Environmental Science with Professional Placement Abroad (Australasia) BSc (Hons)

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Our Environmental Science programmes, built around our impressive research record, incorporate the systematic scientific study of interactions between physical, chemical and biological processes in the environment and how to apply them to solve complex environmental problems. We will give you the knowledge and skills you need to help resolve the world’s most pressing problems in a sustainable way.

There is a growing need for graduates with a strong scientific background but who are also able to apply their knowledge to environmental management and protection globally.

During this four-year BSc degree you will spend eight months abroad, working on a current environmental challenge with one of a variety of organisations from regional councils to the New Zealand Institute of Water and Atmosphere. This will count towards your degree and provide real workplace experience.

IES logo thumbnailOur programmes in Environmental Science are accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES).

This programme is designed around three key themes – understanding environmental processes and systems; investigating changes and impacts; and enabling their prediction and mitigation.

This programme has been designed to provide choice and flexibility whilst ensuring that you develop appropriate skills with a sound scientific foundation. The course includes both core modules taken by all Environmental Science students, and selected optional modules which allow you to concentrate on themes which are of particular interest to you.

During this four-year BSc degree you will spend eight months abroad, working on a current environmental challenge with one of a variety of organisations from regional councils to the New Zealand Institute of Water and Atmosphere. Countries like New Zealand conjure up images of pristine mountain ranges, native kauri forests, thermal hot springs and beautiful windswept beaches, but there are many pressing environmental concerns including agricultural intensification, groundwater depletion and contamination, sea-level rise, land erosion, and the impacts of exotic species introductions on native ecosystems. Environmental concerns and problems are truly global and exposure to these issues in another country will broaden your horizons and enhance your future career prospects as an Environmental Scientist. This will count towards your degree and provide real workplace experience. 

Why study this course

IES logo thumbnail Our programmes in Environmental Science are accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) . Accreditation by this professional organisation reflects the high quality of our degree programmes and recognises the excellence in teaching, learning and research aligned with professional development and practice. Our external review highlighted the value of our wide ranging degree programme together with the quality of skills development in an applied setting.

Students enrolled on our Environmental Science programmes are eligible to become Student members of the IES at no cost for the duration of their studies. This provides students with access to resources related to careers, professional development and events together with preferential opportunities for internship placements at the IES. Membership also provides the first steps for students in achieving chartered status, a highly valued professional award for Environmental Scientists.

Find out why our students are glad they chose us


Our portfolio of modules across our degree programmes is incredibly varied and intellectually stimulating - which is why we give you the opportunity to choose what you want to study and specialise in the areas that most interest you. Modules cover areas including an introduction to palaeontology (the study of fossils), geological structures and tectonics, applied geophysics and magmatic processes.

Skills for future employment

There is a growing need for graduates with a strong scientific background but who are also able to apply their knowledge to environmental management and protection globally. We will give you the knowledge and skills you need to help resolve the world’s most pressing problems in a sustainable way. Our degrees are designed with employers in mind enabling you to develop a unique blend of general, specialist and crucially, transferable skills.

Research-led teaching

At Birmingham you are taught by academics who are world-leading experts in their fields. The Environmental Science programme builds upon the University’s impressive record of environmental research. We are involved in many national and international research programmes, and have strong links with countries spanning the globe. Accordingly, you will have the freedom to study the great breadth of environmental problems in many regions of the world.


First year

Compulsory modules

Second year

Compulsory modules

Optional modules

Third year

You will spend eight months, from October to May between Year 2 and the final year, undertaking a placement with one of a variety of organisations in New Zealand.

They include:

  • The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere
  • A local regional council
  • The Department of Conservation 

Some placements may also be available in Australia.

Joining a project group in an area of interest, you will be trained in a range of field and laboratory techniques. You will also be responsible for your own project within this group, which you will write up as a professional placement report for academic credit.

Fourth year

Compulsory modules

Optional modules


The modules listed on our website may occasionally be subject to change. For example, as you will appreciate, key members of staff may leave the University and this might necessitate a review of the modules that are offered. Where a module is no longer available, we will let you know as soon as we can and help you make other choices.

