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Study information

Exploration Geology (2023)

1. Programme Title:

Exploration Geology

NQF Level:


2. Description of the Programme (as in the Business Approval Form)

The MSc in Exploration Geology offers an opportunity to gain specialist knowledge in the concepts and techniques used by geologists both in exploring for and evaluating mineral deposits and in carrying out site investigations. The collection,  interpretation and reporting of geoscientific data will be a major focus of the course, allowing students to acquire, synthesise and criticise data from a range of sources. The programme will add important knowledge and skill sets to deliver qualified geologists to work in the national and international exploration and mining sectors and provide transferable skills for use in the broader geotechnical/construction/environmental industry sectors.

This programme aligns with the College strategy to diversify and increase PGT recruitment within CSM. In addition, it expands on existing teaching and expertise, allowing a natural extension to our portfolio.

The proposal is aligned with our rare earth research.

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

The programme aims to produce competent and confident professional geoscientists who can practise effectively as Exploration Geologists, working in the metalliferous ores or industrial minerals sectors, having acquired advanced skills and knowledge in the formation, discovery and environment impact of extraction of the Earth’s mineral resources.

It introduces methods for exploring for minerals and it applies the knowledge derived from ore deposit models to explain observed ore deposit characteristics and how they are used as predictive guides to mineral exploration.  Exploration Geology graduates will gain knowledge of leading edge methods in exploration and mining geology and develop professional skills of immediate use to a new graduate in the exploration industry.

Although the aim of the programme is vocational, it also provides advanced training in many subject specific and generic skills needed for further postgraduate research. In addition, the programme develops transferable skills sought by employers, including project management and planning, presentational skills, verbal and written communication, and teamwork.

4. Programme Structure

Your MSc Exploration Geology programme is a 1 year programme of study at National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 7 (as confirmed against the FHEQ). This programme is divided into 1 Stage. Each Stage is normally equivalent to an academic year.  The programme is also divided into units of study called modules which are assigned a number of credits. The credit rating of a module is proportional to the total workload, with 1 credit being nominally equivalent to 10 hours of work.  Some modules will be run over one term whilst others run in three week blocks.

Interim Awards

If you do not complete the programme you may be able to exit with a lower qualification.

Postgraduate Diploma: At least 120 credits of which 90 or more must be at NQF level 7.

Postgraduate Certificate: At least 60 credits of which 45 or more must be at NQF level 7.

5. Programme Modules

The following tables describe the programme and constituent modules.  Constituend modules may be updated, deleted or replaced as a consequence of the annual programme review of this programme.  Details of the modules currently offered may be obtained from the College web site.

Stage 1

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
CSMM047Research Project and Dissertation60YesYes
CSMM195Ore Deposit Geology15YesNo
CSMM135Economics, Processing & Environment15YesNo
CSMM219GIS for Mineral Explorationists and Geoenvironmental Engineers15YesNo
CSMM218Mineral Exploration Geophysics15YesNo
CSMM193Exploration Targeting15YesNo
CSMM194Exploration and Mining Geology15YesNo
CSMM904CSM Professionalism MSc0YesYes
Optional: choose 15 credits from:
CSMM220Mining the Future15NoNo
CSMM192Advanced Geoscientific Software and Data Management15NoNo
Optional: choose 15 credits from:
CSMM425Ore Genesis15NoNo
CSMM429Industrial Rocks and Minerals15NoNo

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

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to: Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) will be accommodated & facilitated by the following learning & teaching and evidenced by the following assessment methods:

A Specialised Subject Skills & Knowledge

1 Describe and identify the field expression of various ore and mineral forming processes and styles of mineralisation.

2. Understand the geological framework of regions in the world, and appreciate the factors that influence the development of extractive industries.

3. Understand and apply key exploration methods, explain and demonstrate how exploration programmes are devised.

4. Understand advanced exploration methods, in particular GIS and spatial data handling and integration

5. Understand the conversion of resources to reserves for mine production and identify methods for grade control.

6. Understand the basic principles of mineral economics, and the financial appraisal of exploration projects and mining operations.

7. Understand the effect of mining on the environment, and the planning of exploration activities and mining operations to minimise the environmental impact.

