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Study information

Geology (2023)

1. Programme Title:


NQF Level:


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

The Geology programme provides a fundamental training for students who wish to gain a detailed understanding of the Earth, its history, processes and resources. It provides the basis for employment as a professional geoscientist in a wide range of industry sectors or, through further specialisation and study, as a route into research and advanced technical industry roles.

3. Educational Aims of the Programme

The programme aims to provide you with a knowledge and understanding of the principal geological processes that have controlled Earth’s evolution, including climate change, tectonics, the history of life and the development of resources such as hydrocarbons and minerals. It also aims to provide you with robust practical skills of geological data acquisition and interpretation, through both field and laboratory work. In addition, the programme aims to develop your personal and key skills in verbal and written communication, data analysis, manipulation and interpretation, numerical problem solving, personal time management, team work and group interaction and self-managed and lifelong learning. The scientific training and research project that you undertake will provide skills appropriate to geoscience or other employment or progression to a higher degree (MGeol / MSc).

4. Programme Structure

Your BSc Geology programme is a 3-year programme of study at National Qualification Framework (NQF) level 6 (as confirmed against the FHEQ). This programme is divided into 3 Stages. 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. You will be located at the Cornwall Campus of the University of Exeter for the duration of your study.

Interim Awards
If you do not complete the programme you may be able to exit with a lower qualification. If you have achieved 120 credits, you may be awarded a Certificate of Higher Education, and if you achieve 240 credits, where at least 90 credits are at Stage 2 (NQF Level 5) or above, you may be awarded a Diploma of Higher Education.

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. Details of the modules currently offered may be obtained from the College web site:

You may take Option 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. Descriptions of the individual modules are given in full on the College web site:


Stage 1

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
CSM1042Dynamic Planet15YesYes
CSM1031Earth and Environmental Chemistry15YesNo
CSM1043Crystallography, Mineralogy and Gemstones15YesYes
CSM1044Earth History and Palaeontology15YesYes
CSM1036Field Geology and Geological Maps30YesYes
CSM1045Surveying and Digital Mapping15YesNo
CSM1041Quantitative Methods for Geoscientists15YesNo
CSM1904CSM Professionalism Year 10YesYes

Students attend a one week residential field class in Pembrokeshire during Easter Vacation / Term 3 as part of Field Geology and Geological Maps. This module also includes nine, one-day, field classes at localities in Cornwall. At the end of the first stage students also attend a two week practical surveying course, based on the Penryn Campus, that is assessed under CSM2184.

Stage 2

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
CSM2182Structural Geology and Tectonics30YesYes
CSM2183Sedimentology and Stratigraphy30YesYes
CSM2184Geological Mapping Techniques15YesYes
CSM2051Magmatic and Metamorphic Rocks15YesYes
CSM2910Magmatism and Metamorphism15YesYes
CSM2904CSM Professionalism Year 20YesYes

There are two periods of residential fieldwork. As part of CSM2182, there are six, one-day, field classes at localities in Cornwall.  As part of CSM2183, a six day geological field class during Term 1 focuses on sedimentary rocks, stratigraphy and the tectonic development of the Wessex Basin (in Devon/Dorset), and you also get to go on a half-day field class during this term to look at modern sedimentary environments in Cornwall. An eight or nine day field class in Scotland that is focussed on geological mapping skills takes place during the Easter Vacation (as part of CSM2184).

During the summer vacation students carry out an independent study of at least 24 days duration (assessed under CSM3379). In some cases students obtain an industrial placement or work on a research project.

Stage 3

Code Title Credits Compulsory NonCondonable
CSM3047GIS for Geologists15YesNo
CSM3068Geology Overseas Field Class15YesYes
CSM3072Climate change: Past and Future15YesNo
CSM3379Summer Vacation Project30YesYes
CSM3904CSM Professionalism Year 30YesYes
In addition, students will select 30 credits from:
CSM3059Evolution of Earth and Planetary Systems15NoNo
CSM3061Energy Resource Geology15NoNo
CSM3071Geological History of Life on Earth15NoNo

During the Easter vacation students undertake a ten day residential field course in Cyprus or Spain or Tenerife (assessed under CSM3068). The fieldwork provides a synthesis of much of the programme’s syllabus.

