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Missed Open Day? Here’s a Q and A with our Admissions Tutor, Dr Alex Henshaw

25 June 2018


School of Geography admissions team and ambassadors at a recent Open Day.

What’s the difference between a BA and BSc Geography? How much time will you spend in lectures and seminars? How much do field trips cost? These questions and more were tackled by the Geography team of staff and ambassadors at our recent Undergraduate Open Days at Queen Mary University of London. But if you weren’t able to pop by our Mile End campus, our Admissions Tutor, Dr Alex Henshaw, 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 at QMUL distinctive from other universities?

Geography at Queen Mary is ranked 5th in the UK for the quality of our research publications (REF2014), but the main reason students choose us is our unique mix of research specialisms which inspires our curriculum. We teach 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 such as the Environment Agency, Natural England, Thames21, World Bank, UNESCO, HM Treasury and many more, so they know how to apply this learning in the real world. Our location in east London offers a campus environment and, whether you are in university accommodation or living at home, it offers a great way to experience one of the most exciting cities in the world. Our fieldwork options take students to diverse locations from Boston to Malaysia, as well as around London and the UK. There are also opportunities to “bring the field into the laboratory” in our experimental facilities in the River Lab. Right here in London students benefit from our extensive links with local community and environmental organisations. Combine this experience with a degree from a Russell Group university, and that’s why you’ll find between 86-91% of our students to be satisfied with their courses overall (NSS 2017).

What is your typical offer?

Our typical offer is ABB. For geography programmes A-level geography is preferred although not required. For environmental science programmes we require one science subject at A-level (grade B), for example maths, biology, chemistry, physics, geology or psychology. We don’t accept general studies A-level. Alternative offers may be made to applicants taking the Extended Project Qualification. Unconditional offers can also be made based on the strength of application, or to those who have already achieved their grades. For the International Baccalaureate our usual offer is 32 with 6,5,5 in Higher Level subjects to include geography or science.

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

The main difference is that 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 1st 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 certain 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 Geography BA or the Human Geography BA?

The Human Geography BA programme allows you to select from only human geography modules. The Geography BA degree keeps the option to study some physical geography modules open. If you are not sure, choose Geography BA. It is possible to change your programme during the first two weeks of the semester and in some cases at the beginning of the second year.

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 the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. The degree has a strong emphasis on ecology, conservation, ecosystems, climate change, environmental management and conservation, 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’ - an independent research project (dissertation).

How much do the field trips cost?

All residential field trips that are part of compulsory modules in 1st and 2nd years are included in your tuition fees. Trips include East Anglia and the Lake District for physical geographers and environmental scientists, and Liverpool for human geographers. We also make great use of our location in east London – there’s much to explore in between the City of London, the Olympic Park and beyond. Optional field trips in the 2nd and 3rd years are an additional cost. Recent trips have included Boston, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Malaysia and New Zealand. Two brand new field trips to New York and the Netherlands will be running from the 2018-19 academic year. Our environmental science students can also opt to take field trips to Canada, Croatia and South Africa – run by the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. Costs range from £400 to £1,400 and 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 you an idea.

Can I take modules from other Schools at Queen Mary?

Yes. In fact, there is a range of “QMUL Model modules” to choose from. 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 – including environmental consultant, GIS technician, geography teacher, agricultural consultant, lawyer, community organiser and more.

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 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 1st and 2nd years provides an opportunity to use the lab facilities that our own researchers use and you can also develop your laboratory analytical skills through your independent research project. For virtual tours of our laboratories, go to geog.qmul.ac.uk/facilities/virtual-tours.

How many contact hours would I get with my lecturers?

You can expect to spend between 8-12 hours a week in combination of lectures, seminars/workshops, and lab sessions, as applicable, depending on your programme. We run a tutorial system so in addition to lectures, you’ll meet regularly in small groups with a personal academic tutor. These take place weekly in the 1st year and fortnightly in the 2nd year. In the final year, they are replaced with one-to-one meetings with your tutor as you prepare for your dissertation. Academic staff also offer dedicated office hours each week, during which you can pop by to see them.

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 research subject during your 2nd year and plan your topic which will be reported as a 10,000-word dissertation project in your 3rd year. This is the opportunity for you to really explore the subject in greater detail. 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, welcoming and supportive. Student satisfaction with our geography and environmental science programmes is traditionally very high; our students can expect high quality teaching throughout their three years of study.

Are there interviews for Geography and Environmental Science degree programmes?

Applicants may be asked to attend an interview in certain cases, for example if they meet our criteria for consideration for the Unconditional Offer Scheme, or if they have alternative qualifications other than A-levels. All students who receive an offer will be invited to attend one of our offer holder days. The Festivals of Geography, as these days are known, enable 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 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.

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

Yes, there are several opportunities to study overseas in addition to the fieldwork or class trips you may undertake during your time at Queen Mary. We have partnerships with leading universities across the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Korea and Singapore. We also have Erasmus+ schemes that provide generous financial support to study at Roskilde University in Denmark, Stockholm University in Sweden, and O.P. Jindal Global University in India. With all programmes, you can study abroad for the autumn semester of Year 2 or spend the entire year abroad (and pay just 15% tuition fees in most cases) as part of our 4-year degree programmes. Summer programmes – which do not count towards your degree – are available in China, India and Latin America. Read more at qmul.ac.uk/international/study-abroad-opportunities.

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

Queen Mary has one of the largest residential campuses in London, so students enjoy living and being taught on the same site at Mile End. Accommodation is guaranteed for those who: 1) live outside a reasonable commuting distance (ie outside the M25 and prioritised to those living furthest away); 2) apply before the June deadline; and 3) place Queen Mary as their Firm choice. Read more about this on the Residential Services website at residences.qmul.ac.uk/college/qmaccommodation. Many of our students choose to live at home and commute to campus, and by doing so they can make some savings during their studies. You can still feel part of the Queen Mary community if you are a commuter student as there are plenty of opportunities for socialising with friends and enjoying what the local area has to offer in-between and after lectures. Queen Mary even has a Commuters’ Society, so you can get to know other students who live at home, and maybe even find a commuting buddy!

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 160 countries. The School of Geography has students from a number of countries including Bangladesh, China, Finland, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, The Netherlands and more.

Visitors chatting to staff and students in the Geography Welcome Area.

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