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Study information

Programme Specification for the 2023/4 academic year

MSci (Hons) Environmental Science

1. Programme Details

Programme nameMSci (Hons) Environmental Science Programme codeUFX4GAEGAECB
Study mode(s)Full Time
Academic year2023/4
Campus(es)Cornwall Campus
NQF Level of the Final Award7 (Masters)

2. Description of the Programme

This programme is the University’s flagship environmental degree and promotes a truly interdisciplinary systems approach to environmental science. In this degree you will learn the science behind the complexity of the Earth’s biotic and abiotic environmental processes, which will allow you to understand and respond to the biggest debates in contemporary environmental science. You will begin the degree by thinking about the “grand challenges” facing society and the way that science and technology can help respond to these challenges. The four-year programme provides you with all the training of a BSc but also catapults you into the Masters-level of independent and collaborative research and training in the fourth year. In this fourth year you will have the unique opportunity to develop and test your own environmental hypotheses in a range of settings: from the wetlands and catchments of Cornwall to the awe-inspiring landscapes offered by our international, residential field courses. The programme structure is designed to give you the essential skills that environmental employers demand, meanwhile allowing you to pursue your interests in the wider subject area. The degree covers a broad range of disciplines, from environmental chemistry and physics, to environmental management and law. It is led from the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science within CLES, but other departments feed in (Biosciences and Law) to provide an interdisciplinary flavour. The degree draws on the international research excellence of teaching staff and is supported by the University’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) – an interdisciplinary centre leading cutting-edge research into the consequences of environmental change and the mitigation and management of its effects.

The final year provides an opportunity to work on two intensive research projects, each focused on a specialised area aligned with one of our leading research groups. One of these projects will be carried out in partnership with an external organisation, and will develop your understanding of how these partner organisations work. You will spend two weeks on an intensive, international field course in which your scientific field-research, debating and presentation skills will be further developed. You will also learn the research toolkit required by professional environmental scientists in the modern world.

At our Penryn Campus we offer a welcoming atmosphere, where you are encouraged to make the most of Cornwall’s unique environment, both in your studies and in your free time. Our programmes treat Cornwall as a ‘natural laboratory’, taking learning into the field to explore the incredible diversity of natural landscapes in the region.

When participating in field courses, you will be required to cover any visa costs and, if necessary, purchase anti-malarial medication and relevant immunisations. You will also need to provide your own specialist personal equipment appropriate to the field course destination, e.g. walking boots, rucksack, mosquito net, sleeping bag, binoculars. You may incur additional costs dependent upon the specific demands of the research project chosen. Details of specialist equipment, vaccinations and visas that you must supply at your own expense are provided at

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

This programme is designed to train the next generation of environmental practitioners. It achieves this in several ways:

  • The programme seeks to introduce a broad range of theoretical concepts in environmental science from a solid physical foundation in the first year, through to more management- and practice-focused modules in years 2-4.
  • The programme offers an integrated interdisciplinary curriculum to allow you to make connections between physical processes, ecological patterns, and environmental policy and practice.
  • It aims to equip you with the necessary theoretical knowledge and practical skill-sets required by environmental employers. This includes hands-on training in the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing analysis and field data collection and analysis.
  • It uniquely combines the study of the natural and semi-natural environment with consideration of environmental policy and law, enabling you to make science-into-policy connections and to facilitate environmental decision making.
  • The programme encourages you to think about human interactions with the environment, through understanding complex issues such as climate change and ecosystem services.
  • Through fieldwork and other activities, this programme promotes intellectual curiosity about the environment and how it functions.
  • The programme provides training in a range of general and transferable skills (e.g. IT, statistics, data handling, writing and presentation) to propel you to high level careers in the environmental sector.
  • The programme trains you in how to understand the political, economic, social and natural opportunities and constraints that shape the way environmental scientists work.

You will be taught by internationally recognised research-active staff through a range of methods including lectures, seminars, tutorials, field work, and laboratory sessions. Throughout the programme emphasis is placed on developing practical hands-on expertise, grounded by sound theoretical knowledge. We embed important environmental science skills within modules, including GIS, remote sensing and practical data analysis. We include a range of fieldwork from local to international venues and you will engage in fieldwork of all varieties and in many different environments throughout the programme of study.

