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Study information

Programme Specification for the 2023/4 academic year

MSc Geographical Information Science

1. Programme Details

Programme nameMSc Geographical Information Science Programme codePTS1GOAGOA03
Study mode(s)Level 1
Academic year2023/4
Campus(es)Streatham (Exeter)
NQF Level of the Final Award7 (Masters)

2. Description of the Programme

Apply, develop and empower digital transformation with Geographical Information Science (GIS) through the revolution of spatial analysis, mapping and geospatial technologies. Discover how big data, machine learning, spatial data science and coding solutions are fuelling information-based decisions. This scientific field allows you to learn and develop the conceptual context of the spatial workflows, processes and systems. Your development and innovation can lead to development of geo-spatial tools and methods. In doing so discover how GIS is itself a growing industry crossing all sectors, including environmental research, business, government, science and leisure.

GIS, Geographical Information Systems refers to the software, hardware and processes for gathering, storing, manipulating, analysing, manging and visualizing spatial data. Along with remote sensing, GIS tools are the technologies at the heart of this multi-disciplinary science which is transforming the way data is collected, the research we undertake, the networks we reach, the way we communicate through geo-apps and the decisions that we make as individuals and organisations. This programme is led by innovative educators and researchers who have won awards for their web-app designs and the development of geo-spatial virtual environments. The teaching team are actively engaged with; environmental geo-spatial research, GIS developers in industry and GIS customers / end users. As such this GIS programme is driven by science and innovation with a focus on environment, employability and business.

The programme offers you the opportunity to work and build links with the types of organisations you will be seeking employment with after graduation. Other direct links to enhancing employability include the commercial drone pilot training and development of understanding of ethical, legal, privacy, health and safety, and regulatory frameworks that promote trust in the profession. On completion of the programme, you will have the option to sit an Esri certification exam to provide you with commercial certification.

In the final term of the programme you will have the opportunity to apply your skills in a consultancy project working with external employers such as the Met Office, Esri, ALCIS, SW water and other organisations, or work with a University of Exeter academic to tackle local or global research goals. You have the opportunity to work with research groups in the geography department such as Cryosphere, Coastal and River dynamics, Environment & Sustainability, Cultural and Historical Geographies, Space, Politics and Society, Earth System Sciences, as well as centres and institutes including researchers from the Centre for Resilience, Environment, Water and Waste and Global Systems Institute.

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

The GIS masters is driven by science and innovation with a focus on environmental research, employability, and business. You are taught technical skills and theoretical knowledge by academics in their field of expertise in an applied way through guided practicals and assessment. Core modules develop technical skills and application in order to analyse spatial data, provide insights, and detect patterns to up-skill students. You will be taught sought-after skills such as coding and programming logic with a focus on free and open-source software packages such as Python, R and Linux shell scripting. Cartographic principles and spatial analysis techniques are developed across the Esri platform including ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS online, Story maps, Experience builder and field apps. Developing technologies such as machine learning, the internet of things and multidimensional geographic data will be taught in core modules ensuring you are well placed to undertake efficient, repeatable, and powerful data analysis as a GIS professional.

Optional modules will support the core learning by either focussing on applications, such as sustainability, environmental challenges and research, or on techniques and understanding of data beyond that of the GIS programme. For example, more in depth understanding of machine learning, big data, or data ethics which does not necessarily have a spatial component but can be applied to spatial datasets with the training from the core GIS modules.

You will be exposed to the entire GIS workflow, from project design, data collection, analysis, visualisation and interpretation of location data, for natural and/or human environments. As such some core modules have field work components offering experiential learning opportunities.

4. Programme Structure

The MSc Geographical Information Science is a 1 year full-time or 2 year part-time programme of study at Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) level 7 (as confirmed against the FHEQ).

5. Programme Modules

The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules. Constituent modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme.

Stage 1


Compulsory Modules

135/150 credits of compulsory modules (including a 60-credit research or consultancy project), 30/45 credits of optional modules

a You must choose either GEM185 or GEOM186 (you cannot choose both modules) 

b This is a core module, however if students have already completed the module at undergraduate study then they will instead have take an additional optional module.

Students cannot study GEO3239 or GEO3223 if they have already completed these during undergraduate study.   

Students cannot choose to study both GEOM433 and BEP3172. 

C BEP3172 and GEOM4333 have similar learning outcomes so students can elect to take one of these modules, not both.