Related staff

Fees and funding

Standard fees apply - a standard fee for placement year abroad is set for 2012/13 new entrants at £2,500.
Learn more about fees and funding

Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Entry requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
Required subjects and grades:
One science subject is required (Geography is considered a science). Grade C in each of GCSE English and Maths.
General Studies:
We do not accept General Studies, Critical Studies, Critical Thinking, Science in Society, World Development, Communication and Culture, Citizenship Studies, Use of Maths

Additional information:

Unconditional offers will be made to high-quality applicants who are predicted AAA or above at A level. For details see the Unconditional Offer Scheme 2015

Unconditional offers are based on:

  • A Level predictions of AAA +
  • AS results of at least ABB
  • 5 GCSEs at grade A including English, Maths and a Science
  • 2 GCSEs at grade B
  • Academic reference
  • Personal statement

Other qualifications are considered – see entry requirements for full details. 

International students:

International Baccalaureate Diploma: minimum of 32 points with 6, 6, 5 at HL including one HL science subject (Geography is considered a science). Minimum of 5 in SL English and Maths if not offered at GCSE or equivalent. 

Please note that we have reviewed our policy on the IB Diploma for 2016 entry and our offers will now focus on performance in Higher Level subjects. For more information and details please read our 2016 IB Diploma requirements.

Standard English language requirements apply 
Learn more about international entry requirements 

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a specially structured programme for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on the foundation academy web pages.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com
Learn more about applying

Key Information Set (KIS)

Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full- or part-time undergraduate courses and are designed to meet the information needs of prospective students.

All KIS information has been published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the small advert, or ‘widget’, below. On the Unistats website you are able to compare all the KIS data for each course with data for other courses.

The development of Key Information Sets (KIS) formed part of HEFCE’s work to enhance the information that is available about higher education. They give you access to reliable and comparable information in order to help you make informed decisions about what and where to study.

The KIS contains information which prospective students have identified as useful, such as student satisfaction, graduate outcomes, learning and teaching activities, assessment methods, tuition fees and student finance, accommodation and professional accreditation.

How you learn is as important as what you learn. The learning experience at Birmingham combines a wide variety of study methods extending way beyond the lecture theatre, to include extensive fieldwork, practical work and tutorials.

An inspirational and enquiry-based learning environment

Our cutting-edge teaching programme is built on a foundation of over one hundred years of research and teaching excellence. From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner shaping your own intellectual development with us. We have an impressive track record for environmental research, so you will be taught by international experts with a passion for their subjects. The research-led teaching on our flexible degree courses ensures an inspirational and enquiry-based learning environment in the classroom, lab and field.

Extensive facilities

As well as lectures, tutorials and practical classes you will have access to extensive educational facilities across the School and University including library resources, a well-equipped map room, laboratories, IT facilities and purpose-built learning spaces. Our laboratories are state-of-the-art, with the latest, an ?eco lab? for the study of river systems, soon to open its doors. Acquisition of a range of first-class field, analytical and IT skills that companies seek is one reason that our graduates have such a high employability rate. You will also have a wealth of opportunities to go out into the field; gaining hands-on experience on residential courses across the UK and overseas.

Support during your studies

You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues, and a formal transition review during your first year to check on your progress and offer you help for any particular areas where you need support.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the Centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions with support with mathematics and statistics based problems provided by experienced mathematicians, to workshops on a range of topics including note talking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Personal Tutor

From the outset, you will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham.



Video transcript here

Fieldwork is another important component of your study, and you will receive a thorough training in laboratory skills including basic measurement, classification and calibration. The School's excellent microscopy, sedimentology, and analytical chemistry facilities are available to you to support work in individual modules and, if necessary, for your research project.

In the first year, you will attend a short residential field course held at a residential study centre in Shropshire. The field course introduces you to a range of techniques, including ecological surveys, water sampling and urban planning, in an informal environment. At the end of your field course you will have worked and lived with your fellow students, getting to know them well, and will have developed a deeper knowledge of the problems and possibilities of collecting field evidence to solve environmental questions.

In the second year, you will choose a field course, according to your area of interest, from the following:

  • The Freshwater Environments field course has a base beside Lake Bala in North Wales, where you will investigate how changes in fish, plankton and macroinvertebrate communities are linked to water quality, changes in land-use, acidification and eutrophication.
  • The Physical Processes and Atmosphere field course takes place in Portugal where you will consider the problems of recent environmental changes in Portugal?s Alentejo region. These include the impact of natural and accelerated physical processes on the landscape, urban climatology, remote sensing of landscape change, and water resource development.
  • The Biogeography and Geomorphology field course is based in Tenerife where you will examine how geological, climatological, geomorphological and ecological processes combine to shape the island?s environment.
  • The Environmental Management field course travels to Malta and explores environmental management problems on the island. Prospects for future sustainability in relation to waste, water and marine resources, biodiversity conservation, and tourism are considered. The field course is supported by the staff of the University of Malta.
  • A Birmingham field course looks at urban wildlife conservation and management at Kings Norton Nature Reserve. On this course you will investigate the biodiversity of local habitats, including the lake, stream and surrounding woodland. You can choose from a range of small projects linked to the objectives of the reserve management plan.

