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Geology BSc(Hons)

Attendance UCAS code/apply Year of entry
3 years full time F600 2017
4 years full time including foundation year F608 2017
6 years part time Apply direct to the University 2017

Why choose this course?

Geology explores the processes that have shaped the Earth through its 4,600 million-year history, and uses the rock record to unravel that history. Our geology degree provides a sound training in the core theory and skills of the pure and applied aspects of the subject, with great emphasis on fieldwork.

What you will study

You will learn about the internal structure of the Earth, how plate tectonics work, how igneous and metamorphic rocks are formed, how sedimentary basins evolve and how natural resources are identified and extracted. Laboratory work and fieldwork, both in the UK and abroad, are a fundamental part of the curriculum.

Year 1 provides an introduction to all the major branches of geology, and you will undertake fieldwork comprising approximately 14 days of UK-based study.

Year 2 develops your knowledge in all branches of geology, including palaeontology, Earth resources, sedimentology, igneous geology and solid Earth geophysics. Geoscience fieldwork, comprising approximately 21 days, includes training in field techniques and case study work in UK and European destinations.

During the vacation period at the end of Year 2, you will carry out a 28-day field mapping project, which will be written up during the first semester of Year 3.


In Year 3, the modules are designed to extend your skills and knowledge of core themes, and will develop your research and employability skills. The pure geology module provides a holistic approach to examining the evolution of our planet through geological time; while the applied module focuses on exploration and environmental geology.

Fieldwork includes a regional study in Cyprus and field mapping. The research project module provides an opportunity to collect, analyse and interpret primary data to be written up in an extended report. Research and discussion of key contemporary issues in geology, through interactive seminars, will keep your knowledge up to date.

Professional accreditation

This degree is accredited by the Geological Society, the UK national society for geoscience, and provides a basis for progression to chartered geologist status with the Society.

Dr Stuart Downward talks about what you can expect from studying here:

Module listing

Please note that this is an indicative list of modules and is not intended as a definitive list. Those listed here may also be a mixture of core and optional modules.

Year 1

  • This module provides coverage of key fundamental topics in global geology and no prior knowledge of geology is assumed. The structure of the Earth is described and the major mineral and rock types found in different geological settings on Earth outlined. The history of the plate tectonics hypothesis is outlined and a description of the major lines of evidence leading to the development and acceptance of this hypothesis is given. Geological processes occurring at the different types of plate boundary are described and the effects of such processes outlined. The major natural hazards encountered in the natural environment are described and the physical, chemical and biological reasons for their occurrence and global distribution covered. Case studies of each hazard, from a variety of geographical regions, are provided to build a portfolio of examples, enhancing students' knowledge of the spatial distribution of the key hazards.

  • This module aims to provide students with an understanding of the basic principles and processes that operate and cause change in environmental systems and show how this knowledge can be applied to sustainably manage environmental problems. The importance of a holistic, 'top-down' approach to problem solving will be introduced along with material on key underpinning scientific disciplines including environmental chemistry and genetics. Practical and fieldwork sessions are designed to develop observation and recording skills.

  • This module introduces Earth materials (minerals and igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks) that form the basis of geological studies. In addition, the module deals with systematic treatments of both Earth history and palaeontology; establishing a temporal framework for the rock record and evolution of life.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Identify common minerals in hand specimen and thin section (using the petrological microscope),  and identify the most common igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
    • Describe and explain the modes of formation and occurrence of these rock types and their constituent minerals.
    • Demonstrate knowledge of the chronology of geological time, including some important events evidenced in the geological record.
    • Recognise the main groups of common fossils.
    • Identify the majority of the common geological structures and interpret geological structures as they appear on geological maps.
    • Produce an elementary geological map of a local field area.


  • This core module introduces techniques of fieldwork and the principles that form the basis of successful investigations within this, including statistics and subject specific to geographical, geological and environment degrees.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • prepare for and perform basic fieldwork techniques;
    • produce a field report in the appropriate format; underpinned by field observations and records;
    • undertake elementary data analysis;
    • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the fundamental scientific (and other) principles and techniques that are pertinent to the course; and
    • apply undergraduate-level academic skills.

