Undergraduate Handbook

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Teaching & Learning

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to follow either a four-year MSci degree programme or the three-year BSc programme for all our degrees except the International Programme (Earth Sciences), available only as an MSci.

5.0: Introduction to degree programme requirements

Students must register for four credits (also known as course units) per year. Each half credit (the standard length for a  module) is defined by College as 188 learning hours, and includes lectures, laboratory classes, coursework, private reading and revision. Students must register on Portico for these modules either before the start of term, or during the first two weeks at the latest. Most of the formal teaching takes place in the First Term (September – December) and the Second Term (January – March). You will be required to spend time in the vacation reading around the subject, undertaking fieldwork or preparing for project work.  Examinations are usually taken in the Third Term (April – June), but some take place following First Term.

The modules available for each degree programme are given on the Earth Sciences website. Each degree has compulsory (core) modules and options. If you register for an optional module which you later realize you would like to change, please see the Undergraduate Tutor to arrange the amendment. It is also courteous to advise the organizers whose modules you are leaving and joining.  It may also be feasible to change your degree programme, particularly early in the First Year. Please see your personal tutor for advice, and the Undergraduate Tutor to arrange the change in registration.

5.1: Scheduled Classes

Weekly lecture and practical classes are normally arranged in 2 x two hour blocks. The on-line timetable should be checked regularly to find the correct venue. Practicals are spent describing and interpreting hand specimens or thin sections, answering problem sheets, or perhaps constructing a cross-section from a map. The lecturer or a postgraduate teaching assistant will be there to help, and students should ask for assistance if it is needed. As with lectures, practical classes build on work done in the previous session, and it is necessary to understand and complete each task before going on to the next one. Exchanging ideas with other students may help, although the final product must be each student's own work. It is very important to hand in course work on time, or penalties will be incurred.

As you progress through the years, you will be expected to take more control over your studies. You should actively try different approaches to your learning in order to develop those most suitable for you. Several one-credit modules in the Third Year have been developed on the Problem Based Learning approach. This means that a learning environment is provided in which one or more problems are set for you to resolve. You will discover that in order to solve the problems, you will have to acquire new critical knowledge, and to develop strategies to solve them. This will involve a variety of skills, and includes both independent working and team working. In this way, you will mimic the way in which you may have to resolve problems during your life and career.


It is very important to hand in course work on time, or penalties will be awarded.

5.2: Private Study

Assigned private study includes reading, preparing essays and reports for tutorials and coursework assessment, and completing any practical work that was not finished in the timetabled period. The timetable allows time to be spent in the library, computer terminal room, or laboratory. It is advisable therefore to use this time wisely, as it will leave plenty of opportunity to pursue other interests. Nearly all of the courses have a recommended book or reading list and the course organiser will assume that it is being used fully.

5.3: Fieldwork

Fieldwork is an essential component of each degree programme and all fieldwork is assessed. Attendance at field courses is compulsory and failure to attend may lead to being barred from further progression. Information about fieldwork, including the field schedule, can be found via the link from Information for Current Students.  Students are responsible for checking the dates and arrangements on-line and with the field course leaders.

UCL has an Approved Code of Practice for undertaking fieldwork. Improper behaviour on fieldwork contravenes the College and Departmental Regulations and can be a disciplinary offence.

5.4: Coursework and deadlines

All coursework should be kept in a single lever-arch file (supplied by the Department) to be handed in at the end of the exam period for scrutiny by the External Examiners.

Policy on coursework

  • Coursework will be given throughout the First and Second terms during scheduled laboratory classes and will often require students to complete it in their own time.
  • Each Moodle page will list major coursework components (those carrying 10% or more of the total marks for the module) and most smaller coursework items, together with the submission deadlines. Note: occasionally module organisers may need to modify smaller components and their deadlines
  • Deadlines for major items of coursework or project work (counting 20% or more of the total marks for a course) are listed under Information for current students. 
  • Coursework deadlines will be distributed as evenly as possible throughout the teaching terms although, because students follow different degree programmes, homogeneous coursework loading may not always be achieved.
  • Students should complete and submit all set coursework. Where the coursework component is worth more than 20% of the total module mark, the submission of less than 70% of set pieces of coursework will result in the coursework component being deemed Incomplete, and awarded 0%. See Section 2.10.2 of the Academic Regulations. Students may not graduate with an Incomplete, and the component should be completed at the earliest opportunity the following year.
  • Coursework should be handed to the staff member in class, brought to a staff-member’s room or submitted to a departmental administrator, as directed. No responsibility will be accepted for coursework left in a staff pigeonhole.
  • Students are responsible for presenting projects in a respectable and robust way. Major items (e.g. projects) should be handed in to the Academic Administrator. Do not leave them in the mail boxes of individual staff members.

