The Course

Geography at Oxford covers the breadth and depth of the subject across human, environmental and physical interests; you will learn about interactions between people and their environments in every continent of the world. It is the ideal subject for those who want to address the contemporary challenges of climate change and economic globalisation, to compare the impacts of urbanisation and the information revolution on diverse cultures and places, and to better understand political and ecological conflicts in both the developed and the developing world.

Below is an outline of the key features of the course:

First year – Prelims

  • Based around four main components – physical geography, human geography, geographical techniques and geographical controversies
  • Includes short, UK-based field trips associated with the geographical techniques course (these are very useful for the dissertation project that students undertake at the end of their second year)
  • Students must pass Preliminary Examinations at the end of the first year, in order to progress into the Final Honours School (years 2 and 3)

Second and third years – Final Honours School

  • Students study three foundation courses, two of which are chosen from ‘Space, Place and Society’ (human geography), ‘Earth Systems Dynamics’ (physical geography) and ‘Environmental Geography’ (a course that covers the intersection between human and physical geography). The third foundation course – ‘Geographical Research’ – is compulsory, and focuses on the development of higher-level research skills.
  • Students also choose threeoption papers, drawn from a range of speFinal prelims' exam! (Wearing 'sub-fusc' and red carnations)...cialist themes across physical and human geography. In 2012-2013, available options included subjects as diverse as ‘climate change and variability’, ‘geographies of finance’, ‘spaces of politics’, ‘desert landscapes and dynamics’, ‘African societies’, ‘European integration’, and ‘contemporary India’.
  • All students also go on a week-long overseas field trip in the Easter vacation of their second year. The destination of this field trip will vary according to which foundation courses have been chosen. In 2013 the choice was between Copenhagen (human geography) and Tenerife (physical geography).
  • FHS students also produce a dissertation of around 12,000 words. For many, this is the most rewarding component of the course! Fieldwork associated with this independent piece of research is carried out during the long summer vacation between 2nd and 3rd years (see ‘Student Research‘ for details recent projects).
  • Exams for both the foundational courses and option subjects all take place at the end of the third year, though internal college exams are held intermittently throughout FHS to monitor progress and provide important exam preparation.

Specialising after year one – some possible scenarios

The second and third years of the course allow for considerable specialisation. For instance, if you are intrigued by climate change, you could choose to study Earth Systems Dynamics (a course that examines long-term climate change, evidence of observed climate change over the last 150 years, and global climate models) and Environmental Geography (which covers components of climate change policy and governance that are currently being debated at a range of scales). For your options subjects you might then choose Climate Change and Variability as well as Climate Change Impacts, whilst as part of the Geographical Research course, you could also be taught to write computer code which enables you to analyse climate data. Finally, your dissertation could then see you getting involved in an on-going fieldwork programme being undertaken by one of Keble’s tutors (for example, or in the analysis of climate modelling data!

Alternatively, if you are want to learn more about the challenges of biodiversity conservation, your foundation course choices could be Environmental Geography (which examines the complex of factors impacting on conservation policy in Sub-Saharan Africa) and Space, Place and Society (which engages with theories of development), whilst for your options you might choose ‘Biogeography, Biodiversity and Conservation’ and ‘Geographies of Nature’. Your dissertation might then see you travelling to Tanzania or Zimbabwe to undertake your own fieldwork, examining how conservation agendas are translated into real policy initiatives ‘on the ground’.

Of course, don’t just take our word for all of this! Why not read a past student’s experience of the Geography course too?

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