BSc (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography (Including Foundation Year)


Are you looking for a degree that combines a study of the Earth, including its structure, composition and history, with its surface processes and their interactions with Earth’s systems and people? Together, the study of geology and physical geography will provide you with a unique breadth of subject knowledge and a sound understanding of the Earth.

The BSc (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography is the only degree in Wales to properly offer this combination of subjects, you will be able to combine the study Physical Geography and Geology elements that really interest you, shaping your final degree in Earth Sciences.

The Foundation course is designed for applicants who do not currently meet admissions criteria for direct entry to the BSc (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography degree. You’ll start by completing a foundation year, which provides well-structured support, allowing you to develop your scientific skills and knowledge.

Field-trips may take you to the Pembrokeshire National Park, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and Brecon Beacons National Park. There may also be the opportunity to travel further afield, for example to the tectonically and volcanically active areas of Sicily or Greece, and mapping in locations such as France, Spain, Scotland Ireland, Thailand or Uganda. (Additional costs may apply).

USW ranked Top in Wales for Geography and Environmental Studies in the Guardian League Table 2021.

2021/22 update: Blended learning approach for USW courses.

[Update excludes online-only courses].

The wellbeing and health and safety of our students and staff is paramount to us. We are committed to delivering all of our courses and services as safely as possible. Due to the pandemic, the methods and activities adopted for the coming year may differ from those previously published and may be subject to further change through the course of your study if such change is necessary due to public health concerns, health and safety guidance or in response to Government Guidelines. USW is committed to providing you with a fantastic student experience and a wealth of support, and you can hear how students have benefitted from this approach here: Learn more about blended learning.

UCAS Code Study Mode
Duration Start Date Campus Campus Code
0Y46 Full-time 4 Years September Glyntaff A

You will gain a wide range of applied technical skills, in addition to developing traditional analytical, research and mapping skills. The course will develop your ability to work logically and independently, to acquire, analyse and interpret data; to develop scientific principles and to employ these methods and techniques to solve geological and geographical problems.

The curriculum provides suitable background knowledge in the first year depth in the second year, and a focus on management, practical application and employability in the third year. This will include areas of greatest interest and relevance to society, including exploration and exploitation of mineral and hydrocarbon resources, environmental management, management of hazards and climate change. Your degree will provide you with the knowledge and experience to tackle these areas in employment or further study. You will gain experience in a variety of field and survey skills.

Year One

  • Foundations in Earth Sciences
  • Key Ideas in Geography
  • Foundation Ecology and Environmental Science
  • Geo Field Techniques
  • Key Skills and Professional Development
  • Scientific Data Literacy

Year Two

  • The Dynamic Earth
  • Rocks, Minerals and Fossils
  • Basic Field Geology
  • Introductory to Data Analysis and GIS
  • Landform Systems
  • Introductory Field and Research Skills

Year Three

  • The Evolving Earth
  • Sedimentology
  • Structural Geology
  • Reconstructing Change
  • Fluvial and Glacial Environments
  • Techniques in Geography

Year Four

  • Basin Analysis and Hydrocarbon Exploration
  • Management of Environmental Hazards

Additionally, four modules from the following options:

  • Climate Change
  • Volcanology
  • Engineering and Mining Geology
  • Independent Mapping and Project
  • Regional Geography Field Course
  • Earth Observation
  • Dissertation
  • Work Based Learning


You will learn from a combination of lectures, laboratory sessions, tutorials, practicals, and UK field trips. The number of hours of formal teaching will vary depending on your module choice and year of study.

This BSc (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography degree includes a balanced mix of lectures, tutorials, laboratory periods, computer classes and practical coursework sessions, in addition to local and residential field courses. This will provide you with a wide range of learning opportunities and a superb set of experiences.

You can expect to work on a variety of assignments whether as an individual or within groups. You will still study six modules each year, with a usual timetabled week of around 15 hours.


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 can choose to complete a dissertation in a chosen subject of interest, or work-based learning.


Employability skills and work-based learning are built into our geology courses. For example, in the first year we identify the skills and experiences you already have and how they can be enhanced through your studies. In the second year, early career strategies, interview techniques and CV writing are integrated into your studies. The final year gives you the opportunity to undertake work-based learning and to conduct project work.


In specialist laboratories, you’ll explore the concepts of geological study, identify natural resources, and investigate environmental concerns, geo-hazard analysis and engineering.

Students can use a variety of fully equipped geographical information systems (GIS), media editing and IT laboratories, each carrying industry-standard research and specialist software.


Dr Anthony Harris, course leader

Entry criteria detail typical offers but USW considers all applications on an individual basis which means that we could make offers based on qualifications, personal profile and experience. Combinations of qualifications are acceptable and other qualifications not listed may also be acceptable.

Typical A-Level Offer

EE to include a relevant Science subject but to exclude General Studies

Typical Welsh BACC Offer


Typical BTEC Offer

BTEC Extended Diploma Pass Pass Pass or BTEC Diploma Pass Pass in a relevant subject

Typical IB Offer

Pass IB Diploma or two IB Certficates at Higher level to include Science or Maths.

Typical Access to HE Offer

Pass Maths or Science Diploma with 60 credits overall to include 45 level 3 credits all Passes

Additional Requirements

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.

English Requirements

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 2020 - July 2021 Fees

  • Full-time UK:  £9000

  • Full-time International:  £13500 

August 2021 - July 2022 Fees

  • Full-time UK: TBC

  • Full-time International: TBC

Additional Costs

Students have access to a wide range of resources including textbooks, publications, and computers in the University’s library and via online resources. In most cases they are more than sufficient to complete a course of study. Where there are additional costs, either obligatory or optional, these are detailed below. Of course students may choose to purchase their own additional personal resources/tools over and above those listed to support their studies at their own expense. All stationery and printing costs are at a student’s own expense.

UK and EU students

Apply via UCAS if you are a UK/EU 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

International students

Apply directly to the University if you live outside the UK/EU. 

Apply now 

Admissions statement

The emphasis for the Geology and Physical Geography degree is on employability and our graduates have obtained positions in many areas of traditional geological employment such as hydrocarbon extraction and exploration, or aggregate exploitation. In addition, other career openings for our graduates include contaminated land reclamation, waste disposal and geotechnical engineering. Many of our graduates have developed careers in local authorities, environmental consultancies, the Environment Agency, the construction industry, the service sector and the civil service.

Whether in a diverse and competitive jobs market or reading for a higher degree, we know you will be as well prepared as possible come graduation. You will find that there is no match for the practical experiences and applications you will develop through study on our courses and on fieldwork.

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.