BSc (Hons) Environmental Science (Including Foundation Year)
USW is Top 15 in the UK and top in Wales for Geography and Environmental Studies for the past three years(Guardian League Table 2020-22)
Do you have a passion for the environment and working towards a green economy? Is your goal to make a vital contribution to tackling and solving the problems of climate change, renewable resources, environmental pollution, conservation for biodiversity and environmental management?
This course is a future-focused and solution-based programme in environmental sustainability and climate change. Designed with industry and taught by experts in their fields, this BSc (Hons) Environmental Science course puts you at the forefront of environmental innovation and change.
On this experience-rich degree course, you will develop a broad range of practical, laboratory, field-based and project skills, including through working with external organisations and companies to improve environmental sustainability locally, nationally, and globally.
The course will enable you to have a positive and transformational impact as you engage society, business and government in future solutions for environmental sustainable development. It will also help you to gain the skills and expertise required for a career in the green economy, as you aim to find solutions to the many challenges our environment faces.
Top in Wales for student satisfaction in Geography and Environmental Science (Complete University Guide 2023)
This course has been designed with industry to be employment-focused and will give you knowledge, training, and experience in all of the key sectors for meeting the environmental challenges of the future.
The degree is organised into a series of themes, each linking to an employment sector. These themes include climate change, renewable resources and energy, biodiversity and conservation, environmental pollution, sustainable development, and environmental management.
The degree themes directly target important sectors of employment in sustainability within government bodies and organisations, consultancies, industry, and non-government organisations. These include the principal areas of environmental-related employment in recycling and renewables, pollution and environmental monitoring, land remediation, carbon emissions reduction, future climate adaptations, conservation, and ecosystem solutions.
Each theme is introduced in the first year to provide a background to that area, topics are developed in more detail in the second year, and in the final year, they are applied to consider solutions and provide training for specific career pathways you may wish to pursue.
To learn more about our modules, watch this video.
Year 1 - Foundation Year
Foundation Natural History and Environmental Science
This will develop an understanding of ecological processes, the principal ecosystems and environments inhabited by living organisms, the principal human impacts on the natural environment, and provide an overview of basic methods of environmental sampling and measurement.
This module gives students a basic knowledge of living things, and the processes which enable them to survive and reproduce. It also introduces them to the evolutionary processes which lead to the modern diversity of the living world.
This introduces the fundamental concepts of inorganic and organic chemistry. It enables you to use the symbolism and calculations involved in qualitative and quantitative descriptions of chemical reactions.
This introduces you to fundamental concepts in the physical sciences. You will explore units, measurement and errors, atomic structure, the electronic structure of atoms, the stability of the nucleus and radioactivity.
Key Skills and Professional Development
This module introduces you to the key kills required to complete a science degree and engage in lifelong learning. These include identifying learning strategies, critical thinking, academic writing/practice, presentation skills, preparation for employment, and professional conduct.
Scientific Data Literacy
This will provide you with the understanding and ability to apply simple mathematical tools to obtain, interpret, manipulate, present and explain the significance of scientific data and the role mathematics plays in the sciences. This is designed to develop and support your application of numerical literacy and data handling set in the broad context of science.
The Climate System
The module will introduce climate change. To understand it you will first consider the climate system and the Earth’s systems that affect atmospheric and climate processes, including atmospheric composition, circulation and weather systems. You will also study other areas that feed into the climate system, including the oceans, productivity in ecosystems and important geochemical cycles including the carbon cycle.
Resources and Materials
This will introduce you to our key natural resources, their use, extraction, sustainability, re-use/recycling, disposal and the concepts of a circular economy. It will include water resources, soil, construction materials, minerals and metals. It will consider the measurement of soil health and sustainable agriculture. It will also introduce material science, product design, reuse, recycling and separation technologies along with disposal and management.
