As far as we know, planet Earth and the plants and animals on it represent a single oasis of life in an otherwise barren universe. Geoscience at Royal Holloway, University of London helps to develop a holistic understanding of the formation and evolution of Earth and the life on it.
This comprehensive four-year programme brings together elements of physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics to give you a thorough understanding of the complex systems that govern our planet and its neighbours. You’ll graduate with a Masters degree in Earth Sciences, making you a highly employable candidate in a range of scientific and technical fields and putting you in a strong position to progress to further postgraduate study.
You'll study in a prestigious department consistently ranked among the top 10 in the country (The Complete University Guide and The Guardian 2016) – and contribute to our renowned research culture with your year 4 Independent Geoscience Project.
Pursue your passion for Geoscience and unlock some of our planet’s most compelling secrets. This exciting programme has seen previous graduates progress to careers in the hydrocarbon and environmental industries, among others, and is ideal for those who wish to pursue research degrees in further postgraduate study.
- Benefit from a pioneering research culture, with 94% of Department of Earth Sciences research ranked world-leading or internationally excellent – no.2 in the UK (Research Excellence Framework, 2014)
- Enjoy extensive fieldwork opportunities in the UK and Europe.
- Gain a practical skillset geared towards a career in Earth Sciences and other related fields.
- Choose from a range of optional courses to tailor your learning to your own interests and ambitions.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the evolution of major features of current and past tectonic activity of the Earth. You will look at the current understanding of the Earth’s interior, considering its importance for both the kinematic and tectonic evolution of the planet. You will also explore how plate boundaries have formed, the dynamic processes involved, the types of data used to investigate these regions both onshore and offshore, and the importance of these processes to society.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the surface processes and the mechanisms of weathering, transport and deposition. You will look at the classification of sediments and sedimentary rocks, and consider depositional facies analysis and interpretation of the paleoenvironment. You will also examine the use and interpretation of sedimentary logs, triangular diagrams, vector scales and granylometric data in analysing sedimentary rocks.
Igneous and Metamorphic Geology 1
In this module you will develop an understanding of crystallography, rock-forming minerals, their occurrence and textures in igneous and metamorphic rocks. You will look at igneous and metamorphic geology, volcanic and plutonic rocks, mineral identification, crystallisation, silicates, metamorphic rocks and textures. You will also examine the origin of chemical variation in volcanic rocks, metamorphic rocks and textures, and ore minerals.
Physics and Chemistry of Earth
In this module you will develop an understanding of basic concepts in chemistry and physics and how to apply these to geological processes. You will look at atoms and atomic structure, the periodic table of elements, reactions, equations, geochemical analysis, the composition of the earth, interpretation of phase diagrams, solubility of minerals, weathering and the hydrological cycle. You will also consider Newton’s Laws, kinematics, circular motion, planetary orbits, gravity, magnetism, electricity, resistivity, stress, strain, seismicity, isostasy, radioactivity, and geochronology.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the principles of structural geology and the interpretation of geological maps. You will look at large scale geological structures and learn how to recognise them on geological maps. You will consider how to interpret maps, recognise outcrop patterns, geological structures and geological relationships on maps, and how to draw cross sections. You will also examine smaller scale structures in hand specimen and outcrop, and analyse structural data in order to understand larger scale structural relationships.
In this module you will develop an understanding of palaeobiology and palaeoecology. You will look at the the diagnostic characters of the major groups of fossils in the laboratory and field, and compare and contrast examples from the main categories of fossils, learning to differentiate between them. You will also examine the diversity of fossils and see how this can be applied in both stratigraphy and palaeoenvironmental analysis.
Scientific and Geological Field Skills
In this module you develop an understanding of the skills required to practice geology in the field, carrying out a series of activities in South Devon and Pembrokeshire. You will learn to describe and interpret the origin of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rocks and how to prepare a geological map and cross-section using standard symbols. You will examine stereographic projections, sedimentary logging, the construction of stratigraphic columns for the identification of rocks, and the analysis of structural features using sterenets.
Stratigraphy and the History of Life
In this module you will develop an understanding of the key events in the history of life and their environmental impact using the fossil and sedimentary record. You will analyse fossil assemblages using stratigraphic principles such as absolute dating, lithostratigraphy, biostratigraphy and sequence stratigraphy. You will consider how to interpret sedimentary rocks, and examine the importance of fossil assemblages in the interpretation of events in earth history.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the geological evolution of the British Isles, interpreting regional geological history from geological maps. You will learn to describe rock specimens, and examine how palaeoenvironments can be reconstructed using case studies. You will also consider the application of stratigraphic techniques and use evidence from several different fields of geology to evaluate competing hypotheses for geological evolution.
