Undergraduate prospectus

  • Start date: September 2016

Earth Sciences MSci

This four-year programme provides an additional year on top of the Earth Sciences BSc, in which you undertake an independent research project, extend your knowledge with advanced courses related to your specialist pathway, and join in a wide-ranging seminar series on Earth and Planetary System Science.

Key Information

Degree Programme
Earth Sciences MSci
UCAS code
4 years
Application deadline
15 January 2016
Subject area
Earth Sciences
Total intake (by subject area)
61 (2016 entry)
Applications per place (by subject area)
7 (2014 entry)
Research Excellence Framework
92% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Entry requirements

A Levels

Two sciences preferred.
AS Levels
For UK-based students a pass in a further subject at AS level or equivalent is required.
English Language and Mathematics at grade C. For UK-based students, a grade C or equivalent in a foreign language (other than Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew or Latin) is required. UCL provides opportunities to meet the foreign language requirement following enrolment, further details at: www.ucl.ac.uk/ug-reqs

IB Diploma

A score of 16-18 points in three higher level subjects, preferably to include two sciences, with no score lower than 5.

UK applicants qualifications

For entry requirements with other UK qualifications accepted by UCL, choose your qualification from the list below:

Equivalent qualification

Not acceptable for entrance to this programme

Pass in Access to HE Diploma, with between 28 credits awarded with Merit and a minimum of 23 credits awarded with Distinction in the Level 3 units, the remainder of the Level 3 units awarded with Merit.

D3,D3,D3 - D3,M1,M1 in three Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects. Two sciences preferred

AAA-ABB at Advanced Highers (or AA at Advanced Higher and AAA at Higher - AB at Advanced Higher and BBB at Higher). Two sciences preferred at Advanced Higher

Successful completion of the WBQ Advanced Diploma Core with grade A plus 2 GCE A-levels at grades AA or successful completion of the WBQ Advanced Diploma Core with grade B, plus 2 GCE A-levels at grades AA-AB. Two science subjects preferred.

International applications

In addition to A level and International Baccalaureate, UCL considers a wide range of international qualifications for entry to its undergraduate degree programmes.

Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates

UCL offers intensive one-year foundation courses to prepare international students for a variety of degree programmes at UCL.

The Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates (UPCs) are for international students of high academic potential who are aiming to gain access to undergraduate degree programmes at UCL and other top UK universities.

For more information see our website: UCL Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency. Information about the evidence required, acceptable qualifications and test providers can be found on our English language requirements page.

The English language level for this programme is: Standard

A variety of English language programmes are offered at the UCL Centre for Languages & International Education.

Degree benefits

  • The programme includes up to approximately three months of field classes in the UK and continental Europe, with financial support from the department.
  • The holistic nature of the Earth sciences is emphasised. The opportunity to specialise within Earth Sciences and, by the appropriate choice of courses, graduate with a degree in Earth Sciences (Palaeobiology) or Earth Sciences (Planetary Science) is available.
  • World-leading research in mineral, ice and rock physics, geophysical hazards and palaeoenvironmental analysis is undertaken in the department and is used in the development of our courses.
  • World-class facilities include hosting the UK's only NASA Regional Planetary Image Facility, use of the UCL University of London Observatory, and collaboration with the Natural History Museum.

Degree structure

In each year of your degree you will take a number of individual courses, normally valued at 0.5 or 1.0 credits, adding up to a total of 4.0 credits for the year. Courses are assessed in the academic year in which they are taken. The balance of compulsory and optional courses varies from programme to programme and year to year. A 1.0 credit is considered equivalent to 15 credits in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

On entry to the programme, you will select a pathway through the subject (General, Palaeobiology, or Planetary Science). The programme includes many optional courses across Earth Sciences. Students should normally take at least five half-course credits in UCL Earth Sciences each year. Courses based in other departments may be chosen from those listed for the Environmental Geoscience, Geology and Geophysics degree programmes and the Palaeobiology or Planetary Science pathways.

The first and second years provide core skills and knowledge in the subject. The third year provides opportunities for specialisation and diversification, with an emphasis on individual initiative and problem-based learning. Fieldwork provides a unique opportunity to develop independent and team skills and problem-solving abilities.

The first three years of the MSci programme are identical to the BSc programme. However, the additional fourth year of the MSci allows for an individual research project and advanced options, providing extra depth and breadth of knowledge.