8. Understand the role of ore bearing fluids in the genesis of ore deposits, and identify and explain the major controls on mineralisation.

9. Know the key characteristics of the major metalliferous ore and industrial mineral deposit types and predict how these will effect exploration, evaluation and exploitation..

10. Understand, apply and gain experience in various field-based and laboratory techniques for the acquisition, analysis, interpretation and presentation of data obtained in the exploration and evaluation of industrial rocks and minerals.

11. Have a theoretical knowledge of techniques for the analysis of rocks and minerals, and be able to critically evaluate analytical data.

12. Use a range of academic and practical skills to execute a research project related to exploration geology.

Learning & Teaching Activities

Material is introduced by lectures and directed reading/research and students are given very clear guidance in how to manage their learning. Understanding is developed and consolidated by laboratory and private study exercises, carried out individually and in groups, both self-assessed and tutor marked to provide rapid feedback. Project work is used extensively to integrate material and make knowledge functional.

1, 2, 7, 9 are supported by lectures in several modules and fieldwork including an overseas visit to a major world mining region. 3 and 4 are supported by specific modules in exploration targeting and computational analysis. 2,8,9,10 and 11 are supported by extensive practical work using the rock and mineral collections at CSM, the laboratory analytical facilities and underground field stations. 5, 6,7,8 and 9 are acquired largely through lectures, directed reading, and mini-project reports. 11 and 12 are supported by a three month independent research project. Several other subject specific skills are also supported by the research project.

Assessment Methods

Direct assessment is through several formal written examinations, both open and closed book, and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, laboratory reports, reports/essays, a group project and poster based on directed reading and research. The research project is assessed by the supervisor, independent member of staff and the external examiner.

Practical skills are assessed in part through laboratory reports throughout the year in the Ore Deposit Geology & Exploration and Mining Geology modules

B Academic Discipline Core Skills & Knowledge

13. Demonstrate a systematic and creative approach to problem solving.

14. Recognise, explain and apply a wide range of techniques for the acquisition, analysis, interpretation and presentation of geo-scientific data.

15. Understand the role of the exploration geologist in a wider management context.

16. Understand the importance of earth resources to an economy, and issues of sustainability in mining.

17. Understand the importance of making scientific observations, recognising similarities between these and stated models and using these observations to determine or support interpretations.

18. Take personal responsibility for acting in a professional and ethical manner.

Practical skills – able to:

19. Select and use appropriate ICT based tools for evaluation of data (numeric and spatial).

20. Select and use laboratory instrumentation appropriately and correctly.

21. Critically appraise the quality of data coming from various geoscientific sources.

22. Undertake fieldwork independently in different terrains, anticipating problems before they arise.

23. Work safely in laboratory, in the field, underground, and promote safe practice.

Learning & Teaching Activities

All core skills are integrated into each module, and are developed steadily throughout the year. 13, 17,18 and  19 are especially relevant to the major research project and dissertation. 18 is further developed whilst the student seeks out his/her research project.

Practical skills19 to 23 are developed through a range of laboratory work, and one-day field classes undertaken in CSMM105, CSMM425 and CSMM194 and practical software sessions in CSMM189, CSMM192 and CSMM193.

Assessment Methods

Analytical and intellectual skills are assessed within all modules through formal written examinations, both open and closed book, and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, research reports etc.

C Personal / Transferable / Employment Skills & Knowledge

24. Communicate effectively and persuasively using a range of currently available methods.

25. Manage resources and time effectively.

26. Work effectively as a member of a team.

27. Learn independently, identifying own personal development needs and goals, reflecting on own performance and managing own personal development.

28. Obtain and process information from a wide range of sources, which may be conflicting, analyse it critically and apply this information in geoscientific applications.

Learning & Teaching Activities

24-28 are acquired through aspects of all modules. 26 is further acquired through group projects, which involve a single report or poster. 24 forms part of the process of the student seeking out a project for the Research Project and Dissertation module, as it involves direct communication with professionals in the mining industry. 28 is an important component of the Research Project and Dissertation. The intense nature and coursework deadlines of the course require a students to develop 25, this is supported by tutors and where required ASK academic skills support.

