Undergraduate study - 2020 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2019/2020

MA Honours in Geography and Economics

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution:

The University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences

Programme accredited by: N/A
Final award: MA Honours
Programme title: Geography and Economics
UCAS code: LL71
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): Geography
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr Thor Thordarsen, Sarah McAllister
Date of production/revision: July 2012

External summary

Geography is the study of the way the world works. It is a uniquely diverse and integrative discipline that spans the natural and social sciences. As a natural science, Geography focuses on the environment, mainly through landscapes and their evolution through space and time. As a social science, Geography is concerned with the relationships between people and their social, cultural, political and economic worlds. In both cases, the relationships between human and physical environments are central.

In integrating human and physical perspectives, and drawing on theoretical and practical approaches from the natural and social sciences, geography and geographers are well-placed to address issues of contemporary economics, social, and environmental concern such as climate change, environmental degradation, cultural identity, social exclusion and economic development.

The University of Edinburgh is one of the leading teaching and research institutions in the UK. Students benefit from being part of a research environment recognised for its excellence in the 2008 national Research Assessment Exercise, with 55% of research in ‘Geography and Environment Studies’ identified as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. This demonstrates that Geography students at Edinburgh are taught by staff who conduct research of the highest international quality, and who place great emphasis on linking their research and teaching activities.

Educational aims of programme

The main aims of the Geography Programme are to:

  • provide students with an understanding of fundamental concepts and current developments in human and physical geography;
  • use research expertise as a resource for teaching excellence.  Teaching reflects the in-depth knowledge of active researchers, and students are encouraged to engage with the frontiers of current academic research in the Honours years.  This results in stimulating courses which include the very latest developments portrayed by researchers at the forefront of their fields;
  • provide a broad and flexible curriculum by encouraging interdisciplinary study.  The Scottish Universities are committed to a broad fundamental education in the first two years of study prior to specialisation in a specific discipline thereafter.  The Colleges of Science and Engineering and Humanities & Social Sciences at Edinburgh University believe that students should pursue a curriculum for two years within at least two subject areas, in order to encourage interdisciplinary study.  A range of combined degrees is also available;
  • make full use of geography’s position at the interface between social and natural sciences and to examine the reciprocal relations between social and natural processes and environments;
  • develop students’ intellectual, communication and life skills so as to increase their employability and their enthusiasm for lifelong learning;
  • recognise the moral and ethical issues involved in debates and enquiries in both natural and social sciencess

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

The programme provides opportunities for students to realise both core and optional outcomes.  The precise balance of outcomes achieved and demonstrated will vary with the curriculum choices made by individual students. In general as they progress they will gain a greater depth of knowledge and understanding of the theory and practice of geography. They will develop their abilities to manage workloads, work in teams, meet deadlines and undertake independent research.

  • the reciprocal relationships between human and physical aspects of environments and landscapes;
  • the ways in which the distinctiveness of place is constituted and re-made by human and physical processes, and the influence of place-specific characteristics on such processes;
  • the ways in which physical and environmental systems shape the earth’s surface and how these systems change over time;
  • the concept of spatial variation, and an understanding of the social and cultural, political and economic dynamics which construct geographical inequalities in human life;
  • the diverse and politically-contested manners of representing the human and physical worlds.
  • the development of geography and the different philosophies informing geographical research;

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

By engaging with and completing the degree in Geography, graduates will be able to:

  • Collect and synthesise evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources
  • Critically evaluate research literature
  • Formulate research questions and structure arguments to address questions critically and analytically
  • Successfully complete an extended and complex piece of independent research presented as a final year dissertation
  • Communicate research findings with clarity and logic in a variety of different media.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

By engaging with and completing the degree in Geography, graduates will be able to:

  • work effectively both individually and as a member of a small group;
  • work independently and with good skills of self-management;
  • understand contemporary world issues with empathy and critical insight;
  • have awareness of personal responsibilities as local, national and global citizen;
  • display creativity, flexibility and adaptability.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

By engaging with and completing the degree in Geography, graduates will be able to:

  • Collect, synthesise and summarise evidence from a wide range of primary and secondary sources make proper use of library, internet and archival resources;
  • argue with clarity, logic and coherence;
  • utilise both qualitative and quantitative methods;
  • communicate visually, orally and in writing;
  • explain complex issues in both the natural and social sciences; and
  • undertake effective group/team work, while respecting the viewpoint of others.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

By engaging with and completing the degree in geography, graduates will be able to:

  • Collaborate efficiently and productively with others in the process of learning and presenting conclusions – this includes those with a range of backgrounds and knowledge, such as fellow-students, tutors and supervisors;
  • Organise their own learning, manage workload and work to a timetable;
  • Effectively plan, and possess the confidence to undertake and to present scholarly work that demonstrates an understanding of the aims, methods and theoretical considerations relevant to Geography; and
  • Work independently on the creation of essays, research reports briefing documents, posters and research based dissertations using the standards current in the academic field of Geography.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

By engaging with and completing the degree in Geography, graduates will be able to:

  • utilise both qualitative and quantitative methods;
  • undertake fieldwork;
  • deliver presentations;
  • routinely use word processing to produce essays and research papers;
  • utilise on-line resources critically and effectively;
  • conduct literature reviews, and
  • undertake group and team working.