Year One

Compulsory courses

Dynamic Earth
Earth Materials
From Petrology to Petrogenesis
History of Life
Surface Processes
The Earth

Optional courses

You will select 0.5 credits of optional courses from the Geology, Geophysics and Environmental Geoscience programmes, and the Palaeobiology or Planetary Science pathways. Options available within UCL Earth Sciences may include:

Foundations of Physical Geoscience
Introduction to Planetary Science

Year Two

Compulsory courses

Maps, Images and Structures
Structural Geology and Tectonics
Surface Processes and Structures

Optional courses

You will select 2.5 credits of optional courses from the Environmental Geoscience, Geology and Geophysics programmes, and the Palaeobiology or Planetary Science pathways. Options available within UCL Earth Sciences may include:

Global Geophysics
Igneous Petrology
Isotope Geology
Vertebrate Palaeontology and Evolution

Year Three

Compulsory courses

All third year courses are optional.

Optional courses

You will select 4.0 credits of optional courses from the Environmental Geoscience, Geology and Geophysics programmes, and the Palaeobiology or Planetary Science pathways, depending on your programme diet. Options available within UCL Earth Sciences may include:

Biodiversity and Macroevolutionary Patterns
Crustal Dynamics, Mountain Building and Basin Evolution
Earth Resources and Sustainability
Geodynamics and Global Tectonics
Geological/Environmental Mapping Project
Geosciences Report
Groundwater Science
Marine Geology
Seismology I
Seismology II

Final Year

Compulsory courses

Earth and Planetary System Science
Independent MSci Project

Optional courses

You may select 2.0 credits of optional courses which may include:

Deep Earth and Planetary Modelling
Earth and Planetary Materials
Earthquake Seismology and Earthquake Hazards
Hydrogeology and Groundwater Resources
Melting and Volcanism
Physical Volcanology and Volcanic Hazard
Tectonic Geomorphology

You may take up to 1.0 credit from outside the department.

Please note: the courses listed relate to the General pathway of Earth Sciences. For specialist pathways, please see the department website.

Your learning

We use a mixture of lectures, practical classes, field courses, directed reading, problem-orientated learning, private study and tutorials to enable you to gain the theoretical knowledge and practical skills demanded by the programme, as well as to develop key transferable skills such as critical analysis, report writing, team working and organisational skills.


You will be assessed by a combination of written examinations, practical examinations, coursework, independent project reports and sometimes an oral examination.

Further Information

Detailed course descriptions are available on the department website: Earth Sciences MSci.


You will develop both discipline-based and highly sought after analytical skills, together with practical skills such as planning, conducting and reporting on investigations, collecting, recording and analysing data and the ability to undertake field and laboratory research.

All our students are encouraged and helped towards making informed career choices. We have excellent relationships with many employers in diverse aspects of the Earth and planetary sciences, and students are actively guided towards achieving their potential at UCL in preparation for their future careers.

In addition to further study, main employment destinations include: exploration and production for mining, oil and engineering companies; groundwater resources management; investigating ground conditions associated with land use, such as planning, construction and waste disposal; geological surveying, and collecting geological information for maps and databases.


First destinations of recent graduates (2010-2013) from Earth Sciences programmes at UCL include:

  • Graduate Manager, Network Rail (2013)
  • Energy Researcher, Infield Systems Limited (2011)
  • Full-time student, PhD in Paleoclimatology at Uppsala University (2011)
  • Satellite Data Processing Technician, UCL Centre for Polar Observation and Monitoring (2011)

*Data taken from the 'Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education' survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2010-2013 graduating cohorts six months after graduation and, where necessary, department records.

UCL is commited to helping you get the best start after graduation. Read more about how UCL Careers, UCL Advances and other entrepreneur societies here: Careers and skills.

Fees and funding


UK & EU fee
£9,000 (2016/17)
Overseas fee
£21,320 (2016/17)


Details about financial support are available at: www.ucl.ac.uk/study/ug-finance


Scholarships listed below are relevant to the department. Please read the details carefully to check they are relevant to the degree and your own circumstances.

Dean's Summer Student Scholarships

Based on academic merit

The Scholarships and Funding website has a comprehensive list of scholarships and funding schemes available for UCL students. These can be available for specific nationalities, regions, departments or open to all students.

Application and next steps

Your application

We will assess your application on the basis of your performance, or predicted performance academically, but we will also be looking for an indication of how your interest in natural and Earth sciences has developed, what aspects particularly appeal to you, and whether you have undertaken any research or reading to find out about the subject matter you wish to study.

How to apply

Application for admission should be made through UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Applicants currently at school or college will be provided with advice on the process; however, applicants who have left school or who are based outside the United Kingdom may obtain information directly from UCAS.

Application deadline: 15 January 2016


We normally reach a decision on making an offer on the basis of the application alone. If you are resident in the UK and have been made an offer you will be invited to an applicant open day. This visit will include introductory talks on Earth sciences and our degree programmes, a tour of the department and UCL and a question and answer session.

Although we do recommend that all applicants who receive an offer visit UCL, we recognise that this is not always possible; applicants from regions distant from London and from outside the UK are not normally required to attend.

For further information on UCL's selection process see: Selection of students