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Earth, Climate and Environmental Change

Earth, Climate and Environmental Change

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If we make you an offer for this course for 2022 entry, we guarantee to confirm your place even if one of your final A-level results is one grade below those you have received in that offer. Equivalencies and exclusions apply. Full details here.

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Key information

Duration: 4 years full time

UCAS code: F767

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

UK fees: £9,250

International/EU fees: £23,200

Key information

Duration: 3 years full time

UCAS code: F764

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

UK fees: £9,250

International / EU fees: £23,200

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The course

Earth, Climate and Environmental Change (MSci)

Through Science and in everyday life we understand that climate change is happening all around us. As our planet continues to warm up and climate patterns change, bringing extreme and unpredictable weather, environments will become hotter, drier or wetter, and the natural resources we rely upon will become increasingly threatened and all life of Earth will be severely impacted.

  • MSci Earth, Climate and Environmental Change is a new four year degree designed to develop a strong scientific understanding of Earth system science and how it has shaped today’s world
  • You’ll experience teaching that is research-led, quantitative science based, and underpinned by the world-leading expertise of the academics in the Department of Earth Sciences.
  • We offer a broad range of optional courses to allow you to tailor your degree to your own learning interests
  • You’ll study a hands-on degree with over 60% of timetabled study time taken up by hands on practical classes and the chance to participate on fieldtrips
  • Study in a department consistently ranked among the top 10 in the country and home to an inspiring research culture that informs our teaching
Field trips

Fieldwork is the glue that brings together all aspects of the taught programme in Earth Sciences, as well as providing a chance for staff and students to get to know each other. The fieldwork programme is designed to provide progressive training throughout your degree.

The fieldwork programme includes year 1 trips to Devon, Pembrokeshire, Charnwood Forest, and Oxfordshire and year 3 trips to Southwest England. There is also the opportunity for fieldwork in the third-year project.

  • Graduate with an integrated Masters (MSci) degree from one of the UK’s most highly-regarded departments
  • Recommended for those who wish to undertake a broader and deeper study of the subject.
From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience, and this is particularly the case as we continue to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as we can.

Core Modules

Year 1
  • This module will introduce you to the concept of Earth System interactions, as a framework for understanding the causes and consequences of environmental and climate change. The module will cover the physical and chemical features of the Lithosphere, Atmosphere, Hydrosphere and Biosphere; the processes that link these parts of the Earth System together; and the consequences of disturbing these interlinked systems. Term 2 will introduce you to the mechanisms that drive climate change, and the tools that scientists have at their disposal to quantify past climate change.

  • The module will introduce you to key concepts necessary to understand the global energy market and as well as provide introductory knowledge and key skills needed for the next generation of geoscientists to explore and exploit georesources in a sustainable way. As a response to the Paris Climate Agreement and recent societal shifts, the request for sustainable energy has significantly raised in the last few years, with many energy companies looking to ramp up production of green energy. As a consequence, many of our future graduates are likely to find significant career opportunities in these new areas rather than in traditional hydrocarbon extraction.

  • The first term of this module is designed to teach basic mathematics in the context of Earth and Environmental sciences. Topics that will be taught are: manipulation of algebraic and exponential equations; trigonometry; reading charts and graphs and basic differential and integral calculus. In the second term, data analysis techniques will be developed. Content of term 2 will include error analysis, single and multivariate statistics, probability distributions, hypothesis testing, correlation and regression, non-parametric tests, and box modelling.

  • 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 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.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of palaeobiology and palaeoecology. You will look at 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.

  • 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 stereonets.

Year 2
  • In this research led module skills in scientific writing, communication and data interpretation will be developed alongside an understanding of current research topics in Earth, Climate and Environmental Change. A series of seminars will be led by experts on a range of research topics in the field of Earth, Climate and Environmental change. From these seminars, you will gain an understanding of cutting edge research and the way in which research projects are planned and carried out. A literature review exercise on one of the research topics from the seminar series will be undertaken with support from tutors.

