme, a compulsory course will summarise the breadth and value of geographical research and 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 (2021/22)

Our facilities

The Institute of Geography building is part of the University’s Central Area campus. It is on Drummond Street, bounded by the 16th Century Flodden Wall.

The building contains:

  • 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 of the teaching spaces and facilities within the University’s central campus, such as the Main Library and gym.

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

Virtual Visit

Why not pay a Virtual Visit to the University? Our interactive platform takes you on a guided tour through Edinburgh and helps you explore the campus for yourself.

Start your journey here

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.

Teaching can be through a mix of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • practical classes
  • workshops
  • project work

Study commitment

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 each week). This contact time could be through lectures, tutorials, practicals or field trips.

You will also:

  • undertake independent learning (reading, preparing for lectures and tutorials, completing assessments, and developing your study skills)
  • learn to give presentations, getting to practice in front of both academics and your peers

In your final year, you will design and execute 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.

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. These 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

Our field trips are:

  • hard work and fun (they will provide some of your most memorable moments)
  • an excellent way to learn, enabling you to apply the knowledge and skills you have developed in lectures to real-world contexts
  • part of your course (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.

This 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

You will complete a dissertation in your final year.

Studying geography gives you a wide range of career opportunities, and is reflected in the diversity of occupations 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.

Where do our graduates find employment?

Roles our graduates have undertaken 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
  • Film Maker

Examples of organisations where our graduates are employed include:

  • local government, the Scottish Government and the United Nations
  • the BBC and CNN
  • Barclays Bank, Nestle and Accenture
  • Ecometrica Space Programme
  • Centre for Sustainable Energy
  • Dynamic Earth
  • Geocento, esriUK, and MapAction

Industry networks

The School of GeoSciences is 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, as well as studying a degree 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.

Further study

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.

Careers Service

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at university and after graduation.

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • 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 at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Careers Service

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, 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 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.

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

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.

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


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