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. recognise the structure and composition of the solid Earth (core, mantle, crust etc.), the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere and the processes operating within and between them.

2. understand the cycling of matter and flows of energy into, between and within these Earth system components.

3. apply present and past interactions between Earth system components and the effects on them of extra-terrestrial influences.

4. recognise the contribution of chemistry, mathematics, physics and biology to our understanding of Earth structure, materials and processes.

5. understand sustainability and social awareness in an Earth science context (e.g. renewable vs. non-renewable resources, climate change, biodiversity).

6. recognise major geoscience paradigms (uniformitarianism, evolution of life as revealed in the fossil record, plate tectonics)

7. appreciate geological time, principles of stratigraphy and the stratigraphic column, dating techniques, rates of Earth processes and major events in Earth history, nomenclature and identification of fossils.

8. appreciate spatial scales, study of structures, materials and processes ranging from atoms to planets.

9. understand terminology, classification and identification of minerals and rocks.

10. understand terminology, nomenclature and identification of geological structures.

11. collect and document geological information in the field, production and interpretation of geological maps.

12. undertake surveying and measurement in field and laboratory contexts, using qualitative, quantitative and instrumental techniques.

13. undertake exploration for, and development/exploitation of, Earth resources.

14. understand geological aspects of human impacts on the environment.

15. understand geohazards and their impacts on human societies.

16. recognise the need for a multi-disciplinary approach in advancing understanding of Earth systems, contribution of geology to development of knowledge of our world.

17. understand applicability of earth sciences to the work environment.

18. develop awareness of prior research and data sources

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 work, private study exercises and, in particular, by field classes. Work is carried out individually and in groups with tutorial support and is both self-assessed and tutor marked to provide feedback. Field work and project work is used extensively to integrate material and make knowledge functional.

1, 2 and 3 are supported explicitly by the 1st stage Dynamic Planet module, all stage 2 modules and stage 3 modules in Dynamic Climates and Evolution of Earth and Planetary Systems.

4 is supported explicitly by the 1st stage Quantitative Methods for Geoscientists and Earth and Environmental Chemistry modules and then developed by use in other modules throughout the programme.

5 and 6 are introduced in the stage 1 Dynamic Planet and Earth History and Palaeontology modules, further developed in stage 2 modules, including Stratigraphy, and in stage 3 modules such as Evolution of Earth and Planetary Systems, Dynamic Climates, Energy Resource Geology and Mineral Deposit Geology.

7 is explicitly supported by the stage 1 Dynamic Planet and Earth History and Palaeontology modules, stage 2 Stratigraphy module and stage 3 modules Evolution of Earth and Planetary Systems and Dynamic Climates; it is also implicitly supported in all field-based modules.

8 is supported by 1st stage modules in Earth and Environmental Chemistry and Crystallography, Mineralogy and Gemstones and implicitly developed in most 2nd and 3rd stage modules.

9 is supported explicitly by the Crystallography, Mineralogy and Gemstones module in the 1st stage and then by Sedimentology and Stratigraphy and Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology modules in the 2nd stage and the 3rd stage Evolution of Earth and Planetary Systems and Mineral Deposit Geology modules; this skill is also implicitly supported and developed by the various Field Geology and Field Techniques modules throughout the programme.

10 is introduced in the stage 1 Dyamic Planet module and supported explicitly by the stage 2 module in Structural Geology and Tectonics and implicitly supported and developed by the various Field Geology and Field Techniques modules throughout the programme.

