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Thinking about a geography or environmental science degree in 2016? Here’s a Q and A with Admissions Tutor Dr Simon Carr

Thursday 9 July 2015

What’s the difference between a BA and BSc Geography? How much do field trips cost? How much time will I spend in lectures and seminars? These questions and more were tackled by the QMUL Geography team of staff and ambassadors at our summer open days in June. But if you weren’t able to pop by our Mile End campus, our Admissions Tutor Dr Simon Carr has put together a list of handy frequently-asked questions to help you find the right programme for you.

 

What makes the School of Geography distinctive from other universities?

“QMUL Geography is consistently ranked in the top tiers of university league tables, but the main reason students choose us is our unique mix of research specialisms which inspires  our curriculum. We are teaching students about the very latest developments in the discipline and our team is filled with people who have acted as advisers to a range of important organisations from UNESCO to the World Bank, so they know how to apply this learning in the real world. Also, our location in London offers a residential campus and therefore a great student experience in one of the most exciting cities in which to be a student.

“Our fieldwork options take students to diverse locations from Mumbai to New Zealand while right here in London, we have extensive links with local community organisations too. Combine this experience with a degree from a Russell Group University, and that’s why you’ll find some 96% of our graduates in work or further study just six months after graduation.”

What’s your typical offer and why do you have a range?

“Our typical offer is ABB (320 points) with a B in Geography A Level (or a science subject for the Environmental Science degree programmes). We have a range (to BBB) because this gives some flexibility in the offers that we are able to make in light of other factors such as your personal statement, extended project qualification (EPQ), references or other relevant experience.”

What is the difference between the BA and BSc Geography and what happens if I choose the wrong one for me?

"This is one of the most frequently asked questions at our open days. The main difference is one of emphasis; the BA programme takes you more towards the humanities and social science side of the discipline and the BSc programme more towards the physical and environmental side. Both of these programmes allow you to explore the breadth of geography and our first year students are taught side by side and are given a common grounding across all our geography programmes. In the 2nd and 3rd year you can choose to specialise within different aspects of geography or to take a broader range of modules from all those offered by the School. Research methods modules and your choice of independent project topic are also guided by your choice of BA or BSc route. It is possible to transfer between programmes, although this is best done at an early stage in your studies."

I definitely don’t want to do any physical geography. Should I choose the BA Geography or the BA Human Geography?

“The BA Human Geography does not include any physical geography modules and your module choice is set on the human geography modules. The BA Geography degree keeps the option to study some physical geography modules open. If you are not sure, choose BA Geography.”

How is the Environmental Science programme taught?

The Environmental Science programme is run by the School of Geography and draws on modules from both Geography and QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. The degree has a strong emphasis on aquatic environments; rivers, coasts and estuaries and marine ecosystems and it provides a range of subject specific and transferable skills to equip you for employment in the environmental sector.  You will take modules alongside geographers and biologists and will have a tutor in the School of Geography. You’ll also have access to the School’s laboratory facilities to support practical learning and the ‘Project in Environmental Science’ which includes an independent research project.  There is the option to extend your studies to masters level by transferring on to the four-year MSci programme at the end of the second year.”

How much do the field trips cost?

“All the field trips in the first year, which are compulsory, are included in your tuition fees. This currently includes trips to the Cairngorms in Scotland for the physical geographers and environmental scientists; and Durham, England for the human geographers. We also make great use of our location in the East End – there’s much to explore in between the City of London and the Olympic Park and beyond.

Optional field trips in the second and third years are an additional cost. Recent trips overseas have included Boston, Los Angeles and Florida, USA, New Zealand, Mumbai, India, Belfast and Dublin and range from £300 - £1,200. Costs will, of course, vary year-on-year depending on length of stay, exchange rates and size of party, for example, so these prices should be used just to give an idea.”

Can I take modules from other Schools at Queen Mary?

