University of Chester

Programme Specification
Geography BSc (Hons) (Combined Honours)
2014 - 2015

Bachelor of Science (Combined Honours)



University of Chester

Department of Geography and Development Studies

Chester - Main campus; core fieldwork at Level 4; optional fieldwork at Levels 5 and 6

Undergraduate Modular Programme

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory,

3 years full-time

7 Years

Annual - September




17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Social Science Geography and International Development

Geography (QAA, 2007)


Geography and Development Studies

Wednesday 1st May 2013

The aims of the Combined Honours Geography programme are to:

  • be a thought-provoking, research-orientated and progressive programme of study, which meets national subject benchmarking and the UK Quality Code for HE requirements and can be usefully combined with a number of other disciplines at the University of Chester;
  • allow students to explore both the physical and human dimensions of geography, as well as the connections between the two, with the opportunity to major in Geography and/or specialise in particular areas of interest at Levels 5 and 6;
  • encourage an informed concern about the Earth and its people, an understanding of one's place in wider systems, and a recognition and respect for diversity;
  • facilitate an understanding and application of techniques for the collection, analysis and presentation of geographical data, including through field-based research;
  • provide a significant range of teaching and assessment experiences, with an emphasis on active, collaborative, enquiry-led learning, including the opportunity to design and execute an extended independent research project at Level 6; 
  • embed key skills provision clearly within modules, including the use of computing, communications and information technologies;
  • encourage the development of reflective students, as the basis for increasingly independent, self-directed, ethically-aware and critical learners;
  • through all of the above, as well as meaningful guidance about careers and postgraduate opportunities, develop the employability of our students.

Knowledge and Understanding

Comprehension of the causes and consequences of spatial variation in a range of physical and human environments
Critical understanding of a range of biophysical and human processes and their geographical distributions
Awareness and understanding of human impacts on the environment and the reciprocal relationships between human and physical worlds
Awareness of the theory and application of sustainable development and a reasoned concern about the Earth and its peoples
Comprehension of the central significance of spatial and temporal scale to geographical understanding
Critical understanding of the application of a range of geographical concepts and techniques to problems and situations
Thinking or Cognitive Skills

Assess the merits of contrasting geographical theories, explanations and approaches
Abstract, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a range of sources
Construct a sustained and reasoned argument, articulating personal perspectives when appropriate
Practical Skills

Undertake field-based research in an effective manner including careful consideration of both ethical and health and safety issues
Implement, and evaluate the merits of, arange of approaches for the collection of information in human and/or physical geography Demonstrate and assess a range of methods for the analysis of data sets in human and/or physical geography, including the safe use of laboratory facilities
Present geographical information accurately using a range of methods, including mapping, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches
Produce well-structured research reports, using appropriate conventions for the presentation of quantitative and qualitative information
Understand the principles, and demonstrate the application of, geographical information systems and remote sensing for the analysis and presentation of geographical data
Key Skills

  • Communication
  • Application of Number
  • Information Literacy and Technology
  • Improving own learning and performance
  • Working with others
  • Problem solving

Communicate geographical ideas and information clearly and concisely in writing Communicate geographical ideas and information by means of clear and concise formal oral presentations, using informative visual aids when appropriate
Collect, summarise concisely and analyse numerical data, using statistical techniques as necessary Use information technology proficiently to find, analyse and present geographical information
Demonstrate an ability to identify, evaluate and propose answers/solutions to complex problems, including application of reasoned decision-making to ethical problems
Demonstrate an active, autonomous and confident approach to study
Work effectively with others, sometimes over an extended period of time, including through negotiation of common goals
Demonstrate an ability to reflect critically on personal progress and abilities, and to set short term learning targets, partly in the context of career planning
Transferable Professional Skills

All the skills and knowledge outcomes listed above are transferable, to a greater or lesser extent, to a professional context.

The programme structure is progressive and aligned with the Quality Code for HE - Part A (QAA, 2011). This enables students, over time, to understand and critically evaluate increasingly sophisticated ideas and concepts, to apply more complex analytical techniques, to clearly communicate arguments and reasoned personal perspectives in a greater number of ways and to display increasing levels of autonomy. 

The Combined Honours Geography degree can be taken as a full-time (3 years) or part-time (7 years) programme. All Combined Honours Geography students study six modules (= 120 credits) per degree level. To summarise Level 4 provides a broad-based introduction to the key dimensions of physical and human geography, and core study and research skills. Level 5 provides the first opportunity to specialise in either physical or human geography, whilst providing the opportunity for students to enhance their core research skills, as well as a distinctive experiential learning option.  The final year is characterised by a range of optional modules and the opportunity to conduct an extended independent project or dissertation in Geography. This structure is explained in more detail below. 