Programme structure and features

SQCF credit points and levels for each constituent course and each year of the programme;

Normal year taken

Course

Schedules

Level

Credit

Total

1

Human Geography

N

8

20

Earth Surface Systems

N

8

20

Further courses

A-Q

8

80

2

BETWEEN TWO AND FOUR OF:

Economic and Political Geography

N

8

20

Environmental Sensitivity and Change

N

8

20

Geomorphology

N

8

20

Social and Cultural Geography

N

8

20

Further courses between 40 and 80 credits

A-Q

8

80

3†

The Nature of Geographical Knowledge

N

9

20

Geography Matters

N

9

20

ONE OF:

Geography Fieldwork: Foundations (Human)

N

9

10

Geography Fieldwork: Foundations (Physical)

N

9

10

Geography Small Research Project*

N

9

10

Quantitative Methods in Geography

N

9

10

Qualitative Methods in Geography

N

9

10

Research Design in Geography

N

9

10

Further course in Geography

N

10

20

Further courses

A-Q

9/10

20

4

Geography Dissertation

N

10

40

Visions for Geography

N

10

20

ONE OF:

  • Geography in the Archive
  • Human Geography Fieldwork:
  • Journey to the Western Isles
  • Physical Geography Fieldwork: Iceland
  • Researching with People: Participatory
  • Methods and ethnomethodology
  • Physical Geography Fieldwork:
  • Scottish Highlands

N

N

N

N

N

10

10

10

10

10

20

20

20

20

20

Further course in Geography

N

10

20

Further courses

A-Q

10

20

*Geography Small Research Project is normally only taken where a student is unable to attend one of the fieldwork foundation courses because of special circumstances which have been approved by the Special Circumstances Committee in Geography.

†Entry to third year normally requires successful completion of the first two years of the curriculum.

Progression requirements:

Honours Entry: Students intending to proceed to Honours in Geography must complete at least two 20 credit courses in second year Geography. Additionally they are strongly recommended to take a further third and should seriously consider a fourth Geography course as part of the remaining 80 credits required. They must achieve a pass (40% or higher) in all courses and gain a full complement (240 credits) of 1st and 2nd year courses by the beginning of 3rd year.

Normal progression requires the completion of 120 credits each year

The academic progress of students who do not achieve 80 credits is reviewed by the School Curriculum Approval Officer on a case by case basis.

An explanation of the articulation of learning outcomes and assessment practices:

A.Knowledge and understanding are promoted through a combination of lectures and small-group tutorials, seminars and practical exercises. All courses provide guidance on their aims and outcomes and supply students with instructions on directed reading. The importance of thorough preparation for examinations is repeatedly emphasised. These outcomes are demonstrated in unseen examinations and in set coursework. Such coursework usually takes the form of set essays, written projects, and practical reports.

B.The Programme promotes intellectual skills through lectures, tutorials, seminars and the completion of coursework. Students’ research skills are developed by completing a research plan and by being asked to identify their own topics for project work. Intellectual skills are also promoted by the research dissertation in which students are expected to put into practice many of the research lessons and principles gained from other courses. The assessment of written coursework and examination scripts is designed to gauge the extent to which students have demonstrated these skills. The marking criteria emphasise the importance of intellectual skills. Geography also uses a system of class assessment which does not count towards the degree result. This enables students to practice and experiment with their intellectual and other skills without fear that mistakes will jeopardise their eventual degree result.

C.Discipline-specific skills are promoted through the practical and project work undertaken in all four years of the Honours Degree and especially through the assessed projects in Geography 1, the third year field-courses and through the compulsory methods courses in year three. Key skills such as library use are also common to all courses. Other practical skills are promoted on optional courses and research electives and the achievement of more specialist laboratory, computing and qualitative skills will depend on an individual’s curriculum choice. The type of fieldwork outcomes achieved also depends on whether students choose field-courses in either human or physical geography. Discipline specific and key skills are assessed directly through the production of written practical reports, fieldwork diaries and research projects. They are also assessed by means of their contribution to the research dissertation. Class and degree work is again used to provide feedback on the achievement of practical capabilities.

D.Personal attributes and social skills are promoted through tutorial discussions in most courses and by formal and informal guidance from lecturers. Several courses provide opportunities for seminar presentations and provide feedback to students on their presentations. Several courses set group exercises and seminars in which students are required to co-operate with their peers. The dissertation and projects on Honours options require students to manage their time responsibly and to work with initiative whilst also seeking advice. Written communication skills are directly assessed on all courses and feedback on essay and report writing is continuous throughout the Programme. Some courses also use class-work to provide students with feedback on oral skills. Other courses assess students’ visual presentation skills by requiring students to produce posters. Failure to meet deadlines is penalised by a mark reduction on all courses.