11 is explicitly supported by the stage 1 Field Geology and Geological Maps module, the stage 2 Geological Mapping Techniques, Structural Geology and Tectonics and Sedimentology modules and the 3rd stage Exploration Techniques and Geology Overseas Fieldclass modules.

The surveying aspects of 12 are supported explicitly by the stage 1 Surveying and Digital Mapping module and the survey course at the end of stage one (contributing to Geological Mapping Techniques).

12 is also explicitly supported by the laboratory techniques and microscope work undertaken in most of the 2nd stage modules. 7 and 9-12 are further developed by the stage 3 Summer Vacation Project.

13 is supported explicitly by stage 3 modules in Hydrogeology, Mineral Deposit Geology, Exploration Techniques and Energy Resource Geology.

14 is explicitly supported by 3rd stage modules in Hydrogeology and Energy Resource Geology; it is also integrated within the 3rd stage Geology Overseas Fieldclass module and implicitly within other modules throughout the programme.

15 is introduced during the stage 1 Dynamic Planet module and implicitly developed during stage 2 modules and explicitly in stage 3 modules Evolution of Earth and Planetary Systems, Dynamic Climates of the Past and Geology Overseas Fieldclass modules.

16 and 17 are implicitly supported by a large number of the modules throughout the programme, as is 17. 17 is explicitly supported by the stage 3 Summer Vacation Project and further developed during all fieldclasses.

18 is explicitly supported in the stage 3 Summer Vacation Project and implicitly by all modules throughout the programme.

Assessment Methods

Direct assessment is through a range of formal written examinations, both open and closed book and marked coursework in the form of problem sheets, laboratory reports and reports based on directed reading/research.

Field work based modules are a major component of the overall programme assessment; their assessment is based on field notebooks, field slips, geological maps and associated reports. Project work is assessed through a combination of supervisor's report, self and peer assessment and formal assessment of final reports and presentations.

B Academic Discipline Core Skills & Knowledge

Intellectual skills – able to:

1. recognise and use subject-specific theories, paradigms and concepts.

2. critically analyse, synthesise and summarise information, including prior research.

3. collect and integrate lines of evidence to formulate/test hypotheses.

4. apply knowledge and understanding to address problems.

5. recognise the moral/ethical issues of investigations and appreciate the need for professional codes of conduct.

Practical skills – able to:

6. plan, conduct and report on investigations.

7. collect, record and analyse data using appropriate field and laboratory techniques.

8. work in a safe and responsible manner in field and laboratory.

9. reference work in an appropriate manner.

Learning & Teaching Activities

1-4 are integrated into most modules and developed steadily throughout the 1st, 2nd and 3rd stages; in particular, 2-4 are developed during 2nd and 3rd stage fieldwork and project based modules. 5 is developed by use in modules throughout the programme and specifically applied in the stage 3 Summer Vacation Project.
6-8 are introduced in a number of 1st stage modules, developed further in many 2nd and 3rd stage modules, where extensive field data collection and laboratory work is undertaken. 9 is developed throughout the three stages of the programme. 6-9 are an integral part of the fieldwork and project modules in the 3rd stages.

Assessment Methods

Problem solving, analytical and synthesis skills are assessed within many modules through a range of formal written examinations, both open and closed book, and marked coursework. These skills are primarily shown, however, in project work and fieldwork modules in the 2nd and 3rd stages, including the stage 3 Summer Vacation Project (assessed via written report and field documents, verbal presentation).

Practical skills are assessed in part through laboratory reports and logbooks throughout the 1st and 2nd stages, but mainly through the fieldwork modules in all stages and the Summer Vacation Project, where they are used extensively.

C Personal / Transferable / Employment Skills & Knowledge

1. receive and respond to a variety of information styles (written, verbal and graphic) and communicate in these styles to different audiences, including use of the Internet.

2. appreciate issues of sample selection and data quality in the collection and use of geoscientific data.

3. manipulate, interpret and present data using appropriate techniques and packages.

