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Marine Geography (MESci)

  • 1D79

4 years (Full-time) / n/a (Part-time) / n/a (Distance / E-Learning)

The four year MESci course at Cardiff involves hypothesis testing, critical analysis and problem solving whilst learning about the process and outcomes of research. It builds upon and augments the equivalent BSc programme by means of a fourth year which enables you to undertake a specialist research project in the area of your choice. It is designed for high quality candidates who might aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry.

Cardiff is the birthplace of the discipline of Marine Geography in the UK. The degree scheme has been running since 1976 and is an extremely successful training route for employment in the marine and coastal sector or for future academic study. The scheme is an exciting blend of the physical and human geography of deep sea marine and coastal environments. A major component of the course in Cardiff is that of hands on field work including coastal and offshore mapping of the marine environment in order to understand its physical and biological characteristics. This work involves using some of the most advanced and exciting technology available.

Marine Geography BSc

Situated in an estuary with a large tidal range and with access to a wide variety of coastal environments, Cardiff is an excellent base for both traditional fieldwork and innovative seatime training. The School operates its own Research Vessel Guiding Light, a 12m catamaran used by all undergraduates as part of its research led teaching programme. Additional fieldwork currently includes overseas field courses to Jersey, Malta and Greece where aspects of physical geography (such as biodiversity, water quality, seabed mapping) are combined with applied use within human geography (such as legislation, management and science into policy).

Key Facts

UCAS Code ID79
Duration 4 years
How to apply
Accreditation  Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
Typical places available The School admits 170 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes, usually between 35-40 on its Marine Geography programmes. There are over 20 students on the MESci programmes.
Typical applications received 850
Scholarships & Bursaries
Typical A-level offer AAB
Admissions Tutors Dr Jennifer Pike
Tel Number 029 20874830
Email address
School website

The four year undergraduate programme is designed for high quality candidates who aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry. The course involves learning about the process and outcomes of research and enables students to specialise in areas of their choice.

This applied and industry-relevant degree draws on the traditional skills of the geographer to observe, measure, map and analyse the significance of a wide range of physical and human variables. Coastal and offshore fieldwork are an important feature of this programme, enabling hands on training for students to use modern survey methods rather than just learn about them.

Marine Geography BSc

When you graduate from this degree you will have a detailed knowledge of both the processes and interrelationships involved in ocean, atmosphere, marine physical geographical/environmental systems and the means of acquisition, handling and presentation of information including remote sensed data and the use of Geographical Information Systems. You will also be able to explain the interactions between the human and Earth systems, particularly the resources, risks, impacts, governance, and management of marine and coastal environments. You will be trained in the practice and philosophy of research and will have been able to pursue these skills in a major research project of your own choice.

Year 1

The course structure is very flexible. All Cardiff's School of Earth and Ocean Science degree programmes share a common first Semester. This is designed to give you a sound foundation in Earth Sciences upon which to build. At the end of your first Semester you will decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of Cardiff's Earth Science degrees.

You will study the following modules:

  • The Sedimentary System
  • Marine Charts and Hydrography
  • Earth and Planetary System Science
  • Fieldwork
  • Earth Science Skills and Research Tutorial
  • Natural Resources and Energy
  • Environmental Chemistry and Biology
  • The Development of the World Ocean
  • Formation of the British Isles
  • Dangerous Earth

Year 2

In Year 2 the modules you will take are chosen to provide a wide knowledge base and transferable skills base to make you as employable as possible in a competitive job market.

You will study the following modules:

  • Geographical Research Methods & Field Skills
  • Coastal Hydrography
  • Marine Geography Residential Field Project
  • The Ocean Atmosphere System
  • Environmental Pollution
  • Physical Processes in Coastal Environments
  • Applied GIS
  • Marine and Coastal Resource Development
  • Marine Ecosystems

Year 3

In your third year you choose from a range of modules to best tailor the degree to align with your future career choice, whether that be more marine or coastal or more human or physical geography.You will complete a marine project based on the practical field or laboratory work you have done in the Summer vacation between Years 2 and 3. You will research into any area of marine geography you choose and learn how to prepare a research paper for publication. You will present the results of this research at the annual MESci Research Conference.

Core modules

  • Research Tutorial
  • Marine Geography Fieldcourse
  • Marine Geography Dissertation
  • Applications of Marine Science

Optional modules

  • Global Climate Change
  • Marine Conservation Science
  • Environmental Law
  • Marine Geomatics
  • Water Resources
  • Ocean Science and Policy
  • Integrated Coastal Management
  • Environmental Management, Science and Policy
  • Biogeography
  • Geomicrobiology
  • Year 4

    You will complete a Masters research dissertation in any Marine Geography related topic that can be supervised in the School. You will work one-to-one with a research supervisor and probably interact with a research group. Since the School is very large and of international research standard, this means that you have a wide choice of dissertation topic. Many students develop their own topics and contact a researcher to see if they can supervise it. Alternatively a list of projects is published each year for you to choose from. The research dissertation is complemented by a Research Frontiers module, in which the latest ideas in Earth Sciences research are discussed. In addition to a Year 4 fieldcourse and the Research Frontiers module you have a choice of optional modules.

    • Evolution of Antarctica
    • Marine Carbonate Chemistry
    • Extremophiles
    • Process Geomorphology – from Source to Sink
    • Coastal Science and Policy

    Visit the Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences website for more information about modules and credits.