    You will receive training in techniques for literature searching, synthesising a large quantity of literature and reference managing. Data interpretation skills will be developed through a short guided quantitative project.

  • Skills in GIS and Remote Sensing are most effectively acquired through practical work and the use of industry-standard commercial software packages. Practical work is entirely computer-based and involves learning techniques of handling, using and interrogating GIS data, through exercises and projects which have relevance to geology.

    The applications currently used are ArcGIS and ER Mapper.

  • 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 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.

  • The aim of the module is to introduce you to the fundamental concepts of physical hydrogeology, particularly the flow and storage of water in geologic structures. The topics covered include the importance of groundwater in the hydrologic cycle, and fluxes of water between different reservoirs. The lectures will also cover the aquifer properties (permeability, transmissivity), Darcy’s law, groundwater flow equations and simple graphical and numerical ways to solve the groundwater flow equation, how to determine aquifer properties from pump tests, regional flow systems and basics of groundwater and surface water interaction.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of how computation tools are used to read, create, analyse, and visualise digital earth science data. You will learn to use python, a popular scripting language, to read and manipulate data from digital files, and look at digital mapping techniques, using data to plot 2D and 3D maps. You will consider how to fit linear data and analyse the goodness of fit using statistical analysis tools, and examine how to produce simple models of geological processes using algebraic expression, such as generating models for seismic travel time curves, major element concentration during magma crystallization, sedimentary basin thickness, and other similar geological phenomena.

  • The oceans form a critical component of the global climate system. They redistribute heat and nutrients around the world and in doing so exert a significant influence on the proliferation of different organisms, regional climatic zones, and the formation of mineral deposits on the seafloor. In this module you will learn about the physical and chemical constituents of the oceans. You will be introduced to the types of oceanographic measurements that can tell us how the modern oceans behave, and how this behaviour might be extended into predictions of future behaviour. You will also learn how to extract and process large oceanographic datasets using open-access oceanographic software.

Year 3
  • Projects can be field and/or laboratory based, generating new scientific data, or they can be computational, analysing existing data that has not been subject to detailed and critical analysis. Early in term 1 you will submit a project plan to the supervisor and course leader and will receive written feedback on the project plan. Formative feedback will also be provided at the end of term 1 following presentations showing progress made so far. You will be expected to regularly meet with your project supervisor for guidance. At the end of the project you will present the results of your research as a scientific report and as an oral presentation.


  • This module will provide you with a working knowledge of basic meteorology. The module will begin with atmospheric basics and terminology including didactic sessions and workshops/practicals on solar radiation, thermodynamics, water vapour, stability, clouds and precipitation. It will progress into skill sessions (lectures and practicals) on radar, interpreting satellite maps and weather reports and finish with sessions (lectures and practicals) putting it all together (review and consolidation) for understanding of winds, fronts, air masses and thunderstorms. The module will finish up with lectures and practicals demonstrating how basic meteorological understanding can be applied for career useful consideration of meteorological hazards: tropical and extra tropical cyclones, regional winds boundary layers and pollutant dispersal, numerical weather prediction and atmospheric optics.

  • This course has two main aims:

    1) To introduce you to the evidence for and mechanisms of modern climate change – what climate change is, how the climate change is manifested, what physical mechanisms are driving it, and what its future status might be.

    2) Methods of research in multi-disciplinary topics, report writing, and communication of complex ideas for policy makers using Earth Science as a subject matter.

  • The Earth’s climate has changed across geological time, due to the interaction of a huge array of inter-related climate forcing agents. These changes have been reconstructed using many different lines of chemical, biological and physical proxy data, and mechanistically interrogated using computer simulations (Earth-System models). In this module, you will be taught about the key features of major climatic events in Earth’s history and should gain an appreciation of the typical rates and magnitudes of change that characterise these episodes. A key aim of the module is to demonstrate some of the techniques used for quantitative palaeoclimate reconstruction, and for you to learn the critical evaluation skills needed to interpret these datasets. These skills will be developed through class practical exercises and a summative task that requires the interpretation of a raw palaeoclimate dataset.


