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BSc Global Environmental Change and Sustainability with Year Abroad

Start date
4 Years
UCAS code
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
£9,250 (Home - 2024-25)
£27,180 Fee Band 3a (International Students - 2024-25)
More detail
Discover Global Environmental Change and Sustainability at the University of Birmingham

In an era where understanding and addressing global environmental change is imperative, our program stands at the forefront of educating the next generation of environmental leaders.

We delve into the complexities of environmental change, exploring its causes, impacts, and the routes to developing sustainable solutions for Earth’s resource management. This is more than a course; it's a call to action for those ready to make a difference by tackling humanity's most pressing challenges.

Empowering Graduates for a Sustainable Future

Our program is meticulously designed to prepare students for diverse career opportunities in industries at the vanguard of environmental solutions. As the world grapples with escalating environmental changes, there is increasing demand for environmental and sustainability experts. Our graduates emerge as pioneers in sustainable management across vital sectors such as energy, natural resources, food security, biodiversity, and natural hazard mitigation. As well as the 3-year GECS programme, you have various other 4-year degrees to choose from:

  • Placement Year: Gain real-world experience with a year in industry. Previous organisations have included, Environment Agency, Sustainability West Midlands, ARUP, Birmingham City Council, Sustrans, Highways agency and many more.
  • Year in Civic Leadership - Receive professional leadership training alongside experience working on sustainability problems with our Industry partners. 

  • Year Abroad: Expand your horizons with international study opportunities. (locations include the US, Canada, Australia, Asia, Scandinavia and many more)
  • MSci: Deepen your expertise with our extended MSci programme and research the solutions to key problems such as biodiversity, climate change and global catastrophic risks.

Interdisciplinary Approach for Holistic Understanding

We believe in a comprehensive educational journey, blending scientific rigour with sociological, ethical, and external perspectives. Optional modules include those in various schools across the university drawn from across the Life and Environmental Sciences ( Biosciences, Environmental Science, Earth Sciences, Geography) and beyond (including Philosophy, History, Engineering and others). Our students gain a robust scientific foundation in Earth and environmental processes, enriched by insights into the human-ecological interface. This interdisciplinary approach ensures our graduates are not just knowledgeable but versatile, equipped with analytical skills, and adept at crafting innovative sustainable solutions.

Why study this course?

  •  Unique Curriculum Design: Experience the synergy of science and society as you explore the multifaceted aspects of global environmental change. Our curriculum is grounded in science yet expands to embrace social, ethical and economic dimensions of Global Environmental Change, ensuring a well-rounded understanding.

  • External contributors: Opportunity for students to interact with and learn from a diverse range of professionals, both from academic experts, practitioners and the sustainable business community. It highlights the program's commitment to providing a broad, real-world perspective on environmental sustainability issues.

  • Research Excellence: Learn from internationally acclaimed researchers in a program renowned for its research excellence, with the University of Birmingham ranked 3rd in the UK for 'Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences'

  • Collaborative Learning Environment: Engage with a diverse cohort of students and faculty from various disciplines. Our emphasis on teamwork mirrors real-world problem-solving scenarios, synthesising information, critical analysis and fostering a collaborative spirit that extends beyond university walls.

  • Field expeditions to environmental and sustainability projects and businesses: We explore active projects at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), the University of Birmingham’s Net Zero lodges, and Tyseley Energy Park.

  • Customizable Learning Pathways: Tailor your degree with thematic pathways organised around Sustainable Earth, Climate, Ecosystems, and Society. Our flexible module choices encourage a personalised educational journey, enriched by the diverse perspectives of your peers.

  • Chance to get involved in various sustainability activities, including additional courses, student-led sustainability initiatives and extra-curricular projects within the university and wider partners: Get Involved - University of Birmingham


It’s exciting to be studying a crucial subject area with the prospect of making positive, impactful change in the future. Through the diverse teaching experiences, such as practical experiments and field trips, I am gaining the knowledge and confidence to make these changes.

Amelia Spittle, BSc Global Environmental Change and Sustainability with Placement Year


We are committed to continual improvement of our programmes and to ensuring we respond to the changing needs of the world and our student body. As such we are in the process of updating our year one curriculum for this course (to be launched in 2025-26). These changes have developed with student and staff consultation and have research-based teaching at their core. Our core programme outcomes will not change, but module structures in year one will. More information will be available before the Summer 2024 open days.  

Below you can find the current year one structure to give you a sense of what you will learn.

Year 1

Compulsory modules

The Earth System

One Planet Thinking and Living

Global Environmental Issues A

Global Environmental Issues B

Environmental Research Frontiers A

Environmental Research Frontiers B

Optional modules

Earth Materials

Introduction to Evolution and Animal Biology

Ecological Concepts and Plant Sciences

Young People and Social Change

Moral and Political Philosophy


Year 2

Compulsory modules

Earth Resources, Environmental Impacts and Sustainability

Developing Solutions

Optional modules

Geological Natural Hazards


Hydrology and Geomorphology


Ecological Systems

Critical Issues for 21st Century Ecosystems

Animal Biology: Principals and Mechanisms

Plant Sciences: From Cells to the Environment

The Ethics and Politics of Climate Change

Science and Nature


Year 3 (Year Abroad)

You will take a 120 credit Year Abroad based on module assessments taken at an overseas university. The allocation to the university abroad is based on student preference and availability of places.