Modes of study:

Full time and part time study available.

Exit awards available at the completion of specific stages of the programme:

Degrees lasting 3 years

There are a range of degrees lasting three years that are open to Geography students. As with all other degrees, students take 120 credits per year, thus graduating with a total of 360 credits. There are two main types of curriculum:

  1. In the 3rd year, the student can follow the full Geography third year – just as if they were taking a four-year degree, except that they graduate at the end of third year (BA Humanities and Social Science).
  2. In the 3rd year the student can follow a curriculum similar to that of other degrees in their 1st and 2nd year, and continue to take a diverse range of subjects in their 3rd year, rather than specialising in just one (BA Humanities and Social Science).

BSc (General)

This programme allows students to study a diverse range of courses for the full duration of their degree. At least 240 of the total 360 credits taken over three years are taken from subjects in the College of Science and Engineering (including Geography). 60 credits must be taken at level 9 or 10 (3rd year or higher).

BSc Ordinary Degree in a Designated Discipline

This is similar to the General Degree in that it also requires students to take at least 240 of the total 360 credits taken over three years from subjects in the College of Science and Engineering (including Geography). However, in the 3rd year they take at least 80 out of 120 credits in the 3rd year of your ‘Designated Discipline’ which, if they passed Geography 1 and 2, can be selected from the 3rd year Geography Programme. The student can take the full 120-credit 3rd year in Geography if they wish (see the Degree programme table for BSc (Hons) Geography).

BA (Humanities and Social Science)

This General Degree is available if the student has specialised in Humanities and Social Science courses in their 1st and 2nd year. This programme allows students to study a diverse range of courses for the full duration of their degree. At least 240 of the total 360 credits taken over three years are taken from subjects in the College of Humanities and Social Science.

Over the three years at least 140 credits must be taken in the ‘major subject’; at least 60 credits of that must be taken at level 9 or 10 (3rd year or higher). However, provided the student has taken courses from at least two other Humanities and Social Science subject areas in 1st and 2nd year, thay can take the full 3rd year in their major subject instead of other courses.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning strategies a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims. The graduate attributes listed above are met through a teaching and learning framework which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Teaching and Learning Activities

In Year 1

  • Lectures
  • Practical Classes
  • Tutorials
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors/directors of studies/supervisors

In Year 2

  • Lectures
  • Practical Classes
  • Tutorials
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors/directors of studies/supervisors

In Year 3

  • Lectures
  • Field Work
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors/directors of studies/supervisors

In Year 4

  • Lectures
  • Field Work
  • Tutorials
  • Seminars
  • Conference/ Poster workshops
  • Problem based learning activities
  • Peer group learning
  • Feedback sessions
  • Careers talks
  • Skills sessions
  • One to one meetings with personal tutors/directors of studies/supervisors

Facilties:

The School of GeoScience is equipped with a range of state-of-the-art facilities to support learning and research including computing equipment, analytical laboratories and field equipment. The Drummond St site where Geography teaching is based houses two student computer suites and the University hosts a full range of IT facilities including mobile networking, video-conferencing, High-Performance Computing and data repositories.  The School has a range of analytical laboratories to support sample analysis and it maintains close links with and access to facilities at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Laboratory at East Kilbride. The School supports a very wide range of equipment for field research including up-to-date surveying and remote sensing equipment, sediment and geochemical sampling, audio and video recording equipment.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 128720
Year 222780
Year 320800
Year 410900

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses are assessed using a diverse range of methods.  Every opportunity is taken to provide detailed feedback on any assessment and to allow students to learn from this and build on it for future work.

In Year 1

  • Class Essays
  • Online assignments
  • Multiple-choice tests
  • Written essay examinations

In Year 2

  • Class Essays
  • Online assignments
  • Multiple-choice tests
  • Written essay examinations

In Year 3

  • Class Essays
  • Online assignments
  • Multiple-choice tests
  • Field Work Reports
  • Written essay examinations
  • Data analysis projects
  • Research project planning exercises.
  • Oral Presentations

In Year 4

  • Class Essays
  • Online assignments
  • Multiple-choice tests
  • Field Work Reports
  • Written essay examinations
  • Data analysis projects
  • Research project planning exercises.
  • Oral Presentations
  • Poster presentations
  • Dissertation

Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 163433
Year 261039
Year 357043
Year 428072

Career opportunities

Studying Geography at the University of Edinburgh prepares you for a range of careers including teaching, planning, surveying, environmental consultancy and cartography. Recent graduates have also moved into finance, marketing and law. Many students choose to go on to postgraduate study and continue their research.

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