Year 2

  • This module investigates the surface of the Earth and the latest stage of a complex series of events that started with planetary accretion and growth that is driven by mantle processes including convection, plume movement and mantle melting. The module considers the use of geophysics and the mineralogy and chemistry of meteorites to document the composition and structure of the Earth's core and mantle.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Identify, and describe the nature of, the major layers and critical boundaries of the Earth's internal structure and identify the global energy and chemical fluxes linking Earth's deep interior and surface.
    • Explain the relationship between the geomagnetic field, global geodynamics and plate tectonic evolution and summarise the evidence linking mantle plumes, lithosphere evolution and surface topography.
    • Interpret the modes of formation and occurrence of the major igneous rock suites.
    • Illustrate the causes of metamorphism, and demonstrate the relative roles of pressure, temperature and rock composition in determining metamorphic parageneses, and the processes through which metamorphic textural and mineralogical changes are accomplished.
    • Demonstrate the inter-relationships between tectonic settings, magmatism and metamorphism.
    • Describe the different techniques available, and in use, for the analysis of modern and ancient sedimentary environments and interpret examples of sedimentary environments to be found in the stratigraphic record.
  • The introduction to the module will provide the 'big picture' overview starting with the concept of landscape development and geomorphology/sedimentology as sub-disciplines in geography followed by a series of systematic core lectures concerning major geomorphological processes and landforms. An accompanying practical programme will aid students in evaluating concepts and learning key analytical techniques. Fieldwork will be provided as an arena for applying new skills and knowledge gained through practicals and lectures. The theme then moves on to interpreting sedimentary environments. Sediments and sedimentary rocks reflect the character of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere so an understanding of this subject area is fundamental in understanding how the present is the key to the past (and hence future).

  • This module deals with genesis and evolution of natural geological resources with regard to ore deposits (dominantly hydrothermal and magmatic).  Particular attention will be paid to critical metals. In addition, the module considers based techniques utilised in the exploration for and evaluation of these deposits which will include overviews of geophysical, geochemical and remote sensing techniques.  

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Describe and evaluate the geological environments in which the major groups of the Earth's resources of minerals, occur and demonstrate the geological, mineralogical, geochemical and related factors that influence the value of these resources.
    • Evaluate the broad geological controls on the occurrence, distribution, origin and methods of extraction of some of the major groups of mineral resources.
    • Discuss the importance of geochemical, geophysical, remote sensing and engineering geological techniques in identifying, locating and assessing natural resources and use these to address exploration problems.
    • Select and execute data analysis techniques appropriate to the solution of resource evaluation problems and interpret the results.
    • Identify the importance of team work, work effectively in groups and produce an application for a post in an exploration company.
    • Demonstrate observational and academics and industrial standard report writing skills.
  • This module deals with the fundamental aspects of structural geology and tectonics which is applied during fieldtrips. The module examines the geometry and evolution of fold systems and compressional, extensional and strike-slip fault systems. The tectonic structures produced during plate production and plate consumption are described and the ways in which essentially oceanic processes lead to the production accretion and deformation of continents and micro-plates are considered.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Identify major brittle geological structures and to establish to which of the specific group of faults these structure belong.
    • Describe fold structures and appreciate their relationship to orogenic belts and to associated brittle structures.
    • Identify the fabrics that are developed during rock deformation and relate these to larger scale structures and tectonic processes. Measure strains and establish the stress regimes that have been responsible for the production of deformed rocks.
    • Use a comprehensive range of basic fieldwork techniques to understand the geology and geological evolution of chosen field areas.
    • Relate the observable structural geology and other observable geological data within chosen field areas to the larger scale geotectonic and plate tectonic evolution of these regions.
    • Present compilations of information and data in rigorous "report" format.