Principles of Ecology
You will study population and community ecology, including population dynamics, strategies and habitat structure. The module will consider food webs, energy flow, biogeochemical cycles, trophic levels and pollution pressures, along with ecological successions, habitats, niches, microclimates and phenology. There will also be field and laboratory work, introducing practical identification skills.
Impacts on Environment
In this module you will study human activity impacts on natural systems (land, sea, air) and biota in the past, present and future. This will include landscape change, extinctions, large-scale resource extraction and exploitation. It will consider pollutants and contamination, including water pollution and microplastics, along with impacts on human health.
The Sustainable Society
You will consider concepts of sustainable development and the challenges of integrating environmental, social and economic interests. This will include political ideologies and the way this has underpinned recent government thinking towards the economy, environment and society. Institutions, agencies, organisations and policies responsible for the delivery of sustainable development are considered from the global to the local scale.
Environmental Skills Development
This module will develop your skills and experience in environment science in the field. It will involve multidisciplinary environmental site assessment and environmental impact assessments, developed as project work. This will develop your research and communication skills, allowing you to consider data generation and research methodologies. You will also be introduced to Geographical Information Systems to generate and visualise spatial data, and to consider locational data including using Global Positioning Systems.
You will use a range of records of climate change to consider their natural and human-induced causes and understand the mechanisms for those changes. This will include larger and smaller-scale climate system shifts for a range of longer-term, abrupt and recent climate changes. You will also consider the consequences of those climate changes, including environmental and human impacts on different time scales, to consider recent impacts of climate changes against longer-term patterns.
You will consider non-renewable and renewable energy systems. This will include conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon systems; nuclear energy systems and nuclear waste disposal; and geothermal energy including deep geothermal plants, ground source heating and cooling. It will also consider renewable energy technologies, resource assessment and utilisation, along with environmental impacts, including solar, wind, wave, tidal, biomass and hydrogen. You will also consider power storage and transmission, energy supply and demand and the reduction in energy demand through sustainable engineering and design.
This will prepare you for a graduate career in ecology by introducing you to a range of contemporary industry skills and techniques for ecological surveys, assessments, and recommendations. Working alongside practitioners in the sector, you will learn how to survey and assess species, habitat and landscape condition and management. You will also consider biodiversity action plans, environmental policy and conservation assessment.
This module will allow you to consider the detection, analysis, management and mitigation of environmental contaminants. You will be trained in contaminated land environmental impact assessment, including stages of site assessment, identification and characterisation of pollutant sources, sampling strategies and analytical methods. You will also consider various remediation strategies to manage contaminated environments.
Global Production and Consumption
You will examine the centrality of consumption to everyday life and how it connects people and places across the world economically, socially, culturally, politically and environmentally. The relationship between spaces of production and consumption through interconnected networks from the local to global scale are explored and their environmental impact and future sustainability considered. These relations are assessed in relation to themes such as population changes, globalisation, economic trade and development, ethical consumption, alternative networks and waste
You will be involved in collaborative environmental and development projects with community groups, industrial or organisation partners. This will involve you in the design and implementation of projects and provide you with critical insight into breaking down the barriers (real and imagined) between industry, agencies, institutions, local government and the communities in which they are located and which they serve. It will develop your project management, teamwork, and leadership skills.
Optional year of study abroad, in industry or on a voluntary placement
Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation
In this module you will model future climate change scenarios and consider their impacts, risks management strategies and ways to develop resilience, including the needs, options, planning and implementation of adaptation strategies. You will also consider climate change mitigation, including current and future emissions reduction with carbon footprint reduction in a range of sectors including energy, transport, built environment, agriculture and industry. You will also consider carbon sequestration methods and holistic environmental management.
Resources for the Future
You will consider the material needs for a sustainable low-carbon future and future sustainability, including raw materials for the low carbon transition. This will include battery materials, supply and demand; mineral exploration and production, recycling and reprocessing. You will also consider material characterisation and analysis, recycling streams and the production of renewable materials.
