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Marine Geography (International) (MESci)

  • 4J26

4 years (full-time) / n/a (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

Marine Geography is the study of the ocean and its coastlines - the geography of the sea. Marine geographers augment traditional land based geographic skills with new techniques and approaches in order to understand the intriguing geography that lies offshore and beneath the ocean surface.

The World Ocean, 71% of the planet and rising, is one of the last frontiers on Earth for the exploration and development of resources to sustain humanity in the future. Owing to its size, dynamic nature and diversity, the geography of the ocean environment is fundamental to our understanding of the natural systems of the whole planet. Marine Geography is physical geography blended with applied use in the form of human geography. As such, Marine Geographers study the socio-economic relationships between people and the physical characteristics of the sea and coast at global and local scales to help decision-making on issues such as fisheries, offshore oil and gas, ports and shipping, conservation, minerals and energy, strategic use and management. These issues are all critical in terms of sustainable development and environmental protection.

A major component of the course in Cardiff is that of mapping the marine environment in order to understand its physical and biological characteristics. You will learn not only about traditional navigation and hydrographic surveying techniques, but you will also gain experience of modern remote sensing systems including satellite imagery, side-scan and multi-beam SONARS for seabed mapping, and 3D-seismic methods for probing the ocean floor. You will also get the opportunity to ground-truth the images of the seabed and marine ecosystem by deploying underwater cameras and various seabed-sampling devices including grabs, corers and trawls.

The course involves a multidisciplinary approach to the wide range of data relating to society and the sea. Information acquired from a range of equipment and techniques is compiled using Geographical Information Systems (GIS). The results of the GIS analyses are used not only to investigate the geography of the coasts and oceans, but also to help decision-makers involved in Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

Marine Geography BSc

Key Facts

UCAS Code 4J26
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. A maximum of 12 students a year are admitted to all the MESci (International) programmes with up to three being Marine Geography.
Typical applications received 850
Scholarships & Bursaries
Typical A-level offer AAA
Admissions Tutors Dr Jennifer Pike
Tel Number 029 20874830
Email address
School website

The Cardiff MESci International in Marine Geography is research led and provides students with enhanced opportunities for specialisation, subject choice and advanced study. Years 1, 2 and 4 are spent in Cardiff while Year 3 is spent at a partner university overseas, usually in North America or Australia.

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.

The difference between this degree and the regular MESci is that the credits and grades for Year 3 of your degree assessment are acquired at an overseas institution

Financially, these programmes are very attractive since you pay no fees at the international university but merely continue to pay reduced fees to Cardiff University. This means that successful applicants have the opportunity, for example, to attend world-class, private universities in the USA at Cardiff fee levels. These institutions routinely provide intensive, small group teaching by international leaders in an environment where individual student welfare is paramount.

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.

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

You will undertake a research project during your year overseas, usually on a one-to-one basis with an international research expert in the host institution. You will also be able to enrol in courses overseas that are unavailable at Cardiff. You will acquire a wide range of transferable skills and the additional experience will improve your employability and prospects of postgraduate studies.

Our partner institutions are increasing all the time but in the past students have gone to the University of Miami, Rutgers University (New Jersey), University of British Colombia, Wyoming University, University of Vermont, the University of Western Australia or Macquarie University (Sydney).

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

You may also be able to choose Year 3 modules you were unable to take previously as options.

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 and grades AA at A-level. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Int Bacc Offer  34 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 (for those of you not on the International scheme) the fieldwork programme is more research-led, focussing on interpretative skills, field techniques, teamwork projects and independent study. This year 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. Those on the International programme will have opportunities for fieldwork at their host institution.

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