We apply novel methods of interactive teaching in the Environmental Science degree. From your first year you will engage with hands-on enquiries using databases, maps and satellite data, developing GIS tools to facilitate understanding of the local, regional, national and global picture of the natural world and all of its processes. Lecture material will be global in scope but practical work will build from a local focus in year 1 to a global perspective by the final year. By the end of your degree you will be able to use spatial datasets to answer environmental questions important to the future of our planet. We believe that teaching, learning and research inspire each other, and we encourage collaborative work to be disseminated via conferences, presentations, posters, reports and research papers.  

4. Programme Structure

The MSci (Hons) Environmental Science programme is a four-year full-time programme of study at National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 7 (as confirmed against the FHEQ). This programme is divided into four stages. Each stage is normally equivalent to an academic year.

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.

You may take optional modules as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

You may take elective modules up to 30 credits outside of the programme in the first, second and third stages as long as any necessary prerequisites have been satisfied, where the timetable allows and if you have not already taken the module in question or an equivalent module.

If you have mobility or health disabilities that prevent you from undertaking intensive fieldwork, reasonable adjustments and/or alternative assessment can be considered. This could include replacing a fieldwork module with an alternative in agreement with the Director of Education.

You are also permitted to take the five-credit module LES3910 Professional Development Experience in any year. Registration on this module is subject to a competitive application process. If taken, this module will not count towards progression or award calculation.

Stage 1

90 credits of compulsory modules, 30 credits of optional modules

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GEO1405B Earth System Science 15No
GEO1408B Global Issues in Environmental Science 15No
GEO1416 Environmental Science Tutorials 15No
GEO1421 Marine and Environmental Science Field Course 15No
GEO1419 Introduction to data science 15No
LAW1016C A Legal Foundation for Environmental Protection 15No

Optional Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GeoP S1 BSc-MSci ES opt 2021-2
BIO1411 Genetics 15 No
BIO1426 Ecology and Conservation 15 No
GEO1401B Approaches to Geographical Knowledge 15 No
GEO1420 Atmospheric and Oceanic Systems, Their Interactions and Importance 15 No
BIO1431 Introduction to Human Sciences 15 No
GEO1413 The Geography of Cornwall 15 No

Stage 2

90 credits of compulsory modules, 30 credits of optional modules

a You may not take GEO2449 and LES2002 in the same academic year. 

b The field course module, GEO2460, is compulsory. If you are unable to take the field course, you will be required to take another optional module.

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GEO2440 Geographical Information Science and Systems 15No
GEO2441 Remote Sensing for Environmental Management 15No
GEO2460 Environment and Sustainability on the Isles of Scilly [See note b above]15No
GEO2461 Second Year Tutorials 15No
GEO2462 Research Design and Methods 15No
LAW2016C Environmental Regulation and Redress 15No

Optional Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GeoP S2 BSc-MSci ES opt 2021-2
BIO2406 Biodiversity and Conservation 15 No
BIO2407 Population and Community Ecology 15 No
BIO2425 Introduction to Ecological Consultancy 15 No
BIO2432 Exploitation of the Sea 15 No
BIO2441 Applied Insect Ecology 15 No
BIO2451 Evolution of Human Societies 15 No
GEO2442 The Politics of Climate Change and Energy 15 No
GEO2444 Landscape Evolution 15 No
GEO2445 Rural Social Issues 15 No
GEO2450 Biogeography 15 No
GEO2451 Ice Sheets: Glaciology, Climate and the Oceans 15 No
GEO2454 Waste and Society 15 No
GEO2457 Physical Ocean Processes 15 No
GEO2458 People and Nature 15 No
GEO2456 Social and Cultural Geographies 15 No
POC2114 Green Politics in Theory and Practice 15 No
ECE2002 Health, Place and Wellbeing 15 No
ECE2001 Oceans and Human Health 15 No
GeoP Employability opt 2021-2 [See note a above]
GEO2449 Green Consultants 15 No
LES2002 Workplace Learning 15 No

Stage 3

45 credits of compulsory modules, 75 credits of optional modules (you will have the option of taking a field course in your final stage but the location has not yet been finalised)

a You may not take GEO2449 and LES2002 in the same academic year. 

c Changes to your dissertation topic will not be possible beyond 1 December in stage 3.