Global Ecological Challenges
You will consider approaches to managing landscapes and species in response to global change, including future-proofing. This will include the importance of ecological networks and connectivity, habitat translocation, and the co-benefits of functioning ecological systems. You will be using biological indicators for the ecological monitoring of species and biological communities and identifying research needs in response to projected ecological changes.
This module will use integrated case study and project work to provide you with training in gathering and managing data, including for environmental legal investigations. It will include aspects of environmental law and the role of environmental tools (botany, ecology, entomology, soil science, geology), crime scene sampling, analytical methods, the use of aerial imagery and drones, and methods for evidence reporting.
Politics of the Environment
You will examine the political concerns and contestations that surround the relationship between nature, environment and society. This will be demonstrated through a range of landscapes and the ways in which we conceptualise, represent and manage environments. The module will explore the role and influence of the environmental movements, protests and campaign organisations, NGOs, governments and citizens in developing and planning sustainable environments for the future.
Your research project will be designed with full support from staff and will come from independent field-based research or from a relevant industry, work or voluntary placement. It will allow you to develop a critical, in-depth analysis for an area of the course that most interests you, and further develop your project management skills.
The course is taught via a mixture of lectures, workshops, seminars, tutorials, practical laboratory work, fieldwork, and interdisciplinary team-based learning, in conjunction with industry and alongside communities, which provides the ideal opportunity for building your experience and skills. The degree also incorporates training in industry-standard software in GIS, remote sensing, and quantitative and qualitative data capture and analysis to further develop your technical skills.
The number of hours of formal teaching will vary depending on your module choice and year of study and can be timetabled throughout the week. Fieldwork is also timetabled, including both day, half-day and residential. Normally, depending on the type of study, each module will consist of 48 hours of contact and 152 hours of independent study.
Careers workshops, employer conferences and work-based learning are all built into the course. Engaging you in a range of projects will encourage you to develop your portfolio of transferable skills, build confidence and become a highly employable graduate.
You will be taught skills in communication, project management, research, analysis and reporting through external project work which will help to build your CV and employability. Environmental skills will be at the heart of a future green economy, but your ability to communicate and translate those ideas will also be critically important
We want you to succeed. We will provide you with a range of support mechanisms for both academic and pastoral care. This will come through our Personal Academic Coaching individual tutorial system, but also from your module tutors and course leader. We have an “open door” policy for all students who need immediate assistance, advice or support
You will be assessed using a range of approaches depending on your module choice and year of study which could include for example: writing essays, reports, field notebooks, posters, oral presentations, laboratory reports, industry-style reports, examinations and undertaking practical fieldwork. In the final year, you will complete an in-depth project on a subject of your interest. Some modules are part exam and part coursework. Many modules are entirely assessed through coursework.
The course provides opportunities for shorter and longer work and voluntary placements which will allow you to put theory into practice whilst also building up your connections to industry.
USW has some of the most extensive fieldwork opportunities of any UK university courses. Cardiff, the Brecon Beacons National Park, and the Glamorgan Heritage Coast are all nearby and provide a natural laboratory for study. We offer an impressive international portfolio of fieldwork too. To manage our carbon footprint, costs for overseas fieldwork will include supporting one of our partner carbon offsetting schemes.
As well as making use of the great outdoors, students on our degree work in modern laboratories and classrooms. Our new George Knox laboratories are part of a £15m investment in science for the University, meaning you will be taught in new and well-equipped spaces. These join the Grade II listed Alfred Russel Wallace building, which is also used for teaching.
Our students use a variety of fully equipped geographical information systems (GIS), media editing and IT laboratories, each carrying industry-standard research and specialist software.
USW’s Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC) has been a leading and internationally recognised centre for more than 30 years. SERC undertakes national and world-leading research into waste treatment and the sustainable production of energy from waste and grown biomass. It brings together leaders from biology, engineering, chemistry, and physics in a single academic team combining their resources and skills in order to address major energy and environmental challenges.