At Level 4 students devote equal time to Geography and the second subject of their combined degree (taking 60 credits in each subject). These students take three 20 credit compulsory modules at Level 4. ‘Introduction to Physical Geography and Geology’ (GE4001) and ‘Introduction to Human Geography’ (GE4002) are designed to introduce students to the central themes and issues which underpin these two traditional parts of the discipline. These two modules are supported and complemented by ‘Foundations for Successful Studentship’ (GE4003). This module represents a critical element of the Level 4 programme, aiming to facilitate a smooth transition to study in Higher Education by exploring the purpose and culture of Universities as well as core study and research skills, including fieldwork. Overall, a Combined Honours group identity is encouraged through activities during Induction Week and the fieldwork experience (GE4003).

At Level 5 students opt for either a Major (60 credits) or Minor (40 credits) route in Geography. Level 5 provides the first opportunity to specialise towards physical or human geography, whilst maintaining a core research skills strand (depending upon the weighting selected). All students choose between ‘Themes in Physical Geography' (GE5009) and ‘Exploring Human Geography' (GE5002).  For students who major in Geography, ‘Researcher Development' (GE5014) becomes a core module.  This module develops on the initial research experiences provided in GE4003 and guides students towards a wider range of research methods and approaches to project design, to ensure students are well prepared for independent project work at Level 6.  All students also take a module in Experiential Learning in the summer term (20 credits). The six-week block of time devoted to Experiential Learning at the end of Level 5 represents a distinctive element of the University of Chester experience. Students choose between a number of options including the centrally administered Work-Based Learning module (WB5101), providing the opportunity to gain useful experience of relevant employment in one of a wide range of public and private sector organisations. Alternatively students may use the WBL opportunity to gain direct experience of international development issues by, for example, arranging a placement with an NGO in a developing country (WB5004). Combined Honours Geography students with an interest in advancing their field-based skills can select ‘Fieldwork Applications' (GE5008), choosing between residential fieldwork in Southern Spain (physical geography focus) or New York (human geography focus).

Level 6 is characterised by flexibility and choice, with students able to pursue both subjects equally with 60 credits in each area, or a Major (80 credits) route in one subject and a Minor (40 credits) route in the other. Students majoring in Geography are encouraged to complete a Dissertation (GE6001, 40 credits) or an ‘Independent Project’ (GE6002, 20 credits) based on a topic of their choice. Beyond this research experience, students are required to select from a range of optional modules which cover more specialised subject knowledge and/or skills and techniques. A number of these modules purposefully take advantage of the holistic nature of the discipline and embrace both physical and human geographical themes, e.g. ‘Sustainable Futures' (GE6006).

Combined Honours only
Mod-Code Level Title Credit Major Equal Minor
GE4001 4 Introduction to Physical Geography and Geology 20 Comp Comp Comp
GE4002 4 Introduction to Human Geography 20 Comp Comp Comp
GE4003 4 Foundations for Successful Studentship 20 Comp Comp Comp
GE5002 5 Exploring Human Geography 40 Optional Optional Optional
GE5004 5 Researcher Development 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE5008 5 Fieldwork Applications 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE5009 5 Themes in Physical Geography 40 Optional Optional Optional
WB5004 5 Learning in the Wider World 20 Optional Optional Optional
WB5101 5 Enhancing your Employability through Work Based Learning 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6001 6 Dissertation 40 Optional N/A Optional
GE6002 6 Independent Project 20 Optional N/A Optional
GE6005 6 Climate Change: The Recent Record and Future Prospects. 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6006 6 Sustainable Futures 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6007 6 Emerging Nations 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6009 6 Remote Sensing and GIS 20 N/A N/A N/A
GE6011 6 Geohazards and Conservation 20 N/A N/A N/A
GE6013 6 City and Countryside: Trends and Prospects 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6015 6 Coastal Dynamics & Management 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6016 6 Environment, Poverty and Health 20 N/A N/A N/A
GE6018 6 Excluded Peoples? Migrants and Refugees 20 Optional Optional Optional
GE6020 6 Biogeography: Ecosystem Response to Change 20 Optional Optional Optional
TM6008 6 Tourism Impacts and Planning 20 N/A N/A N/A