Deadlines, penalties for late submission and over-length coursework

  • All coursework (including projects and mapping reports) must be handed in by the stated deadline.
  • Coursework submitted after the stated deadline will lose marks and could result in the course being failed. See Section 3.1.6 of the Academic Regulations. In summary, the allocated mark will be reduced by 5 percentage points for submission up to a first working day after the deadline, and a further 10 percentage points if the coursework is submitted during the following six days. A mark of zero will be recorded for coursework submitted more than seven days after the deadline but before the second week of the Third Term, but it will be considered Complete.
  • Extensions for major pieces of coursework (10% or more of the total marks for the course) will only be considered if a medical certificate or completed extenuating circumstances form (e.g., for a family bereavement) is submitted to the Undergraduate Tutor before the deadline.
  • For other coursework, serious problems which prevent completion should be discussed with the course organiser before the deadline; excuses such as “the printer didn’t work” are not acceptable.
  • Coursework submitted after answers/solutions have been made available will receive a mark of zero and may not be formally marked, even when submitted within seven days of the deadline.

Over-length coursework, including dissertations

See Section 3.1.7 of the Academinc Regulations.

  • Assessed work should not exceed the prescribed length, or penalties will apply.
  • For work that exceeds the specified maximum length by less than 10%, the mark will be reduced by ten percentage marks; but the penalised mark will not be reduced below the pass mark, assuming the work merited a pass.
  • For work that exceeds the specified maximum length by 10% or more, a mark of zero will be recorded.

Assessment and return of coursework

UCL Service standards on feedback summarises the timing and nature of feedback which can be expected by students.  Furthermore, within Earth Sciences

  • Where the coursework forms a minor component (<10% of the total marks for the course), or is an integral part of the learning process, the assessed coursework should normally be returned to the student within 2 weeks of submission.
  • Assessment of coursework may be carried out either by the appropriate member of staff or by an appropriately-trained teaching assistant (TA) or postgraduate. (Where assessed by a TA or postgraduate, all such coursework will be moderated by the course organiser and assigned a final mark.
  • In the case of courses comprising 100% coursework, marks may not be given to students prior to the final examination board, and coursework may not be returned to the student afterwards unless required in the following academic year. 
  • All coursework should be returned in class or in sealed envelopes addressed personally to each student or from a secure place such as a departmental office.

Marking Scheme

Graded coursework will be assigned a letter according to the following guide:

Percentage Mark Letter grade Equivalent to:
90 – 100 A++

First Class

80 – 89 A+
75 – 80 A
70 – 74 A-
67 – 69 B+

Upper Second


64 – 66 B
60 – 63 B-
57 – 59 C+

Lower Second


54 – 56 C
50 – 53 C-
47 – 49 D+

Third Class

44 – 46 D
40 – 43 D-
Allowed a pass E
F Fail

Equivalence of letter grades used on coursework and percentage marks; note that + and – may not be used by all staff.

5.5: Plagiarism

The College takes cases of plagiarism very seriously. It can be considered an offence under Examination Regulations and may lead to exclusion from University Examinations. Plagiarism includes copying from fellow students, from printed texts, and from websites. Quotations may be used but must be accompanied by a full acknowledgement and/or a relevant reference. The college policy on plagiarism contains very useful information, which should be read carefully to ensure that you are fully aware of what constitutes plagiarism, and what you can and can’t do.

You should note that UCL now uses a detection system (Turnitin) to scan work for evidence of plagiarism and the Department is able to use this for assessed coursework.  This system gives access to billions of sources worldwide, including websites and journals, as well as work previously submitted to the Department, UCL and other universities.