Dr Tony Harris (climate change and environmental management, Course Leader)
Ms Niamh Breslin (environmental modelling and GIS)
Dr Anthony Caravaggi (conservation biology)
Prof Richard Dinsdale (renewable energy and water treatment)
Dr Sorcha Diskin (geochemistry and landscape evolution)
Dr Jonathan Duckett (sustainable development and society)
Prof Sandra Esteves (energy and materials resource recovery)
Dr Amelia Grass (conservation biology and wildlife genetics)
Prof Alan Guwy (waste and energy resource recovery)
Dr Thomas Lambourne (sustainable development and society)
Dr Christian Laycock (renewable energy and materials)
Dr David Lee (wildlife ecology and conservation biology)
Dr Natalie Lubbock (marine and freshwater biology)
Dr Tracie McKinney (biological anthropology)
Dr Angela Morris (climatic change and environmental management)
Dr Rhian Newman (marine biology)
Dr Tim Patterson (sustainability analysis)
Dr Duncan Pirrie (forensic geoscience)
Dr Gareth Powell (environmental impacts and law)
Dr James Reed (renewable and low-carbon energy)
Dr Ian Skilling (volcanologist)
We regularly revalidate courses for quality assurance and enhancement
At USW, we regularly review our courses in response to changing patterns of employment and skills demand to ensure we offer learning designed to reflect today’s student needs and tomorrow’s employer demands.
If during a review process course content is significantly changed, we’ll write to inform you and talk you through the changes for the coming year. But whatever the outcome, we aim to equip our students with the skillset and the mindset to succeed whatever tomorrow may bring. Your future, future-proofed.
This entry criteria details typical offers, however, USW has a Contextual Admissions Policy and considers eligible applicants on an individual basis. Under the Policy we could make a personalised offer based on aspects of the UCAS application or have results considered individually when you receive them. Here is a link to our Contextual Admissions Policy Statement.
Combinations of qualifications are acceptable and other qualifications not listed may also be acceptable.
Typical A-Level Offer
EE to include at least one Science subject such as Geography or Mathematics and to exclude General Studies
Typical Welsh BACC Offer
Typical BTEC Offer
BTEC Extended Diploma Pass Pass Pass in a relevant Science subject or BTEC Diploma Pass Pass in a relevant Science subject
Typical IB Offer
Pass IB Diploma or two IB Certficates at Higher level to include a relevant Science subject
Typical Access to HE Offer
Pass Access to HE Diploma in Science/Maths or Geography with a minimum of 48 UCAS Tariff points
GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 3 GCSEs including Mathematics and English at Grade C or above, or their equivalent but consideration is given to individual circumstances
International Entry Requirements
We also welcome international applications with equivalent qualifications. Please visit the country specific pages on our international website for exact details.
If your current qualifications don't meet the entry requirements for entry onto year 1 of your chosen undergraduate degree, we offer one-year International Foundation Programmes through our pathway partnership with QAHE to help you reach the level required for progression. For more information visit our Pathway website.
In general, international applicants will need to have achieved an overall IELTS grade of 6.0 with a minimum score of 5.5 in each component.
However, if you have previously studied through the medium of English IELTS might not be required, but please visit the country specific page on our international website for exact details. If your country is not featured please contact us.
Full-time fees are per year. Part-time fees are per 20 credits. Once enrolled, the fee will remain at the same rate throughout the duration of your study on this course
August 2022 - July 2023 Fees
Full-time UK: £9000
Full-time International: £14000
At the University of South Wales, you’re investing in so much more than a degree. We strive to provide our students with the best possible experience, no matter what you chose to study. Whether it’s access to top of the range mac books and PCs, state-of-the-art facilities packed with industry-leading equipment and software, masterclasses and events led by industry experts, or a wide range of clubs and societies to meet likeminded people, better tomorrows start with extra perks.