Level Credits Components (minor, equal and major)
4 = 60 credits
Note: Students combining Geographyand Natural Hazard Management or Geography andInternational Development Studies also take the'Tutorial' module (GE4004)at Level 4 as 'Foundations for Successful Studentship' (GE4003)is included in the core modulesfor all programmes within the Department of Geography and Development Studies.
5 = either 60 credits + 20 experiential learning credits, or 40 credits + 20 experiential learning credits
6 = 80 credits = Major
6 = 60 credits = Equal
6 = 40 credits = Minor
Credits are counted towards a Combined Honours Degree and need to be supplemented by credits achieved in another subject to gain the qualification.
Certificate of Higher Education - 120 credits (Level 4)
Diploma of Higher Education - 240 credits (Level 5)
Honours Degree - 360 credits (Level 6)

UCAS points:

A minimum of 260-300 UCAS points from GCE A Levels, including a grade C in one of the subjects recommended by the department
GCE A Level:The department requires one of the following subjects:
Geography, Geology, Environmental Science, Social Science, World Development
BTEC:National Award: Applied Science (Environmental)
BTEC Extended Diploma/Certificate (Applied Science - Environmental): merit/distinction profile
Irish/Scottish Highers:B in 4 subjects including Geography or Geology
International Baccalaureate:28 points including 5 or above in Geography
QAA:QAA recognised Access to HE Diploma (must include Geography or Environmental Science at Level 3), Open College Units or Open University Credits
OCR:OCR National Extended/Diploma: merit profile plus one of the GCE A level subjects listed above
Extra Information:

The Advanced Diploma: acceptable in combination with one of the GCE A Level subjects listed above
Welsh Baccalaureate (core) will be recognised in our tariff offer.

Close attention has been paid to the Geography benchmark statement (QAA, 2007) in reviewing the programme's aims and learning outcomes, knowledge and skills content, methods of learning and teaching, and assessment strategy. The information below primarily maps out module learning outcomes against the key ‘Knowledge and Understanding', ‘Discipline/Subject-Specific Skills' and ‘Key Skills' set out in the Geography benchmark statement. These three headings are also replicated in the individual module descriptors. 

It is important to note that although learning outcomes provide a clear indication of what tutors are aspiring for students to achieve within a module, they will never reflect the full range of teaching and learning activities or potential student achievements. A number of benchmarks (e.g. 'information handling and retrieval', 'using information technology') are inevitably evident in all modules, whilst not always listed as a learning outcome. Furthermore, other benchmarks, e.g. 'informed concern/responsible citizenship' and 'moral/ethical debate', underpin many learning outcomes but are not necessarily listed in a descriptor. 

In summary, the programme team is confident that Combined Honours Geography programme addresses the majority of the key ‘Knowledge and Understanding’ and ‘Key Skills’ benchmark statements through its teaching and learning and assessment activities. However, it is also acknowledged that in a pattern of provision that offers choice, both in terms of modules and self-directed research projects, students will, over time, develop a greater understanding and mastery of some of these benchmarks more than others.  

A stated aim of the Combined Honours Geography programme is to provide a range of learning and teaching experiences, partly in recognition of the inevitable diversity of learning styles, backgrounds, abilities and special requirements within most cohorts of students. This aligns well with the requirements of the Quality Code for HE – Part B3 (QAA, 2012). The list below is indicative of the variety of learning and teaching methods employed.

  1. Lectures - a key component of many modules, providing the opportunity to highlight central themes and content, and reinforce key information. However, they represent only the ‘starting point’ and students are required to take significant responsibility for their own learning. The remaining approaches listed below place a strong emphasis on active student learning working in groups with each other and in partnership with tutors.
  2. Practical activities - many modules, particularly at Levels 4 and 5, have a weekly practical element, providing the opportunity to explore, discuss and apply key concepts and methods.
  3. One-to-one, small group and larger group discussions - these provide the opportunity to examine issues and topics in more depth, a forum for reflective discussions and personal development planning, as well as focused guidance for independent research project work.
  4. Fieldwork - an integral part of the Combined Honours Geography experience that provides many useful learning opportunities, including the exploration of new places, problem-solving activities, independent and group research projects and the application of theoretical ideas and data collection techniques.
  5. Work-based learning - all students have the option of completing a placement in a public or private sector organisation in the final part of Level 5. This consists of a five-week placement. The focus on self-awareness and reflection in the assessment of this module makes it a very distinctive learning opportunity.
  6. Technology-enhanced learning – technology is used to enhance teaching and support student learning in a wide variety of ways, including through the use of tutor- and student-authored podcasts, discussions boards, social networking tools, mobile data collection devices, and online module resources/activities.
  7. Directed reading - a pivotal element of the learning process, supported by reading lists for all modules, including significant use of e-journals and e-books.

