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Earth, Climate and Environmental Change

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  1. Royal Holloway's institution code: R72
  2. Make a note of the UCAS code for the course you want to apply for:

    • Earth, Climate and Environmental Change MSci - F767
    • Earth, Climate and Environmental Change MSci - F764
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Earth, Climate and Environmental Change


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Key information

Duration: 4 years full time

UCAS code: F767

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

Key information

Duration: 3 years full time

UCAS code: F764

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

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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. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.

Core Modules

Year 1
  • This module introduces the 4.6 billion-year history of our Evolving Earth and provides you with the skills to interpret that history. The module is subdivided into two complimentary streams that closely integrate. One stream (palaeontology) considers the story of life from its origin to the rise and fall of the dinosaurs, concluding with our own recent human evolution. It focuses on major events in evolution, and introduces you to the key concepts including systematic palaeontology, palaeoecology, palaeobiology, evolution, and taphonomy. The other stream (sedimentology) considers earth surface processes and palaeoenvironments and teaches you how to recognise the changing environments through time using techniques including rock classification, textural analysis, facies analysis and graphic logging, palaeoflow analysis, and stratigraphy. Because life and environments have co-evolved and are co-dependent, palaeontology and sedimentology need to be taught in close parallel, providing you with a powerful synthetic understanding of how our Earth has evolved in the past and continues to change in the future.

  • With the adoption of the Paris Agreement and the recent COP26, a seismic societal shift towards issues related to sustainability and climate change is taking place globally. The next generation of geoscientists are now required to understand the complex interrelations between human activities and a changing Earth system. With this module, students will explore key themes at the core of human-Earth interaction such as anthropogenic climate change, geohazards, environmental pollution, and sustainable exploitation of energy resources and energy-critical elements.

  • Climate, Ocean and Atmosphere
  • 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 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 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 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.

  • 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.

  • By the end of the module students should: Have gained an appreciation of some aspects of anthropogenic impact on the environment by visiting a range of field sites Understand the principles of environmental sampling, including sampling strategies, sources of error and sample contamination issues Have gained experience of a range of sample preparation methods and how to produce analytical data for a number of different sample types Understand how ICP-AES can be used for environmental analysis and gained practical experience of laboratory techniques Have gained experience of safe laboratory working practices Have developed team working skills, including time management, negotiation, and co-operation Have further developed their data analysis and report writing skills. Be able to plan and undertake an independent field-based environmental project.

  • The purpose of this module is to embed GIS and programming skills for the creation, analysis and interpretation of geospatial data and coding skills to facilitate data collection, analysis, modelling and interpretation. The module explains the origin of GIS and trains students in the creation of georeferenced point, line and polygon data, combine raster and vector data, and data analysis. It also introduces Python and the use of arrays, reading and writing, branching and repeating, and plotting.

Year 3
  • 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.


  • 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.


  • The module will cover hazards associated with geological activity, their causes and risk management including topics such as volcanoes and earthquakes, and those associated with anthropogenic activity such as mining and land contamination. Students will work in small groups to investigate geohazards pertinent to a city of their choice, bringing together all aspects of the course including physical, chemical and anthropogenic hazards. Formative assessments draw together a variety of geological, numerical and geochemical data that require analysis and interpretation of these data.

  • Under the guidance of a departmental supervisor the student will design and execute an independent research project. The project may utilise data collected in the field, laboratory, and/or scientific literature. Data handling using statistical or GIS techniques must be integrated into the project. Departmental facilities are available for use by students either in supplementing data already acquired or in producing their main database. BSc Geology and MSci Geoscience projects must be based on a minimum of 21 days of mapping, either through field observations or digitally using remote sensing and other data as appropriate (which need not be terrestrial). Projects based on field observations will be supporting by at least one day of guidance in the field by a departmental supervisor. Students on other departmental degree courses must complete a project in a topic appropriate to their degree. Guidance on data analysis and presentation will be provided in timetabled classes following the data collection stage. All students submit a written report, with other material as required, in a style appropriate to their topic (e.g. consultancy report, scientific paper) and give an oral presentation at the end of their project.

Year 4
  • This course will integrate sedimentary, palaeontological, oceanographic and atmospheric information from the geological and modern record to understand the evolution of the modern Earth. Students will investigate the climate record through geologic time and what it can tell us about the future challenges of climate change, utilising a varied range of paleoclimatic proxies from both paleontology and sedimentology and looking at the range of climate data. They will explore the links between climate, tectonics and sedimentary systems. They will assess the intimate relationship between the evolution of land life and the evolution of the atmosphere.

  • Under the guidance of a departmental supervisor, you will design and execute an independent research project which will be submitted for examination as a report of 45 pages. The project will utilise data collected in the field or the laboratory and may involve an industrial placement. Field-based projects will normally be based on 7-10 days of fieldwork. Data handling using statistical techniques must be integrated into the project. You will use departmental facilities to supplement data already acquired or produce their main database. Emphasis will be placed on ensuring that topics are properly designed before the commencement of the project and that appropriate progress is being made throughout both terms. Selection and outline of agreed topic and agreed deadline will be presented on a form to be countersigned by member of Academic Staff who will act as a supervisor.