Each course also has their own unique student benefits to prepare you for the real word, and details of these can be found on our course pages. From global field trips, integrated work experience and free course-related resources, to funded initiatives, projects working with real employers, and opportunities for extra qualifications and accreditations - at USW your future, is future-proofed.
As a student of USW, you’ll have access to lots of free resources to support your study and learning, such as textbooks, publications, online journals, laptops, and plenty of remote-access resources. Whilst in most cases these resources are more than sufficient in supporting you with completing your course, additional costs, both obligatory and optional, may be required or requested for the likes of travel, memberships, experience days, stationery, printing, or equipment.
|Kit / equipment *||
Students undertaking courses that contain elements of outdoor fieldwork must wear appropriate outdoor clothing, which includes suitable wet weather gear, rugged boots/shoes and hat/gloves. The location and weather will determine the nature of clothing/footwear worn, and therefore the cost, and students will be informed of these requirements at the start of their studies. Please note that inappropriate clothing/footwear may prevent students from participating in an activity.
The School of Applied Sciences subsidises the cost of compulsory fieldwork in the UK and overseas. Although kept to a minimum, some overseas compulsory fieldwork may have additional costs applied. Optional fieldwork modules are typically at the cost to the student. Generally, students will be expected to pay for their food unless specifically included within the field course. Students will need to supply suitable field notebooks in order to take observations/notes during field courses. Please note that some fieldwork may require visas and vaccinations, which are at the cost to the student and will vary depending on individual circumstances.
You can also apply via UCAS if you are a UK residing applicant, applying for year one of a full-time undergraduate degree, Foundation Year, Foundation Degree or HND and you have not applied through UCAS before. If you are applying to study part-time, to top up your Foundation Degree or HND, or to transfer to USW from another institution, please apply directly.
Apply directly to the University if you live outside the UK.
The green jobs market is growing fast. Key drivers behind the increase in jobs in the environment sector are the issues stemming from climate change, including societal resilience, future energy needs, biodiversity and conservation, water security, clean air and healthy oceans, along with mounting resource and waste issues. The need for employment in this sector will only continue to grow. Knowledge and expertise are required in areas for climate change adaptation, sustainable consumption, energy and transport, and in transforming environmental policy.
The key themes through the degree course have been designed to provide you with knowledge, training, and experience for a range of pathways that are of interest to employers, that will turn into a wide range of environmental careers. These careers may come directly after your degree, or you may also wish to further specialise by progressing onto a Masters’ courses, for example onto our MSc Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies or MSc Wildlife Conservation Management.
Career pathways include:
Climate and resilience programme manager
Climate policy lead for data analytical company
Land use policy adviser for climate change
Carbon programme manager or net zero carbon planning officer
Energy and carbon consultant
Governmental and non-governmental policy advisors
Environmental stakeholder lead
Environmental campaign organizer
Policy analyst for campaigning organisation in sustainability and environment
Waste management officer
Research analyst for sustainability consultancy
Biodiversity and conservation
Nature conservation officer
Nature reserve warden
National Park officer
Lead policy advocate for ecological health and invasive species
Environmental education officer
Education and nature wellbeing officer
Pollution incident manager
Water quality scientist
Environmental officers for multi-national and large enterprises
Our Careers and Employability Service
As a USW student, you will have access to advice from the Careers and Employability Service throughout your studies and after you graduate.
This includes: one-to-one appointments from faculty based Career Advisers, in person, over the phone or even on Skype and through email via the "Ask a Question" service. We also have extensive online resources for help with considering your career options and presenting yourself well to employers. Resources include psychometric tests, career assessments, a CV builder, interview simulator and application help. Our employer database has over 2,000 registered employers targeting USW students, you can receive weekly email alerts for jobs.
Our Careers service has dedicated teams: A central work experience team to help you find relevant placements; an employability development team which includes an employability programme called Grad Edge; and an Enterprise team focused on new business ideas and entrepreneurship.