Igneous and Metamorphic Geology 2
In this module you will further develop your understanding of igneous and metamorphic geology. You will look at the characteristics and origins of alkaline igneous rocks, the nature and controls on metamorphic reactions, and the links between metamorphism and tectonic processes. You will consider hand specimen and thin section techniques for study of minerals and igneous and metamorphic rocks, and examine analytical approaches to the interpretation of metamorphic rocks, including the quantification of metamorphic rates and processes.
In this module you will develop an understanding of advanced chemical concepts relevant to the Earth Sciences. You will focus on isotope geochemistry and consider techniques that are directly applicable in most geological contexts. You will attend practical classes and conduct a small project involving the analysis and interpretation of a real geochemical dataset.
Advanced Scientific and Geological Field Skills
In this module you will develop advanced geological field skills. You will carry out a series of activities in an area of igneous and metamorphic rocks, and in an area of sedimentary rocks. You will learn to describe and interpret the origin of the rock types in the field and will prepare a geological map and cross-section using standard symbols. You will analyse structural features using stereonets, and infer the geological history of a region through the construction of scaled cross-sections through structurally complex terrains.
Advanced Concepts and Techniques in Geology
Independent Geological Field Mapping
Independent Geoscience Project
In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.
Environmental Issues with Maths
Petroleum Geology with Maths
Sedimentary Basin Analysis
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to classify sedimentary basins according to their tectonic mode of formation. You will learn to explain and illustrate the basic processes of subsidence and uplift in basins formed by extension, and flexural loading of, the lithosphere. You will also consider how characteristic patterns of sedimentary facies and stratigraphic architecture relate to different basin types and the tectonic processes that formed them, examining the tectonosedimentary history of stratigraphic successions in outcrop and subsurface data.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the hazards associated with geological activity, their causes, and approaches to risk management. You will look at volcanoes, earthquakes, and radon, and the hazards associated with the exploitation of geological resources and associated anthropogenic activity, including asbestos, the mining industry, and contaminated land. You will examine a variety of geological and geochemical data, and learn to interpret and analyse these in order to make scientifically justified decisions as to the level of risk.
In this module you will develop an understanding of the theory and practice of seismic, gravity, magnetic and resistivity surveying. You will consider the methods used to manipulate, analyse, and display geophysical data to solve geological exploration problems, and examine the strengths and weaknesses of the different data types.
Computational Earth Sciences
Structural Analysis and Remote Sensing
In this module you will develop an understanding of how to analyse geological structures in terms of the deformational mechanisms and tectonic stresses that have produced them. You will look at brittle failure in rocks, fracture types and propagation, and consider the relationship between principal stresses and geologic structures on small and regional scales. You will examine remotely sensed continental and marine data sets, and use imagery available in Google Earth for tectonic analysis.
Advanced Topics in Sedimentology
Planetary Geology and Geophysics
Advanced Techniques in Tectonic and Structural Interpretation
Research Proposal and Critical Review
Earth Surface Processes
Water Quality - Diagnosis and Management
Air Pollution - Monitoring, Impacts and Management
Modern Climate Change
Oceans and Atmospheres
Contaminated Land Case Study
Environment Inorganic Analysis
Advanced Igneous Petrogenesis
Advanced Igneous Petrogenesis and Project
Seismic Processing and Interpretation
Geodynamics and Plate Tectonics
Interpretation of Structural Settings
Home and EU students tuition fee per year 2017/18*: £9,250
International students tuition fee per year 2017/18**: £15,600
Other essential costs***: £120
How do I pay for it? Find out more.
*Tuition fees for UK and EU nationals starting a degree in the academic year 2017/18 will be £9,250 for that year. This amount is subject to the UK Parliament approving a change to fee and loan regulations that has been proposed by the UK Government. In the future, should the proposed changes to fee and loan regulations allow it, Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees for UK and EU nationals annually. If relevant UK legislation continues to permit it, Royal Holloway will maintain parity between the tuition fees charged to UK and EU students for the duration of their degree studies.
**Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees for international fee paying students annually. Tuition fees are unlikely to rise more than 5 per cent each year. For further information on tuition fees please see Royal Holloway’s Terms & Conditions.
***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree programme at Royal Holloway. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.