The costs of travel and accommodation on all compulsory field courses are covered by the School. We will also contribute towards the costs of your independent research project carried out at the end of Year 2.We will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities for field courses throughout their time at Birmingham.

In the second and third year of the programme, some modules may involve additional fieldwork components (usually non-residential). Such work is especially important in biogeography, palaeoecology and hydrology, where experience in field methodologies is essential. 

Find out more about fieldwork costs and funding.

Assessment methods

The Environmental Science degree has a modular structure, and in each year learning is spread over two teaching semesters of eleven weeks, with a third summer term of eight weeks for revision and examinations. Assessment methods used are dependent on the modules you choose, but may involve individual or group project work, examinations, oral presentations, and library or web-based research, in addition to fieldwork assessments.

At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You'll receive feedback on each assessment within four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done for future modules.

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching at school or college. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with your subject and find things out for yourself. We will support you in making this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time here.

During your first year you will also undergo a formal transition review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you need support. This is in addition to the personal tutor who is based in your school or department and can help with any academic issues you encounter.

By developing your understanding of the interactions between physical, chemical and biological processes in the environment, we will give you the knowledge and skills you need to help resolve the world?s most pressing problems in a sustainable way.

There is a growing need for graduates with a strong scientific background but who are also able to apply their knowledge to environmental management and protection globally. Our Environmental Science degrees are designed with employers in mind enabling you to develop a unique blend of general, specialist and crucially, transferable skills.

You will be well placed to develop a career within the growing environmental science field, either in the public or private sector. In both areas, the demand for qualified graduates is growing as society strives to promote sustainable development, meet the requirements of more stringent environmental controls, and address the problems caused by issues such as climate change, air and water pollution, and contaminated land.

96.7% of our graduates are in employment or further study within six months of graduating  2013/14 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

Find out more about career opportunities in Earth and Environmental Sciences

Where could a degree in Environmental Science take you?

Recent Earth and Environmental Sciences graduates have found employment in a wide range of fields. Our most recent student survey showed that 96.7% of our alumni were working or in further study six months after graduation. Many students were engaged in work or study directly related to their first degree, with the remainder choosing career paths in areas outside of the subject where the transferable skills gained on the programme prove invaluable. Graduates have found employment within the scientific civil service (e.g. Environment Agency), local government, environmental consultancies, conservation organisations and environmental education, as well as in the media, education, finance, sales, IT and law. Other graduates go into teaching at all levels, from primary schools right through to higher education.

Around a quarter of Earth and Environmental Sciences graduates go on to further study at Masters and PhD level, to develop further research identified in different aspects of our programme, including Environmental Management Systems, Water Resources Technology and Air Pollution Management.

Preparing you for your career

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal. 

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you.  Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CV?s and job applications will help give you the edge. In addition, our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

Hear from our students - find out what other students have gone on to do.

Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.


Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.

Societies, School and campus life

The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences is one of the friendliest and most dynamic at the University. There’s a great atmosphere and sense of community among students and staff. Learning apart, there is a lot going on, much of it driven by the two main student societies:

The Kinvig Society - named after the first head of the Geography Department, Robert Henry Kinvig – is one of the biggest and most active student societies on campus. Run by students, it lays on a lively and varied programme of social events throughout the year, culminatingin the black-tie Kinvig Ball at one of the city’s top venues in November and the Three Peaks challenge in aid of chosen charities. As well as trips to restaurants, bars and nightclubs, there are sporting events: Kinvig sports representatives organise teams for the inter-departmental University sports leagues. Football, rugby, hockey, netball, volleyball and squash are usually available for both men and women; in some cases, for mixed teams as well. If you’re a geographer or environmental science student, Kinvig will write to you before term starts with a full programme of events to help you settle in happily during your first few weeks.
Follow Kinvig on Twitter

The Lapworth Society (LapSoc) is the student society for Earth Sciences students. Named after Birmingham’s first Professor of Geology, Charles Lapworth, it organises social events such as pub quizzes, drinks nights and the end-of-year-ball in March. It fields intermural sports teams in the University’s netball and six-a-side football leagues, training regularly and playing matches every Wednesday afternoon against other schools across campus.
Follow LapSoc on Twitter