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GEO3513 Dissertation in Environmental Science [See note c above]40Yes
LES3001 Preparing to Graduate 5No

Optional Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GeoP SF BSc-S3 MSci ES opt 2021-2
BIO3131 Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15 No
BIO3135 Human Behavioural Ecology 15 No
BIO3411 Science in Society 15 No
BIO3420 Evolutionary Biology of Health and Disease 15 No
GEO3437B Climate Change and Society 15 No
BIO3428 The Complexity of Human Societies 15 No
GEO3448 Quaternary Environmental Change 15 No
GEO3452 Literature Review in Environment and Society 15 No
GEO3454 Antarctica: Science from a Frozen Continent 15 No
GEO3457 Geographies of Democracy 15 No
GEO3455 Marine Climate and Environmental Change 15 No
GEO3458 Marine and Coastal Sustainability 15 No
GEO3459 Whole Energy Systems 15 No
GEO3461 Arctic Frontiers: Can We Preserve the Arctic Environment? 15 No
GEO3466 Biological Oceanography 15 No
GEO3467 Human-Animal Interactions 15 No
LAW3016C Legal Response to Environmental Destruction 15 No
BIO3434 Major Transitions in Evolutionary History 15 No
BIO3433 Ocean Management and Conservation 15 No
POC3117 The Politics of Climate Change 15 No
GEO3469 Catastropolis 15 No
CSM3409 Politics, Mining and Sustainable Development 15 No
ECE3001 Living with Environmental Change 15 No
ECE3002 Frontiers of Global Health 15 No
GeoP Employability opt 2021-2 [See note a above]
GEO2449 Green Consultants 15 No
LES2002 Workplace Learning 15 No

Stage 4

105 credits of compulsory modules, 15 credits of optional modules

d If you cannot take the field course, you will take instead LESM003 Literature Review in the Life Sciences, and 15 other credits from the MSc suite of modules.

Compulsory Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GEOM052 Academic Research Project 60No
LESM007 Global Challenges Field Course (MSci) [see note d above]30No
LESM005 Applied Data Analysis 15No

Optional Modules

CodeModule Credits Non-condonable?
GeoP SF MSci ES opt 2021-2
GEOM363B Themes in Climate Change 15 No
GEOM404 Policy and Governance for Sustainability 15 No
GEOM406 Marine and Coastal Sustainability 15 No
HUMM011 Heritage and Environmental Change 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. Describe in detail the scientific theory underpinning the study of the environment.
2. Explain comprehensively the science of physical, chemical, biological and human dimensions of global systems and their intertwined functions.
3. Discuss the grand challenges facing society in the context of the natural environment.
4. Propose sensible mitigation and management approaches for addressing environmental issues, within a legal framework.
5. Apply appropriate methods for collecting and analysing environmental data.

Primarily through subject-based learning in core modules throughout the degree. Through fieldtrips including a specialised training in years 3 and 4. Implicitly through lectures, field classes, practical classes at all levels, tutorials in year 1, seminars in years 2-4, and independent dissertations in years 3 and 4.

ILO1 – Explicitly through essay and exam in core modules throughout the degree programme.

ILO2 – Year 1 is highly interdisciplinary and modules are assessed against students’ understanding about interconnections through essays and exams. Field course modules explore inter-relationships between human and physical environments through assessed presentations and applied examples.

ILO3 – Explicitly through essays in year 1, and project work in years 2 and 3.

ILO4 – Through group discussions and debates in core modules, law modules in all years, and field classes.

ILO5 – Training in the year 1 and year 3 field classes, core statistics module in year 1, and as a component of all research project modules in years 3 and 4.

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. Evaluate the diversity of approaches towards the generation of environmental knowledge and understanding, with detailed knowledge of essential facts and theory.
7. Describe in detail and apply environmental concepts in different situations.
8. Describe and critically evaluate aspects of current research in environmental sciences with reference to reviews and research articles.
9. With limited guidance, deploy established techniques of practical investigation, data collection, and the analysis and interpretation of these data across a range of environmental sciences.
10. Understand the opportunities, costs and constraints of aspects of human activity focused on, or benefitting from, an understanding of environmental systems.

Explicitly introduced as a concept in GEO1408B. Discussed in first year tutorials and field class module, and expanded through subject-based learning in GEO2424, GEO3415B and GEO3426B. Explored in fieldtrips including a specialised training in GEO2506. Applied by student in independent dissertation in year 3.

