As a Birmingham student you are part of an academic elite and will learn from world-leading experts. At Birmingham we advocate an enquiry based learning approach, from the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner, qualities that are highly sought after by employers. We want you to be challenged and will encourage you to think for yourself. The panel of experts from the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE), when undertaking the most recent assessment of the quality of teaching in the School, rated us as 'Excellent', the highest grade possible.
In the video below, our Geography students talk about Learning and Living at the University of Birmingham.
Video transcript here
BSc Geography Graduate
"Staff in the geography department and in the whole university are friendly and made it really easy to settle in. At the same time they have offered a high standard of teaching and support."
As a student in the Geography department your degree will have a modular structure. In each year learning is delivered over two teaching semesters of eleven weeks and a third summer term of eight weeks for revision, examinations and progress review. Your learning will take place in a range of different settings, including lectures, small group tutorials, seminars, laboratory classes, field classes and through supplementary IT-based materials, as well as the more traditional use of books and journals in the University Library. Particular course modules in Geography may involve individual or group project work, preparing oral presentations, and library or web-based research. One of the advantages of a larger, long-established university such as Birmingham is the breadth and size of the library resources. With approaching four million books and fast-growing electronic resources, the University Library and Information Services is something we are proud of.
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.
Studying with us you will benefit from cutting edge equipment and facilities in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, including our state-of-the-art Earth imaging and visualisation laboratory for teaching.
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.
Fieldwork is a vital element of our degree programmes and is an essential part of your training. The Geography staff at Birmingham has considerable experience of researching geographical issues using field evidence.
Video transcript here
Our students are clearly motivated and inspired to travel to other parts of the world to undertake research for their dissertations, to take part in social or environmental development programmes, and to travel and work abroad for a period after their graduation.
Fieldwork experience begins in the first semester, with the first field course designed to get you working and learning in small groups to understand how the city of Birmingham works. The fieldwork programme takes place in the City Centre, in the renowned and established Jewellery Quarter industrial area, and into some of the residential suburbs of the City, including the world-famous Bournville garden suburb, where Cadbury's is based (chocoholics beware!). A second semester field course uses the city's extensive green areas to examine urban climate and micro-meteorology, habitat conservation, and the use of mobile mapping technologies.
There is a UK residential field course of four days for all Geography students in November of Year 1. Don't worry, the weather is usually fine and sunny but you should bring your wellies just in case! Locations include Snowdonia, the Peak District, Shropshire, and the Forest of Dean. All field courses include themes from both human and physical geography. Students devise small group projects, collect data to answer particular questions, analyse their data, and present the results to the rest of the field course. You will do all of this in a single day, and then do it again the following day with a different problem and a different group. This is hard work but immensely enjoyable, and at the end of your field course you know 40 of your fellow geographers really well because you will have lived and worked with them as a team. You will also know more about the problems and possibilities of collecting field evidence to solve geographical research questions.
By Year 2 you are ready to take on the rest of the world - certainly Europe and potentially beyond. At the end of semester two Single Honours students undertake a second residential field course of six or seven days. Many of these field courses are centred in European cities, and they are more specialised and focus specifically on human or physical geography topics. Recent human geography field courses have been in cities such as Amsterdam; Moscow; Prague; Berlin; Dublin, and Seville, whilst physical geographers have been to Evora in Portugal; Malta; Tenerife; and Bala, in Wales.
In Years 2 and 3 (or Years 2 and 4 for Year Abroad students) some field courses involve additional fieldwork components, which are usually non-residential. Such work is especially important in biogeography, palaeoecology and hydrology where experience in field methodologies is even more essential.
For the majority of students field training is an important part of the preparation for undertaking dissertation projects in the final year. For some projects in physical geography specialised equipment might be required, and the School loans such equipment to you as necessary. Some students decide to undertake research work overseas. This usually requires more preparation and some fund-raising. The School, the University, and the Royal Geographical Society have competitive travel scholarships for this purpose. It is sometimes possible to develop dissertation research in association with staff research projects. Recent student research of this kind has been undertaken in Iceland, Costa Rica, Norway, the Pyrenees and in northern Italy.
We will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities for field courses throughout your time at Birmingham.
Find out more about fieldwork costs and funding.
The Geography department has official ERASMUS exchange programmes with universities in Germany (Gottingen), the Netherlands (Groningen, where many of the courses are given in English), and Belgium (Leuvan). This enables students on the 4-year Study Abroad course to spend Year 3 at a partner institution.
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 the subject and find things out for yourself. We will enable you to
make 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 at Birmingham.
A range of assessment methods are used on our Geography programmes. Employers require graduates with a wide range of skills and it
is our aim to ensure that these are assessed fully. As such, assessment at Birmingham is not limited to exams and students will be
tested via presentations and group exercises, as well as project and field work.
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 may encounter.
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