“Yes. Any modules taken outside of the School of Geography should be compatible with your academic programme of study, fit within the timetable, be supported by appropriate background, including any prerequisite modules, and be permitted by the School that runs the module you wish to take. Your tutor will be on hand to advise about this.”

What sort of careers are available to geographers and environmental scientists?

“Geography and environmental science graduates are highly sought-after and we’ve been delighted to see many of our graduates take up roles in a variety of organisations – from environmental consultant to Cabinet Office advisor, teacher to agricultural consultant, lawyer to community organiser and more. The latest stats show that some 96% of our graduates are in employment or further study some six months after leaving QMUL (HESA 2013); 75% of these working at graduate level.”

What sort of lab facilities do you have?

“Our newly refitted teaching laboratory is the centre-piece of our laboratory suite, around which we have research facilities for the analysis of water, soil and sediment. Our new River Lab includes two flumes to simulate the natural environment and give you an insight into how rivers behave in different circumstances. We are able to explore a wide range of research projects and environmental problems including the concentration of pollutants and evidence for past climate change. Research methods training in the first and second years provides an opportunity to use the lab facilities that our own researchers use and your independent project may also enable you to develop your laboratory analytical skills.”

How many contact hours would I get with my lecturers?

“You can expect to spend between 17 and 23 per cent of your time in lectures, seminars and lab sessions, as applicable, depending on your programme. Academic staff offer dedicated office hours each week in which you can pop by to see them. The School also runs a tutorial system so in addition to lectures and seminars, you’ll meet regularly in small groups with a personal academic tutor.”

Do I have to write a dissertation?

“Our ‘Independent Geographical Study’ and ‘Project in Environmental Science’ modules are central components of our degree programmes. You will choose your specialist subject with our staff during your second year and plan your topic which will be reported as a 10,000-word dissertation project in your third year. This is the opportunity for you to really explore the subject in greater detail and some of our students have travelled overseas to gather data too.”

Do staff involved in research still teach undergraduates?

“Yes. All our academic staff in the School of Geography teach at undergraduate level, so you will be taught by world-leading experts in the fields of geography and environmental science. As a School, we pride ourselves on being friendly and welcoming and our current student satisfaction scores (National Student Survey) are testament to this.”

Are there interviews for QMUL Geography and Environmental Science?

“For the majority of applicants, no. Students who receive an offer will be invited to come along to one of three open days in February and March 2016. The Festival of Geography, as these days are known, enables offer holders from both geography and environmental science to experience a day studying with us, meet staff and students, and see the facilities. While not compulsory, it is advisable to attend these open days in the event that you miss your target offer grades – admissions staff will consider your level of commitment to the School when making final admissions decisions. Some applicants may be asked to attend an interview in certain cases, such as if they have alternative qualifications other than A Levels.”

Can I take some time abroad as part of my studies?

“Yes. There are several opportunities to study or travel overseas during your time at QMUL in addition to the fieldwork you may undertake. In Europe we have a partnership with Roskilde University in Denmark as part of a scheme called Erasmus+ (and there is funding available to do this!). Other students have been selected to study in the USA and there are opportunities in Australia, China, New Zealand and Singapore too. Summer programmes – which do not count towards your degree – are available in China, India and Latin America. Read more about Study Abroad.”

Will I get a place in halls of residence if I apply to QMUL?

“Queen Mary is the only campus university in central London so students enjoy living and being taught on the same site at Mile End. Accommodation in our Student Village is guaranteed for those: 1) living outside a reasonable commuting distance (i.e outside the M25 and prioritised to those living furthest away); 2) that apply before the June deadline; and 3) place QMUL as their Firm choice. Read more about this on Residential Services

I’m applying from outside the UK – will my qualifications be recognised and will I be with other international students?

“Queen Mary welcomes students from across the world and overall has some 5,000 students from more than 150 countries. The School of Geography has students from a number of countries including Bangladesh, China, Colombia, India, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Russia, Thailand and more.

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