 Study Abroad - Environmental Science

Year 4

Compulsory modules

Sustainability Research Project

Optional modules

Engineering Geology and Pollution Hydrogeology

Exploring the Energy Transition

Climate Change in the Earth System


Environmental Research in High Latitudes

Resource Governance

Professional Placements

Conservation: From Theory into Practice

Conservation Practice: From Genes to Ecosystems

Animal Behaviour: From Theory to Application

Responses to Global Environmental Change

Humans and Environments

Learning Entrepreneurial Skills

Entrepreneurial Start Up

Efficient use of Energy

Energy Economics


Standard Home student fees 2024-25

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2024, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Standard international student fees 2024-25

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £27,180

Learn more about fees and funding

Learn more about our scholarships and awards

Additional Course Costs

Costs for off-campus work that forms a core part of individual modules, such as site visits or field work, will be covered by the University. Additional costs may be incurred if fieldwork or data collection is planned as part of dissertation research.

How To Apply

Apply through UCAS at

Learn more about applying to the University of Birmingham by visiting our ‘Preparing for university’ web pages.

Standard offer

International Requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:

Specified subjects excluded for entry: General Studies and Critical Thinking

BTEC Extended Diploma in science related subject will be considered.

BTEC Diploma accepted in combination with an A level.

BTEC Subsidiary Diploma accepted in combination with two A levels.

Alternative offers through our Pathways to Birmingham programmes and our Contextual Offer scheme

Students who are eligible and successfully complete a Pathways to Birmingham programme will receive special consideration from admissions tutors and an alternative offer (typically two grades below the standard offer). In addition, our Contextual Offer Scheme recognises the potential of students whose personal circumstances may have restricted achievement in school or college. If you are eligible to benefit from the contextual offer scheme, you will receive an offer which is one grade lower than the standard offer.

International Students

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6, 6, 5 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall. Higher level subjects need to include the required subjects as defined for the A-level qualification, where applicable.

Standard English language requirements apply 
Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

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.

From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner shaping your own intellectual development with us. The research-led teaching on our flexible degree courses ensures an inspirational and enquiry-based learning environment in the classroom, lab and field.

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.


You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Wellbeing officers - We have dedicated wellbeing officers who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.
  • Academic Skills Centre - The centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Student experience - Our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.
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

Assessment Methods

You'll be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You can expect to take examinations, make oral presentations, make videos, as well as carry out regular project work, and some practical exercises. Some modules only have an exam, others only project work. We place strong emphasis on collaboration and group work culminating in the final year dissertation.

At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed. You'll receive feedback on assessments within 15 working days, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done as well as gain from opportunities for formative assessment.

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 at Birmingham.

A Pathway to Green Careers

In a rapidly evolving job market, green careers are flourishing, growing four times faster than the UK's overall employment sector. Last year alone, the number of green job postings tripled, as highlighted by PwC's analysis. Our Global Environmental Change and Sustainability (GECS) course is perfectly aligned with this trend, designed in collaboration with leading environmental sector experts and employers.

Employability-Focused Curriculum

At the core of GECS is a commitment to employability. Our curriculum is crafted to not only educate but also to directly prepare you for a dynamic career in environmental change and sustainability. Through tailored exercises, you'll assess your fit and impact in various green careers. Our Professional Placement module in the third year offers hands-on experience in sustainability roles within local councils, NGOs, or businesses. Plus, an optional year-long placement further enhances your career prospects.

Skills for the Future

Beyond specific knowledge in sustainable development and renewable energy efficiency, GECS equips you with a suite of transferable skills. These include technical proficiencies like data analysis and IT, alongside vital soft skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and project management. These competencies are highly sought after in the environmental and sustainability sectors.

Diverse Career Opportunities

Graduates from our program are highly valued in organisations prioritising sustainable growth. You could be instrumental in achieving goals like adopting 100% renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency, or transitioning to electric vehicles. Your role might involve wildlife conservation, waste management, greenhouse gas reduction, or designing sustainable environments. The demand for sustainability experts who can guide business strategies and educate workforces is on the rise.

Potential Career Paths Include:

  • Environmental agencies
  • Sustainability officers in global corporations
  • Local authority and government roles
  • Environmental consultancies
  • Conservation officers
  • Policy advisors for governments or NGOs
  • Waste management specialists
  • Urban planners with a sustainability focus
  • Climate/Environmental Scientists
  • Corporate Social Responsibility Specialists

 University of Birmingham’s Awards and recognition for employability

In the future I would love to work in modelling or policy, or something to do with science communication. I’m really passionate about climate education and communication so that’s ideally where I’d like to end up for my career. I’m also considering the possibility of doing a master’s degree, or even a PhD!

Max Williams