ILO6 – Explicitly through module-based assessment in all years. Assessment of performance in modules is through written examinations, short answer tests; practical work and reports; quantitative problems; project report or dissertation; oral presentations; and formatively through Q&A in lectures and practical classes.

ILO7 – Year 1 is intentionally designed to expose students to a range of ideas and theories from science to social science, all of which underpin the integrated understanding of global environmental science. Concepts then assessed through essays, projects, field trips and dissertations in all years.

ILO8 – Assessment will be through essay and review assignments in most modules at all years. Students are made aware of the marking criteria for all major pieces of work and receive detailed feedback on their performance.

ILO9 – Assessment is primarily in the dissertation and research projects in years 3 and 4.

ILO10 – Assessed during sector-based work placement and field course modules in years 2-4.

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. Work effectively independently and as part of a team.Work effectively independently and as part of a team.
12. Present work in the format of an environmental consultancy report.
13. Synthesise information and recognise relevance, develop a sustained and reasoned argument, and evaluate and articulate weaknesses in the arguments of others.
14. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently by written, oral and visual means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience.
15. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding and to articulate and communicate teaching/learning methods and strategies.
16. Identify/formulate and evaluate questions or problems, and identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving.
17. Use communication and IT tools effectively and appropriately to select, analyse, present and communicate environmental information, effectively and appropriately interpret and use numerical statistical information, and apply basic and more advanced numerical skills effectively and appropriately to spatial data.
18. Solve complex problems in novel settings.

Personal transferable employment skills and knowledge are embedded in all modules. All year 1 and 2 modules are strongly focused towards developing applied skills for use in the dissertation and in real life situations. Practical skills are taught during directed practical exercises in years 1 and 2; through the field courses in years 2-4, and developed during independent and collaborative research projects in years 3 and 4.

ILO11 – Independent work through written and oral assessments in all modules, and through examination assessment in years 1-4. Teamwork: through group presentations and activities in field classes in years 1, 3 and 4. Group projects embedded in year 2 Key Skills module and in various core and optional modules in all years.

ILO12 – In the projects during Key Skills, GIS and Remote Sensing modules, and in sector-based research in year 4.

ILO13 – Assessed through essay, seminar, presentation and literature review components of most modules through years 1-4.

ILO14 – Through coursework, essays, projects and exams in all modules in all years.

ILO15 – Through coursework, essays, projects and exams in all modules in all years.

ILO16 – Through critical writing tasks assessed in a range of modules through years 2 and 3 and in the dissertation and year 4 research modules.

ILO17 – Explicitly through coursework in Key Skills, Data Analysis and Research Project modules.

ILO18 – Explicitly assessed via group projects during field courses in years 1, 3 and 4; project work during Key Skills module in year 2; and independent research modules in years 3 and 4.

7. Programme Regulations

Programme-specific Progression Rules

To progress to Stage 3 you must achieve a credit-weighted stage average of at least 60% in Stage 2, otherwise you will be required to transfer to the relevant three year BSc programme.

Programme-specific Award Rules

At the end of Stage 3, you may be permitted to exit with a BSc (Hons) Environmental Science provided that you have achieved 360 credits in total, you have taken no more than 120 credits at level 4 and at least 90 credits at level 6 or 7. If you do exit with a BSc (Hons) the award will normally be based on the degree mark formed from the credit weighted average marks for stages 2 and 3 combined in the ratio 1:2 respectively.


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

You will be located in the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (Penryn Campus), where close working relationships are fostered. You will receive formative feedback from various discussion groups/in-lecture exercises throughout the delivery of each module and therefore receive essentially continuous feedback during the taught component of the programme. Project supervisors provide academic and tutorial support once you move on to the research component of the programme. In addition, the Programme Director will offer every student a meeting each term with an academic who provides guidance and feedback on assessment performance. Your progress will be monitored, and you can receive up-to-date records of the assessment, achievements and progress at any stage.

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


18. Final Award

MSci (Hons) Environmental Science

19. UCAS Code


20. NQF Level of Final Award

7 (Masters)

21. Credit

CATS credits ECTS credits

22. QAA Subject Benchmarking Group

[Honours] Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies

23. Dates

Origin Date


Date of last revision