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GEOM185 Applied Project (Academic) 60Yes
GEOM186 Applied Project (Consultancy) 60Yes
GEOM180 Environmental Remote Sensing 15No
GEOM181 Coding for Spatial Analysis 15No
GEOM182 Drone Analysis and Geo-Visualizations 15No
GEOM183 Spatial Data Science 15No
GEOM184 Open Source GIS 15No
GEO3239 GIS for Professionals 15Yes

Optional Modules

Choose 45 credits of optional modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
MSc Geographical Information Science optional modules 23-24
GEO3223 Landscape Systems Management 15 No
GEOM143 Global Systems Thinking 15 No
GEOM149 Green Planet 15 No
BEM3056 Business and Climate Change 15 No
BEP3172 Future 17: Sustainable Development Goals Challenge 15 No
SOCM033 Data Governance and Ethics 15 No
MTHM611 Topics in Environmental Intelligence 15 No
MTHM054 Climate Change Science and Solutions 15 No
GEOM433 Sustainability in Practice (Work Placement) 15 No

6. Programme Outcomes Linked to Teaching, Learning and Assessment Methods

Intended Learning Outcomes
A: Specialised Subject Skills and Knowledge

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
On successfully completing this programme you will be able to:
Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be...
...accommodated and facilitated by the following learning and teaching activities (in/out of class):...and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

1. Recognise the different data requirements, applications and limitations of spatial data formats, such as raster, vector, mesh and point clouds, LAS and mosaic datasets.
2. Apply techniques to integrate, analyse, visualise and interpret location data, for both natural and human environments.
3. Consider the implications of sources of error, bias, imprecision, uncertainty, incomplete data on analysis, outcomes and uncertainty for decision making.
4. Demonstrate awareness of emerging techniques to solve location analysis problems, such as data mining, machine learning, geospatial analytics, earth observation classification.
5. Critical understanding of geo-visualisation techniques and cartographic rigour to produce responsible, ethical outputs.

Activities relating to ILOs 1-5 takes place in all core modules including the Applied Project. Learning takes place through lectures, a-synchronous recordings and hands-on computer practicals. For data acquired from drones, teaching will take place in the field with pilot training taking place off campus. Seminars reinforce learning which includes question and answers and scientific debate.

For learning about data requirement of data collected in the field, experiential learning takes place in GEOM183 field work.

One-to-one meeting with academic advisors (GEOM185) or academic hosts (GEOM186) offer feedforward opportunities and development.

Guided reading and synthesis along with peer discussion reinforces learning from taught sessions.

ILO1-5: Core modules assess competencies using a range of assessment methods including reports, poster, screen cast presentation / recordings and story maps and an in-class exam.

ILO1-5: Applied Project GEOM185/6 assessed via a dissertation report and non-technical output. The later can take the form a multimedia output of the student choosing such as story map or presentation but must include geo-visualisation techniques such as interactive maps, geo-visualisations or simulations.

Intended Learning Outcomes
B: Academic Discipline Core Skills and Knowledge

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
On successfully completing this programme you will be able to:
Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be...
...accommodated and facilitated by the following learning and teaching activities (in/out of class):...and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

6. Apply appropriate location analysis, and spatial data science techniques to solve complex problems.
7. Consider the implications of sources of error, bias, imprecision, uncertainty, incomplete data on analysis, outcomes and uncertainty for decision making.
8. Apply cartographic design principles and standards to present, visualise and showcase representations of location data which meets the needs of different end-users (e.g. technical detail vs non-technical decision makers).
9. Automate and customise GIS solutions including common location data algorithms and scripting languages, Python and/or R.
10. Demonstrate your ability to manipulate large remote sensing datasets to identify key observations

The majority of learning for ILOs 6-10 take place through hands-on learning in taught practicals on core modules. For the Applied project guided practicals with support from the project partner and academic host (GEOM186) or academic advisor (GEO185). The Applied Project also includes workshops for hands-on learning support.

Developing effectiveness for decisions making and sources of uncertainty (ILO7) is further supported through lectures, seminars, a-sync recordings, peer discussion.

ILO9 is taught in term-1 through GEOM181 which is applied in term2 modules GEOM183, GEOM180 and term-3 GEOM185/6.

Guided reading and discovery along with peer discussion reinforces learning from taught sessions.

ILOs 6-9 are included in assessment in various core modules through reports, poster, story map and screencast presentation recording. GEOM181 assesses through code submission and reflective evaluation.

ILO9 is assessed in GEOM181 using a code submission and reflective evaluation.

ILO8: Assessed through reports and a poster in core modules. Th Applied Project GEOM185/6 is assessed via a dissertation report and non-technical output. The later can take the form a multimedia output of the student choosing such as story map or presentation but must include a visualisation showcase.

ILO 10 is assessed using a report in GEOM180.