It is recognised that assessment is a pivotal part of the student learning experience (Quality Code for HE – Part B6, QAA, 2011). All module descriptors provide key information on the assessment exercises to be completed, and indicate their relationship to the module learning outcomes. At Level 4 the assessment strategy is focused around relatively frequent, small scale, assignments to provide students with developmental feedback and a sense of progression, moving towards more extended pieces of works at Levels 5 and 6. There are frequent opportunities for formative feedback (both from tutors and peer-to-peer) due to the year-long modular structure, including allowing students to present plans/drafts of summative assignments. Feedback on summative assignments is, of course, critical to the learning process and students receive written comments and/or audio feedback for all coursework. Group feedback sessions are also used for more substantial pieces of work, providing tutors the opportunity to present verbal commentaries on the strengths and weaknesses of student work as a whole.

Diversity of assessment type is a defining feature of the Combined Honours Geography programme, a strategy which seems to be well received by students. The development of employability skills is also a key concern in assessment design. Almost all modules are assessed using more than one method - a combination of coursework and examination, or a combination of different coursework types. The list below provides a broad overview of summative assessment methods: 
  • Coursework essay: GE4001; GE4002; GE4003; GE5002; GE5009; GE6007; GE6013; GE6016; GE6018; TM6008
  • End of module exam or within-class test: GE4001; GE4002; GE5002; GE5009; GE6006; GE6007; GE6013; GE6015; GE6020
  • Project report: GE4002; GE5002; GE5009; GE5014; GE6001; GE6005; GE6006; GE6009; GE6015 
  • Fieldwork report: GE4003; GE5008; GE5009; GE6001; GE6011
  • Oral presentation (field or class based): GE4003; GE5002; GE5008; GE5009; GE6002; GE6005; GE6006; GE6011
  • C & IT-based exercise: GE4003; GE6009; GE6018
  • Other (e.g., poster, reflective commentary, portfolio, research proposal, interview, management plan, briefing paper, press release, placement provider appraisal, lab exercise): GE4001; GE5008; GE5014; GE6001; GE6002; GE6005; GE6006; GE6007; GE6011; GE6013; GE6016; GE6018; GE6020; WB5004; WB5101

The programme learning outcomes and the coverage of benchmarking requirements provide a clear indication of the key characteristics of a good (Upper Second Class Honours or above) graduate who has completed the Combined Honours Geography programme. Such a graduate will have acquired a wide range of knowledge and transferable skills and will therefore have the capacity to compete effectively in the employment market or apply successfully for a place on a postgraduate course. Furthermore, embedded careers and employability guidance is available to Combined Honours Geography students. The Department of Geography and Development Studies negotiates an annual Partnership Agreement with the University's Careers and Employability Service, which underpins an effective working relationship. Bespoke careers guidance and activity sessions are provided where possible within modules, or through specific timetabled sessions at all Levels.  These are supported by significant on-line resources.

The University is committed to the promotion of diversity, equality and inclusion in all its forms; through different ideas and perspectives, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.  We are, in particular, committed to widening access to higher education. Within an ethically aware and professional environment, we acknowledge our responsibilities to promote freedom of enquiry and scholarly expression.   

The Department of Geography and Development Studies has developed each programme and module in line with University policy to both promote equality and diversity and encourage all students in the development of their learning.  Much of the subject matter in Geography naturally affords a range of cultural perspectives and this is particularly so within the Human Geography modules throughout the programme.  At Level 4 all Combined Honours Geography students take GE4002 Introduction to Human Geography which is designed to encourage students to consider diversity and equality both practically and theoretically.  

The Department of Geography and Development Studies works closely with Student Support and Guidance and Disability Support to provide for the needs of students with disability or from culturally diverse backgrounds.  This involves flexibility in the delivery of teaching and the design of materials to support all students.  The induction week and first year activities are designed to integrate all students both academically and socially and to provide development opportunities which give all students an equal chance of succeeding.  Assessments are designed to afford equal opportunity to all students to display their knowledge and skills.  Anonymous marking enhances equal opportunity to all students.

Currently, core fieldwork (i.e. that linked to compulsory modules within the programme) is funded by the University; e.g. the Level 4 residential fieldtrip. Fieldwork linked to optional modules (e.g. ‘Fieldwork Applications’ GE5008 and the Norway expedition) is subsidised by the University but requires a student contribution towards the cost of running the learning experience. Detail on these costs is available from the Department of Geography & Development Studies, and is drawn to the attention of applicants on Visit Days and to registered students at the time of making module choices. The University occasionally provides bursaries to support student participation in overseas learning experiences.

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