Year 3

  • This core module looks at the long-term history of planet Earth as to how physical, chemical and biological data from the 4.4-billion-year rock record may be applied to document the Earth's geological history, from the Pre-Cambrian to the present. The module adopts an Earth system approach, integrating aspects of palaeobiology, palaeontology, sedimentology, geochemistry, stratigraphy, igneous and metamorphic petrology, structural geology and tectonics.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Identify key physical, chemical and biological interactions governing the Earth surface system and how evidence of these can be preserved in the sediment record.
    • Employ standard techniques for the description of sediments and sedimentary rocks, and interpret the results.
    • Analyse and interpret a fossil biota and understand the factors affecting Earth's changing biota through geological time.
    • Discuss critically the principles and methods by which detailed sedimentological, stratigraphic and palaeoenvironmental data may be obtained, and the applications of these to reconstructing past Earth history.
    • Evaluate mechanisms of crustal growth and mountain building, and assess the role of plate tectonics in Earth evolution through time.
    • Analyse the tectonic settings of sedimentary basins and the structures that control their evolution.
  • Geology as an applied science where this module considers its application in the continuing development of the global economy and the global society. The module looks at applied geology where geologists work in resource exploration, evaluation and extraction; engineering geology or water resource geology and environmental geology which requires expertise in a range of disciplines to include: hazard prediction, waste remediation and environmental geochemistry, safe storage of hazardous waste and carbon capture and sequestration.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Describe and discuss the various stages in the discovery, development and exploitation of some of the world's major metallic ore, industrial mineral and fossil fuel deposits and critically assess current ideas for their genesis and geological controls of occurrence, as a guide for future exploration.
    • Critically evaluate the relevance and importance of geochemical and geophysical techniques in applied and environmental geology.
    • Explain the processes occurring in soils and groundwater to affect the transport of contaminants and critically evaluate the use of geological, geochemical, geophysical and engineering geology methods in detection, monitoring and management of contaminated land.
    • Plan an environmental geochemical, geophysical and engineering geology survey, analyse and interpret data from such a survey, and report on their findings in a professional manner.
    • Explain the components of a geological computer model and how they relate to the natural system being modelled and critically assess the validity of a computer model and its consequences for the understanding of natural geological systems.
    • Apply geological knowledge within the exploration and extractive mineral industries.
  • This module incorporates two distinct field trips. The first trip requires a major field programme which requires a four-week independent mapping exercise covering 12 kmand synthesise its geology through an extended abstract supported by a stratigraphic column, cross sections and an image gallery of field photographs. The second field trip involves a classic geological region in either the UK or Europe where basic field skills (observation and recording) will be enhanced with a special emphasis placed on interpreting field observations.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Plan the logistics of a major field season and complete the field programme safely.
    • Work efficiently and safely in a field environment.
    • Observe and record relevant geological data in notebooks and on field slips and produce provisional interpretations of these observations and data.
    • Present, using a combination of field observations and data, a geological map of a previously unknown area and synthesise the geology of that area with the aid of stratigraphic columns and structural cross-sections.
    • Engage in field debate and discuss the significance of observed and recorded data.
    • Compile geological data and interpretations into a coherent account and thus be able to analyse and interpret the geological history and structure of the visited region.
  • This module requires you to undertake a pre-planned research project, involving: collection, processing and interpretation of primary data, derived either from laboratory or field studies and producing a report.

    On successful completion of the module, you will be able to:

    • Plan and conduct laboratory or field-based primary data collection with a view to producing a coherent research project on a specific topic in geology or hazards and disaster management;
    • Process and interpret this primary dataset, using appropriate qualitative and quantitative techniques.
    • Produce a major piece of academic writing by way of a 7,500-word research project report.
    • Present an interim seminar, detailing progress towards the final project outcomes.
    • Undertake field-based, or desk-based, data collection, processing and interpretation on a range of contemporary issues relating to geology or the assessment of risk and management of hazards and/or disasters in a specified regional environment (programme dependent).

You will have the opportunity to study a foreign language, free of charge, during your time at the University on a not-for-credit basis as part of the Kingston Language Scheme. Options currently include: Arabic, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Study abroad as part if your degreeMost of our undergraduate courses support studying or working abroad through the University's Study Abroad or Erasmus programme.

Find out more about where you can study abroad:

If you are considering studying abroad, read what our students say about their experiences.

Key information set

The scrolling banner(s) below display some key factual data about this course (including different course combinations or delivery modes of this course where relevant).

We aim to ensure that all courses and modules advertised are delivered. However in some cases courses and modules may not be offered. For more information about why, and when you can expect to be notified, read our Changes to Academic Provision.

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This course is taught at Penrhyn Road

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