  • Methods of Environmental Investigation

Optional Modules

There are a number of optional course modules available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course modules that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new modules may be offered or existing modules may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

Year 1
  • All modules are core
Year 2
  • 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 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.

  • Geothermal Energy
Year 3
  • Hydrogeology
  • Environmental Biogeochemistry
  • Applied Geochemistry
  • Planetary Geology and Geophysics
  • Solar, Wind and Marine Energy
  • Subsurface storage of CO2 and Energy

Classroom teaching methods are highly diverse including lectures, practicals, tutorials, fieldtrips, and other learning modes. Students will typically spend 75% of each module (90 of 120 hrs) engaged on independent tasks; however, this will vary, module-to-module, to reflect the diverse fields being synthesised, and diverse subject-specific approaches to teaching, with practical lab-based or field-based modules having higher level of classroom time.

Students on this course will benefit from pastoral support from a personal tutor. 

A combination of assessment methods will be used (exam, projects, coursework, moodle quizzes, presentations and team exercises)  and innovative assessment modes will be encouraged as new modules are developed for this course.

A Levels: ABB-BBB

Required subjects:

  • A-level in at least one science-based subject such as Mathematics, Physics, Geology, Chemistry, Geography or Biology.
  • At least five GCSEs at grade A*-C or 9-4 including English and Mathematics.

Where an applicant is taking the EPQ alongside A-levels, the EPQ will be taken into consideration and result in lower A-level grades being required. For students who are from backgrounds or personal circumstances that mean they are generally less likely to go to university you may be eligible for an alternative lower offer. Follow the link to learn more about our contextual offers.

English language requirements

All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.

The scores we require
  • IELTS: 6.5 overall. No subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 54. No subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please visit here.

Undergraduate Pathways

For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, the International Study Centre offers the following pathway programmes:

International Foundation Year - for progression to the first year of an undergraduate degree.

International Year One - for progression to the second year of an undergraduate degree.

You will graduate equipped with the specialist knowledge and practical skills to tackle the scientific challenges of a rapidly changing world, ideally prepared for a scientific or technical career in your chosen field.

Graduate destinations will include postgraduate research, climate and environmental consultancy, analytical careers, Government/civil service, remote sensing agencies and regulatory bodies. Climate service companies, mining, extractive, and energy industries employ a large number of Earth Scientists to handle their environmental/climate obligations.

The majority of our graduates are working in geological careers, addressing global problems like climate change and waste disposal, or have a role in global exploration for the raw materials we need – water, minerals, oil and gas. Many others go on to study for a PhD degree and become a research scientist.

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £9,250

EU and International students tuition fee per year**: £23,200

Other essential costs***: £100 for a set of essential field work equipment, for example a hard hat, compass. £150 per year contribution towards field trip costs.

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loansscholarships and bursaries. UK students who have already taken out a tuition fee loan for undergraduate study should check their eligibility for additional funding directly with the relevant awards body.

*The tuition fee for UK undergraduates is controlled by Government regulations. For students starting a degree in the academic year 2021/22, the fee will be £9,250 for that year. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2022/23 has not yet been confirmed.

**The UK Government has confirmed that EU nationals are no longer eligible to pay the same fees as UK students, nor be eligible for funding from the Student Loans Company. This means you will be classified as an international student. At Royal Holloway, we wish to support those students affected by this change in status through this transition. For eligible EU students starting their course with us in September 2022, we will award a fee reduction scholarship equivalent to 60% of the difference between the UK and international fee for your course. This will apply for the duration of your course.

Fees for international students may increase year-on-year in line with the rate of inflation. The policy at Royal Holloway is that any increases in fees will not exceed 5% for continuing students. For further information see fees and funding and our terms and conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2021/22 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

95% overall student satisfaction

Source: NSS, 2020

9th in the UK for Earth Sciences

Source: Times Good University Guide 2020

93% of our Earth Sciences graduates are employed or in further study within 6 months of graduating

Source: DLHE, 2018

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