4. solve numerical problems using computer and non-computer based techniques.

5. work in a team, identifying and recognising individual and collective opinions and roles and evaluating performance of all members.

6. develop self-managed and lifelong learning skills (target setting, time and project management, reflective practice).

7. develop a flexible approach to study and work.

Learning & Teaching Activities

1 and 3 are specifically introduced throughout the programme with regular verbal and written presentations of work. 2 is explicitly covered in almost all stage 2 and 3 modules. 3 and 4 are introduced in the 1st stage Quantitative Methods for Geoscientists module and further developed in all the 2nd stage modules, most of the 3rd stage modules such as Evolution of Earth and Planetary Systems, Hydrogeology, GIS for Geologists and Exploration Techniques. 5 is developed through laboratory and group work in many modules, including 1st stage Surveying and CAD and the stage 3 Geology Overseas Fieldclass module.

6 and 7 are initially developed in stage 1 with students being required to carry out regular reviews of their own progress, upon which they get formal feedback through the tutorial system. Further development occurs throughout the programme, particularly in the stage 3 Summer Vacation Project.

Assessment Methods

Assessment of key skills occurs throughout the entire programme, mostly through items of coursework in the form of written and oral presentations, field notebooks and maps, vivas and project reports.

1-4 are implicitly assessed in all modules and explicitly assessed in many modules across all stages. 5 is implicitly assessed in group work throughout the programme and explicitly in Geological Mapping Techniques (Summer Survey Course) and Geology Overseas Fieldclass module. 6 and 7 are implicit in much of all students' study but are explicitly tested in the 2nd and 3rd and 4th stage fieldwork modules.

7. Programme Regulations

The programme consists of 360 credits with 120 credits taken at each stage. Normally not more than 60 credits would be allowed in any one term. In total, students normally take no more than 150 credits at Stage 1 (NQF Level 4), and must take at least 90 credits at Stage 3 (NQF Level 6). The pass mark for award of credit in an individual UG module is 40%.

You can progress to the next stage (or in the final year, to proceed to the award of an honours degree) once at least 90 credits have been passed in a stage, and provided that an average of at least 40% has been achieved over the 120 credits of assessment for that stage.

Condonement is the process that allows you to pass a ‘stage’ should you fail to achieve the required number of credits for that stage.
You are required to achieve 120 credits in each stage of the programme. You must have achieved an average mark of at least 40% across the 120 credits of assessment including the marks for any failed and condoned modules. You will not be allowed reassessment in the condoned credit. Up to 30 credits of failure can be condoned in a stage. However, you must pass the modules marked with a 'Yes' in the 'non-condonable' column in the tables above. The pass mark for these modules is 40%.

Assessment and Awards
Assessment at stage one does not contribute to the summative classification of the award. 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.

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

Undergraduate Degrees

Class I 70% +
Class II Division I 60-69%
Class II Division II 50-59%
Class III 40-49%

Full details of assessment regulations for UG programmes 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.

To obtain the award of Associate of CSM (ACSM) the student must attend and complete the zero-credit-bearing modules CSM1904, CSM2904 and CSM3904.


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) within the Centre. 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 (

Student/Staff Liaison Committee enables students & staff to jointly participate in the management and review of the teaching and learning provision.

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.

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 BSc (Hons) 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) status after a specified period of professional development and relevant experience. Accredited status provides added assurance to prospective students that a department's 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 University of Exeter
15 Lead College / Teaching Institution College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences
16 Partner College / Institution
17 Programme accredited/validated by The Geological Society
18 Final Award(s) BSc (Hons)
19 UCAS Code (UG programmes) F600
20 NQF Level of Final Awards(s): 6
21 Credit (CATS and ECTS) 360 (180 ECTS)
22 QAA Subject Benchmarking Group (UG and PGT programmes) Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies
23 Origin Date February 8th 2023 Last Date of Revision: February 8th 2023