  • The aim is to equip MSci students (and potentially new PhD students) with the skills and techniques to undertake research. The course will include scientific ethics, the intelligent and efficient design of research or experiments, including how to capture, store and deal with data and meta-data, project planning, how to publicize your science, press release, video, outreach etc, an Introduction to Unix/Linux and a scripting language such as python i.e. how to do many things to a large number of files or large files and how to run them efficiently. Data reduction and interrogation with Igor or R or python with plotting publication ready data to maximum effect. Uncertainty in scientific measurement and modelling and how to propagate it. An introduction to basic electronics and interfacing your computer to an experiment and log/capture data, and ending with image capture and analysis.

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.

  • The module will introduce you to the principles of deep and shallow geothermal energy and its current and potential use for producing electricity and space heating (and, for heat pumps, also space cooling). Geothermal energy is the close to other geological topics such as hydrogeology, volcanology, and hydrocarbon reservoirs. The module will underline the ideal combination between geothermal energy (steady source – always there) and other but non-steady renewable sources (solar, wind and wave energy). The module will provide clear and detailed overviews on the main geothermal energy sources, namely (1) shallow geothermy (heat pumps), (2) hot-dry-rock (enhanced geothermal systems), and (3) natural geothermal (hydrothermal) systems, both in sedimentary basins and in active volcanic areas. Highly successful projects (most shallow geothermy and natural systems project) and the less successful (many hot-dry-rock projects) will be analysed to learn from them. The focus is on quantitative methods for understanding and using geothermal systems, including the basic physical principles that control the formation and maintenance of such systems, petrophysical principles, thermal principles, and using large datasets to assess the potential of geothermal systems in different geological environments. The module also covers the environmental, political/social, and economic aspects of the exploration and use of geothermal energy. The module aims to provide the students with knowledge and skills for analysing and exploring geothermal energy, both shallow and deep, in the UK and worldwide.

  • Introductory Palaeobiology
Year 3
  • Hydrogeology
  • Environmental Biogeochemistry
  • The aim of the course is to provide students with practical and analytical skills in Geochemistry and provide a geochemical stream throughout the degree programme. The focus of the course is on practical skills. Practical analytical skills are highly sought after in industrial and academic geological research and will allow future non-practitioners to understand the constraints of modern Geochemical analysis. The course will be run in two streams: The first stream will be weekly one hour lectures/workshops which will concentrate on the theory of analysis of air, water and solid samples for isotopic ratios, uncertainty propagation, advanced isotopic techniques and weathering. The second stream will be weekly three-hour practicals in the departmental research laboratories. Practicals will be designed to collect and analyse air, water and solid samples, prepare the samples for analysis, run on the relevant machine, reduce the data and interpret the data with uncertainty and then write up as a report for one formative and two summative pieces of assessment.

  • Planetary Geology and Geophysics
  • Solar, Wind and Marine Energy
  • The module will introduce you to the Geoscience (and wider background) needed to understand the exploitation of the subsurface for the storage of carbon dioxide (to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and the storage of renewable energy (e.g. compressed air storage within salt). These new uses of the subsurface are expected to become significant businesses through the 2020s (in response to the Paris Climate Agreement), and the Petroleum Industry has the necessary skills, knowledge and resources to develop these. Consequently, many of our future graduates will likely find significant career opportunities in these new areas rather than in traditional hydrocarbon extraction. The module introduction will cover the environmental, economic, political and social background so that you understand the business model that will enable this new industry (specifically the how and why of carbon pricing). You will then investigate the geophysical methods required to evaluate potential subsurface structures. You will also look at the science behind subsurface utilization (e.g. issues such as what structures and sediments are needed and how these are similar to, or different from, the structures and sediments that form hydrocarbon reservoirs). In summary, the module aim is to produce graduates who can explore and exploit sedimentary basins in all the ways they are likely to be important during the 21st century.

Year 4
  • All modules are core

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.


We accept T-levels for admission to our undergraduate courses, with the following grades regarded as equivalent to our standard A-level requirements:

  • AAA* – Distinction (A* on the core and distinction in the occupational specialism)
  • AAA – Distinction
  • BBB – Merit
  • CCC – Pass (C or above on the core)
  • DDD – Pass (D or E on the core)

Where a course specifies subject-specific requirements at A-level, T-level applicants are likely to be asked to offer this A-level alongside their T-level studies.

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 preparation programme

For international students who do not meet the direct entry requirements, for this undergraduate degree, the Royal Holloway International Study Centre offers an International Foundation Year programme designed to develop your academic and English language skills.

Upon successful completion, you can progress to this degree at Royal Holloway, University of London.

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**: £25,200

Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course.

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, scholarships 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. The fee for the academic year 2024/25 is £9,250 and is provided here as a guide. The fee for UK undergraduates starting in 2025/26 has not yet been set, but will be advertised here once confirmed.

**This figure is the fee for EU and international students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25, and is included as a guide only. The fee for EU and international students starting a degree in 2025/26 has not yet been set, but will be advertised here once confirmed.

Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees annually for overseas fee-paying students. Please be aware that tuition fees can rise during your degree. The upper limit of any such annual rise has not yet been set for courses starting in 2025/26 but will be advertised here once confirmed.  For further information see fees and funding and the terms and conditions.

***These estimated costs relate to studying this specific degree at Royal Holloway during the 2024/25 academic year, and are included as a guide. General costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing etc., have not been included.

Top 10

in the UK for student satisfaction

Source: The Complete University Guide, 2024

Top 10

in the UK Earth Science departments

Source: Guardian University Guide, 2024


world-leading and internationally excellent research environment

Source: REF 2021

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