BSc (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography

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 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.

No degree in this subject can be confined to a classroom, so almost all modules are supported by field courses that make the most of our excellent location, close to some of the UK’s best landscapes. On overseas field courses, students have assessed hazards in Sicily or Greece, volcanic processes in Iceland, and climate change and environmental management in Thailand, East Africa or South Africa

You’ll develop practical fieldwork and laboratory techniques to improve your employment prospects. You’ll also explore how to identify and exploit natural resources, consider solutions to environmental concerns, and study geohazard analysis, climate change and engineering geology.

Top 10 in the UK for Geography and Environmental Studies for the past two years and top in Wales for Geography and Environmental Studies (Guardian League Table 2020-21).

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
FF68 Full-time 3 Years September Glyntaff A

Areas in which you can specialise include Earth history, stratigraphy, petrology, structural geology, geographical information systems (GIS), palaeontology, climate change, environmental hazards, geomorphology, sustainable coastal and environmental management, natural resource exploration and exploitation, environmental policy and volcanology.

We have modules that prepare you for the graduate marketplace and help with project management, interview skills and job-search techniques. You'll gain experience in industry-standard techniques and technologies, often in partnership with external organisations

Year One: Geology and Physical Geography degree

  • The Dynamic Earth
  • Rocks, Minerals and Fossils
  • Basic Field Geology 1
  • Introductory to Data Analysis and GIS
  • Landform Systems
  • Introductory Field and Research Skills

Year Two: Geology and Physical Geography

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

Year Three: Geology and Physical Geography

  • Basin Analysis and Hydrocarbon Exploration
  • Management of Environmental Hazards

Additionally, four modules from the following options:

  • Climate Change
  • Volcanology
  • Engineering and Mining Geology
  • Independent Geological Mapping and Research 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.

Field Trips

Our UK field courses include locations such as west Wales, Dorset, Cornwall and Scotland. On overseas field courses, students have assessed hazards in Sicily or Greece, volcanic processes in Iceland, and climate change and environmental management in eastern or South Africa (additional costs may apply for overseas fieldwork).

Please note: the exact locations of all overseas field trips may vary each year and is based on the area’s suitability for academic study and the overall cost of the trip.

There may be additional costs associated with this course


Studying in specialist laboratories, you’ll explore the concepts of geological study, identify natural resources, and investigate environmental concerns, geohazard 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

The entry criteria below shows the qualification range within which the University will make offers. Most offers we make are at the top of the range, but we take all aspects of an application into consideration and applicants receive a personalised offer. Combinations of qualifications are acceptable and other qualifications not listed here may also be acceptable.

Please be aware of the physical demands of this course which has modules with significant fieldwork elements. If you therefore have a disability which is likely to be affected by these physical demands, please get in touch with the course leader Dr Tony Harris as soon as possible. We will then investigate the reasonable adjustments that we can make to ensure your Health and Safety. Please note that if any Health & Safety aspects cannot be overcome, we may not be able to offer you a place on the course of your choice.

All applicants are encouraged to attend a University Applicant Day to discuss the field courses with our staff, including current additional costs and the nature of the activities that are undertaken which are an integral part of the course.

Typical A-Level Offer

BCC - CDD to include a Science such as Geography or Mathematics but to exclude General Studies (this is equivalent to 104-80 UCAS tariff points).

Typical Welsh BACC Offer

Pass the Advanced Welsh Baccalaureate Diploma with Grade C/D in the Skills Challenge Certificate and BC - CD at A level to include a Science (which may be Geography or Mathematics) but to exclude General Studies (this is equivalent to 104-80 UCAS tariff points).

Typical Science Requirements

Applicants taking Science A levels in England will need to pass the practical element alongside achieving the requested grade(s)

Typical BTEC Offer

BTEC Extended Diploma Distinction Merit Merit - Merit Merit Pass in a relevant Science subject (this is equivalent to 112-80 UCAS tariff points).

Typical IB Offer

Pass the International Baccalaureate Diploma with a minimum score of 29 overall including a score of 5 in a Science subject at Higher Level. You will also need to obtain a score of 5 or above in English at standard level.


Typical Access to HE Offer

Pass an Access to HE Diploma in Science/Maths and obtain a minimum of 80 UCAS tariff points

Additional Requirements

GCSEs: The University normally requires a minimum 5 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.

Find out how to pay your tuition fees in full or by payment plan.

This course is eligible under the Enhanced Learning Credits scheme for Ex-Armed Forces personnel.

International Scholarships are available for self-funding international students.

August 2021 - July 2022 Fees

  • Full-time UK:  £9000

  • Full-time International:  £13800 

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.

* Obligatory

Item Cost
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.
Field Trip * £150 - £200
Fieldwork presently conducted in Greece. The School subsidises the cost of the trip by £400 per student. Additional costs to the student are approximately £150 to £250, but depend on accommodation used and exchange rates at the time.
Field Trip £1300 - £1600
A two week regional geography field course to destinations that have included Uganda, South Africa or Thailand. Study will include various aspects of physical and environmental geography, including through partnership project working.
Field Trip £750
A one week field course, currently to the Azores, to study a range of aspects related to volcanology.
Field Trip £100 - £1500
This Independent Mapping work requires up to 6 weeks of residential stay (unless working from home in south Wales and mapping in local area). We encourage students to map outside of south Wales. 4 weeks of mapping and up to 2 weeks of project work. Students are encouraged to undertake project work that involves fieldwork and is in the same area as the mapping, but projects that involve work in a different area or no fieldwork are also possible.
Placement *
Students who successfully secure a placement in industry to complete their project would be expected to pay their own travel costs to and from the venue during the period of placement. The cost of this will of course vary and some students have also paid for accommodation close to their place of work for the duration of their placement.

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.

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.