Course Structure

First Year (Prelims)

The first year course comprises four papers, to cover Physical; Geography, Human Geography, Basic Techniques of Remote Sensing, and Statistics, and also a paper on current controversies in Geography:

Earth Systems Processes

Human Geography

Geographical Techniques

Geographical Controversies

  1. Earth Systems Processes
    The paper concerns itself with the physical geography of the Earth, based around core concepts and principles. The course covers an understanding of the atmosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere.
  2. Human Geography
    The paper examines the following themes and the relationships between them at a variety of scales: Economy and Transformation; Territories and Identities; and Culture and Society.
  3. Geographical Controversies
    The paper concerns geographical controversies past and present. Students will be expected to demonstrate critical understanding of the use of evidence and data in geographical argument. Details of the materials to be covered for this course will be published by the Geography Undergraduate Teaching and Examining Committee at the beginning of the Michaelmas Full Term in the academic year of the examination.
  4. Geographical Techniques
    The subject comprises theoretical and practical aspects of geographical techniques. Students will be expected to be conversant with problem-solving in both human and physical branches of the discipline. Details of the areas to be covered will be published by the Geography Undergraduate Teaching and Examining Committee at the beginning of the Michaelmas Full Term in the academic year of the examination.

Final Honour School (Second and Third years)

The Final Honour School of Geography consists of the following components:

  • Geographical Research
  • Two Foundational Papers
  • Three Options
  • Three pieces of submitted work, one for each Option
  • One Fieldwork Report
  • Dissertation

Core Subjects

At the heart of the School of Geography and the Environment's Final Honour School there is one compulsory Core Subject which all students are required to take:

  1. Geographical Research - This course is compulsory for all students. It is about the practice of human, physical and environmental geographical research. Emphasis is placed on the provision and tuition of research skills, and the relationship between conceptual and methodological issues and the practice of geographical research.

Students are also required to choose two of the following foundational papers:

  1. Earth System Dynamics - This course offers an integrated view of life, landscapes and climate on planet Earth. The course provides a foundation to physical geography and teaches students the scientific frameworks, concepts and techniques used to reconstruct, model and interpret past, present and future physical environments.
  2. Environmental Geography - This course uses a combination of physical and human geography to look at the causes and consequences of environmental issues. The course investigates scientific and social elements of environmental issues using case studies across a range of geographical scales. It draws on a range of empirical examples from across the globe and looks at the development of policies to manage the environment.
  3. Space Place and Society - This course examines a range of key themes and concepts in human geography. It provides an integrated approach to look at themes such as travel, communication, market-based reform, governmental power, environmental degradation and international development. Case studies from around the world are used to illustrate concepts.


In addition to these Core Subjects, each undergraduate chooses three Options. There is no restriction on the combination of Options which may be chosen. For each Option there is a three-hour written examination and a piece of submitted work. Depending on the Option, this may be a record of laboratory and field work, a short piece of original research, or a long essay. Instructions for submitted work will be published by the Head of Department not later than the end of Trinity Term preceding the candidate's admission into the Final Honour School.

Currently, the following options are being offered, although it must be noted that some options may be added or taken from the list each year:

Biogeography, Biodiversity and Conservation

Climate Change and Variability

Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation


Contemporary Urban Life

Cultural Spaces: Geographies of affective experience

Desert Landscapes and Dynamics

European Integration

Forensic Geography

Geographies of Finance

Geographies of Nature

Geopolitics in the Margins

Heritage Science and Conservation

Island Life

Post-Soviet Russia in Transition

The Quaternary Period: Natural and human systems

Transport and Mobilities


The geographical dissertation is an important component of the geography course, giving students the opportunity to produce their own piece of original research. The dissertation can be on any topic, so long as it is geographical. Students start planning their dissertations during the second year and spend the summer vacation doing the research and writing up. Many students choose subjects for their dissertation which take them overseas or to new parts of the UK, but others stay in Oxford using the resources available in the School to work on more theoretical topics. In recent years Oxford undergraduate dissertations have won national prizes; some have even been published or have formed the basis of further research to the doctoral level.