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.
How you will learn
Your degree will be appraised in a mixture of ways: coursework, major projects, practical work, oral presentations, exams and continual assessment. Some modules only have an exam, others only project work. We place strong emphasis on individual project work/the research dissertation in Years 2 and 3.
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.
Getting out of the lecture theatre and into the field is an exhilarating experience. Whether you're sampling, mapping or collecting data, the subject matter really comes alive. There's no better way to learn about the natural and the built world than by being in the great outdoors.
Fieldwork is an integral part of our degree programmes. It offers you the chance to travel, work independently as well as in a group and learn valuable technical skills.
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Fieldwork is an integral part of our degree programmes and many modules will have a local fieldwork component. Additionally, there is a four-day residential field course for all Geography and Environmental Science programmes in November of Year 1.
Recent destinations for geographers and environmental scientists have included Snowdonia, the Peak District, Shropshire, and the Forest of Dean. Geographers and Planners currently undertake a Europe-based residential course to Rotterdam, with a local, non-residential alternative also offered.
Year 2 and final year
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 course destinations have included 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 modules 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. Some students decide to undertake research work overseas. This usually requires more preparation and some fund-raising. 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.
During your first year you will also be given 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.
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Your personal tutor
Our School is a close-knit community and we adopt a very personal approach. You will be assigned a personal tutor upon arrival; an academic member of staff who will support your academic progress and assist with any issues throughout your time at Birmingham.
Seminars and tutorials
As a Geography student 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 and field classes. Particular course modules in Geography may involve individual or group project work, preparing oral presentations, and library or web-based research.
From the outset, you will be encouraged to become and independent and self-motivated learner, shaping your own intellectual development.
Lecturers and world leading researchers
The world-leading research we do feeds directly into our undergraduate programmes, which means you will be learning from academics who are experts in their fields.
For example, Dr James Bendle, who has uncovered direct evidence that palm trees grew in Antarctica about 50 million years ago, leads a module in palaeoclimates, while Dr Dominique Moran has defined a new field enabling you to explore the geographies of incarceration. Our research is truly global taking us to all corners of the Earth from remote Antarctica to sprawling metropolises.
We are home to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), a pioneering facility investigating the long-term impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.
Resources and 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, state-of-the-art laboratory and IT facilities, and purpose-built learning spaces. 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.
We are home to the Lapworth Museum of Geology, brimming with more than 250,000 specimens some over 500 million years old. As one of the oldest specialist designated and accredited geological museums in the UK, this is an invaluable study resource.
The School 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 four-year Study Abroad course to spend Year 3 at a partner institution.
You will be taught by professors, doctors and doctoral researchers, benefitting from rich diversity of academic knowledge and experience. In Years 1 and 2 of your Geography degree you can expect to average between 10-14 hours of lectures and classes per week. In addition, there are residential field courses in both years. In your final year, more of your time will be spent on an independent research project and independent study; therefore, you can expect to average between 6-9 hours of contact time spent in lectures, seminars and tutorials.
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.
During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into University. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are 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.