Assessment Methods

Assessment of key skills is mostly through written and oral presentations, and through project work. 25, 27 and 28 are specifically assessed as part of the Research Project and Dissertation.

7. Programme Regulations


The programme consists of 180 credits, participants take all 180 credits at NQF level 7. The pass mark for award of credit in PG modules (NQF level 7) is 50%.


Condonement is the process that allows you to be awarded credit (and so progress to the next stage or, in the final stage, receive an award), despite failing to achieve a pass mark at a first attempt. You are not entitled to reassessment in condoned credit.

Up to (45/30/20) credits of failure can be condoned on the following conditions:

  1. You must have completed and been assessed in modules amounting to sufficient credit for the final award (i.e. 180 credits for a Masters; 120 credits for a PGDip; and 60 credits for a PGCert).
  1. You must pass the modules marked with a 'Yes' in the 'non-condonable' column in the tables above.
  1. You must achieve an average mark of at least 50% across the full 180 credits of assessment in the stage, including any failed and condoned modules.


The marking of modules and the classification of awards broadly corresponds to the following marks:

Postgraduate Degrees

Distinction   70%+

Merit            60-69%

Pass            50-59%

Full details of PGT programmes assessment regulations can be found in the Teaching Quality Assurance Manual (TQA) on the University of Exeter website.  Generic marking criteria are also published here.

Please see the Teaching and Quality Assurance Manual for further guidance.

8. College Support for Students and Students' Learning

Personal and Academic tutoring: It is University policy that all Colleges should have in place a system of academic and personal tutors. The role of academic tutors is to support you on individual modules; the role of personal tutors is to provide you with advice and support for the duration of the programme and extends to providing you with details of how to obtain support and guidance on personal difficulties such as accommodation, financial difficulties and sickness. You can also make an appointment to see individual teaching staff.

Students have access to good computing and library facilities at the Penryn Campus. Computer-based exercises and web-based learning materials are a feature of the programme, which can be accessed via the internet. IT Services provide a range of central services, including open and training clusters of PCs (available on a 24/7 basis); and available during residentials held at CSM.  Network access is available from all rooms in the hall of residence on site. The Learning Resource Centre contains a library of 70,000 volumes and some specialist collections. In addition, students have full access to the central University of Exeter library, including the electronic library resources.

Online Module study resources provide materials for modules that you are registered for, in addition to some useful subject and IT resources. Generic study support resources, library and research skills, past exam papers, and the 'Academic Honesty and Plagiarism' module are also available through the student portal (

10. Admission Criteria

All applications are considered individually on merit. The University is committed to an equal opportunities policy with respect to gender, age, race, sexual orientation and/or disability when dealing with applications. It is also committed to widening access to higher education to students from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.

Entry requirements for this programme can be found on the Postgraduate Study Page.

Candidates must satisfy the general admissions requirements of the University of Exeter.

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.

12. Indicators of Quality and Standards

Certain programmes are subject to accreditation and/ or review by professional and statutory regulatory bodies (PSRBs).
The MSc Exploration Geology programme is accredited by the Geological Society. A degree in an accredited programme will normally qualify the holder for admission to Fellowship of the Society and for the award of Chartered Geologist (CGeol) or Chartered Scientist (CSci) status after a specified period of professional development and relevant experience. Accredited status provides added assurance to prospective students that a department teaching is of the highest quality, and has been approved by an independent body of academics and industrialists. See for further information.
Accreditation is awarded for a maximum of 6 years under each assessment exercise. The dates applicable to the current accreditation of this degree programme can be viewed on the Geological Society list of accredited degrees:
14 Awarding Institution Univesity of Exeter
15 Lead College / Teaching Institution College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
16 Partner College / Institution
17 Programme accredited/validated by
18 Final Award(s) MSc
19 UCAS Code (UG programmes) EXPLOR
20 NQF Level of Final Awards(s): 7
21 Credit (CATS and ECTS) 180 credits (90 ECTS)
22 QAA Subject Benchmarking Group (UG and PGT programmes) Geology
23 Origin Date February 8th 2023 Last Date of Revision: February 8th 2023