Intended Learning Outcomes
C: Personal/Transferable/Employment Skills and Knowledge

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)
On successfully completing this programme you will be able to:
Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be...
...accommodated and facilitated by the following learning and teaching activities (in/out of class):...and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

11. Take personal responsibility for work objectives and delivery of outputs.
12. Act with integrity and respect to ethical, legal, privacy, health and safety, and regulatory frameworks and in a way that promotes trust in the profession.
13. Be an active agent of change, applying GIS skills to contribute to a sustainable transformation to the benefit of organizations and citizens.
14. Effectively communicate in a way comprehensible to a technical and non-technical audience.
15. Work effectively in a group

ILOs 11 – 14 are all taught in the Applied Project. Guided reading and synthesis along with peer discussion reinforces learning from taught sessions. Workshops, oral presentations, lectures, seminars and one-to-one meeting with academic advisors (GEOM185) or academic hosts (GEOM186) offer feedforward opportunities and critical reflection.

Core modules develop ILOs 11-14 through feedback in practical sessions, online forums and seminars.

GEO3239, GEOM184, GEOM183 all require group work and so develop ILO 15 through experience and guidance in the form of feedback from staff and peers, engagement with group work polices and critical reflection. Several core modules have seminar discussions and tutorial exercises which require group discussion and collaboration. Formative feedback is given orally for student development.

Guided reading and discovery along with peer discussion reinforces learning from taught sessions.

ILO11-14: Applied Project GEOM185/6 assessed via a dissertation report and non-technical output. The later can take the form a multimedia output of the student choosing such as story map or presentation.

ILO11-14: Core modules other than the Applied Project assess competencies using a range of assessment methods including reports, poster, screen cast presentation / recordings and story maps.

ILO15: GEO3239 and GEOM182 have group assessments in the form of screencast presentations and posters.

7. Programme Regulations

The PgCert Geographic Data and PgDip Geographic Data are exit awards of the MSc Geographical Information Science programme and are not available for direct entry.

[Note: Normally the 60 or 120 credits would exclude 60-credit research or consultancy project]  

Full details of assessment regulations for all taught programmes can be found in the TQA Manual, specifically in the Credit and Qualifications Framework, and the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook.

Additional information, including Generic Marking Criteria, can be found in the Learning and Teaching Support Handbook

Classification

Full details of assessment regulations for all taught programmes can be found in the TQA Manual, specifically in the Credit and Qualifications Framework, and the Assessment, Progression and Awarding: Taught Programmes Handbook. Additional information, including Generic Marking Criteria, can be found in the Learning and Teaching Support Handbook.

8. College Support for Students and Students' Learning

At Exeter, Streatham campus the University Main Library maintains its principal collections. Information Technology (IT) Services provide a wide range of services throughout the Exeter campuses including open access computer rooms, some of which are available 24 hours, 7 days a week. Additionally, the GIS MSc has a dedicated computer facilities for scheduled learning activity and guided independent study for the programme.

Streatham campus has multiple open access computer rooms. The recently refurbished B8 Hatherly labs are a dedicated computer facility and are available for students on the programme to use, when it is not being used for scheduled learning and teaching.

The GIS MSc sits within Geography in the Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy. The support from the department for students on the GIS MSc include:

  • An induction event including a postgraduate reception, IT induction, registration and question and answer session
  • Geography academic personal tutor which includes regular (termly meetings).
  • An applied project academic advisor (GEOM185) or academic host (GEOM186)

Postgraduate student representation on the departmental Education Committee through departmental officers and student reps.

9. University Support for Students and Students' Learning

Please refer to the University Academic Policy and Standards guidelines regarding support for students and students' learning.

10. Admissions Criteria

Undergraduate applicants must satisfy the Undergraduate Admissions Policy of the University of Exeter.

Postgraduate applicants must satisfy the Postgraduate Admissions Policy of the University of Exeter.

Specific requirements required to enrol on this programme are available at the respective Undergraduate or Postgraduate Study Site webpages.

11. Regulation of Assessment and Academic Standards

Each academic programme in the University is subject to an agreed College assessment and marking strategy, underpinned by institution-wide assessment procedures.

The security of assessment and academic standards is further supported through the appointment of External Examiners for each programme. External Examiners have access to draft papers, course work and examination scripts. They are required to attend the Board of Examiners and to provide an annual report. Annual External Examiner reports are monitored at both College and University level. Their responsibilities are described in the University's code of practice. See the University's TQA Manual for details.

(Quality Review Framework.

14. Awarding Institution

University of Exeter

15. Lead College / Teaching Institution

Faculty of Environment, Science and Economy (ESE)

16. Partner College / Institution

Partner College(s)

Not applicable to this programme

Partner Institution

Not applicable to this programme.

17. Programme Accredited / Validated by

Not applicable to this programme.

18. Final Award

MSc Geographical Information Science

19. UCAS Code

Not applicable to this programme.

20. NQF Level of Final Award

7 (Masters)

21. Credit

CATS credits ECTS credits

22. QAA Subject Benchmarking Group

23. Dates

Origin Date

20/06/2023

Date of last revision

08/11/2023