The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences has an excellent tradition of teaching in the Earth Sciences. This educational experience is enhanced by frontier earth scientists from a wide variety of disciplines, involved in national and international research programmes, teaching alongside its students as they learn. This team ensures students receive the highest quality teaching, delivered by lecturers at the cutting edge of international research. In addition the School is able to maintain a friendly and informal approach brought about by staff-student interactions during fieldwork.

The modular course structure enables the School to offer an exciting and relevant spectrum of vocational degree programmes. These cover a wide range of modern geosciences from the traditional geology approach to the more industry focussed exploration and resource geology through to the equally applied environmental geoscience and water borne marine geography. The first semester is common to all degree schemes and you then confirm your chosen programme in January of your first year. Thus there is a chance to sample university teaching styles before committing to a particular degree programme or pathway.

Teaching in the School is conducted by a variety of methods –

  • formal lectures
  • laboratory practicals
  • IT practicals
  • fieldwork – both on land and for the Marine Geography students on the sea in the School’s own research vessel too

Formal lectures and practical classes have the emphasis on students taking ownership of their own learning programme and “learning how to learn”. Fieldwork is a vital format for understanding the earth sciences and all students go on at least one residential field trip each academic year as well as numerous specialist day trips. All students are assigned a tutor who will hold timetabled tutorials: fortnightly in Year 1 and monthly during other years. Your tutor will be a specialist in your degree programme and will advice on both academic and pastoral matters.

As well as conventional BSc programmes, an optional one year industrial placement is available for some of the BSc degrees. These placements provide an opportunity for students to gain in-depth experience in a range of relevant industries. Students are supervised and visited by University staff while enjoying the experience and career enhancement that results from a ‘Year Out’. The four year MESci schemes focus on research training and critical analysis making students who take these programmes very employable in a range of professions.

Most modules will contain some element of course work so the ability to work independently is crucial. Formal unseen exams and presentations are a key component of the way you are assessed. You will also undertake group work and project work, with all students producing a substantial dissertation on a topic of their choosing in the final year.

Typical A-level Offer


At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths

Typical WBQ Offer Grade A in the Core, Plus grades AA at A-level. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Int Bacc Offer  32-33 points, including at least two Sciences at Higher Level
Other Applications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Please see detailed information about alternative entry requirements here

Please find here further information about admissions and selection criteria for this degree programme.

In 2010, 51% of the School’s graduates were in employment within six months of graduation while a further 20% were engaged in further study, with others taking time out to travel.

Employers included: local government plus companies and organisations such as the Environment Agency, Titan Environmental Surveys and Osiris Projects.

Typical career destinations for graduates in Marine Geography include hydrographic surveyor; marine conservation officer; water industry; marine environmental consultant; oceanographic surveyor; waste management; port authority officer; marine research.

Careers case studies

Leigh Kroeger, BSc Marine Geography 2011
Marine biologist at a 5 star resort in the Maldives. Job involves diving to collect data and laboratory analysis; conservation & beach erosion monitoring and giving marine biology presentations and snorkel tours for the guests as part of public education.

Leigh says: “Without the excellent tutelage of academic staff in the department, I would not be where I am today. The modules and research opportunities provided me with the solid basis and expectations required for this position and I wholeheartedly recommend this excellent course.”

Fieldwork is an integral part of degrees at Cardiff’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, giving our students hands on experience in real field situations. The fieldwork programme has been designed to give students the widest range of field experiences linked to classroom-based teaching. Specialist equipment for working in the field and at sea will be provided by the School and students will be issued with specialist equipment appropriate for their degree after enrolment.

Marine Geography BSc

You will be out in the field with us during the first week of teaching, taking part in a variety of induction events which will help embed you in Cardiff, meet other students on your programme in informal surroundings, meet some of your lectures away from the constrains of the classroom and see some of our local field areas. As a Marine Geography student you will take part in induction activities with all our new 1st Years visiting such areas as the Glamorgan Heritage coast as well as a trip out on the School’s research vessel, RV Guiding Light.

Throughout Year 1 you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential fieldtrip to Pembrokeshire, learning field skills relating to coastal survey work and marine management. Fieldwork is a major component of all degree schemes in Year 2, as a Marine Geography student you will go on a residential trip to either Malta to study marine ecology and management or Jersey to look at beach processes and hydrographic surveying. You will also undertake various local day field trips including trawling and hydrographic survey work on the School’s research vessel. We will train you how to accurately make and record field observations, take field measurements and produce professional reports. All skills highly sought after by employers.

Between Year 2 and Year 3 all students undertake a five week individual project, producing a substantial dissertation at the end of it worth a quarter of your final year’s marks. As a Marine Geographer your dissertation will be on a topic and in an area of your choosing (some students gather data locally whilst others go Greece or even South East Asia to collect data). Every student will get supervision from a member of staff and depending where you are based you may also get a visit in the field.

In Year 3 the fieldwork programme is more research-led, focussing on interpretative skills, field techniques, teamwork projects and independent study. Again you will undertake field day trips to local areas and also a residential trip to Samos (a Greek island) looking at marine ecosystems and conservation.

In your final year when you are all back in Cardiff your residential fieldtrip takes place in an area in the UK or abroad selected by the student cohort. In recent years the MESci fieldtrip has taken place in northern Pennines, Malta, Ibiza, Sicily, Naples and Southern Spain. Students carry out field-based projects designed by themselves, to explore their individual research interests with academic staff on hand to direct and help out.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Dr Jenny Pike  




School Website:

More information

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences