Globalisation, environmental economics, conservation and ecology, hurricanes, coastal geomorphology, the future of Africa and other developing areas, the geography of health, cultural differences - just some of the topics you can study on the Cambridge Geography course.
A wider world
All societies rely on relationships with each other and the physical environment. Increasingly these are fragile interdependences presenting intellectual and practical challenges. Our Geography course tackles these issues from a broad base, but also allows you to specialise.
Facilities and resources
We have one of the UK's largest geography libraries, containing around 17,000 books, journals and periodicals, and the Scott Polar Research Institute is an integral part of the Department. There are extensive computing resources, where you receive formal teaching in geographical information technology including geographical information systems and remote sensing, and the Department's intranet provides further online resources.
Fieldwork and travel
Fieldwork is an important part of our course and there are several one-day excursions and field trips in Years 1 and 2. A compulsory field class in Part IB leads to a piece of assessed practical work. Recent locations include Switzerland, Dublin, Berlin, Morocco and Mallorca. Some financial help is available but students are required to contribute to the cost of these field trips.
Your Part II dissertation requires basic research in the summer vacation at the end of your second year. Dissertation subjects and locations vary widely: some students travel abroad, others stay in the British Isles.
Many students organise their own overseas expeditions, often with the University Expeditions Society. Some Department and College travel awards are available for this.
While Geography isn't directly a 'vocational' degree, Cambridge Geography graduates are trained to deal with multivariate problems, are skilled in information retrieval, data management and computing, and are used to working on their own initiative, and as such are highly employable in a variety of professions.
Our graduates enter many different careers, including industry and commerce, planning, teaching, finance, social work, environmental management and conservation, the media, politics, and the Civil Service.
You typically have six to eight lectures each week (with associated reading). You normally have three supervisions a fortnight at which you discuss a topic, usually following preparatory reading and essay writing. In the first and second years, you also have laboratory or practical classes, and field classes.
You're introduced to key themes and issues by studying two core papers:
- Human Geography – topics include globalisation; Fordism and welfare; ecological, economic and political perspectives on resources
- Physical Geography – topics include tectonics and volcanism, hydrological and geomorphological processes, atmosphere and climate
You're assessed at the end of the year by one written examination for each paper.
You also take the Geographical Skills and Methods paper that covers numerical methods; survey techniques; documentary and archival data; spatial data; and field, laboratory and desk-based skills.
All students take a core Geographical Ideas and Themes paper relating to global change, which is assessed through both coursework and written examination.
In addition, you can begin to specialise and select three papers from a choice of six, which are also assessed by a combination of coursework and examination. Each year, three human geography papers and three physical and environmental geography papers will be available. The lists below give examples of Part IB papers that may be offered.
- Economic Geography
- Development Theories, Policies and Practices
- Citizenship, Cities and Civil Society
Physical and environmental geography
- Glacial Processes
- The Coastal System
Building on Part IA Skills and Methods, you also undertake project work involving a range of field, laboratory and computer skills and techniques.
All students participate in a one-week residential field class during the Easter or summer vacation. This is essential for your final year dissertation research, both in terms of inspiring your choice of topic and in acquiring specific field research skills. A piece of submitted work on the field class forms part of your second-year assessment.
You can either specialise further or maintain a balance across the subject as a whole. You select four papers from 12, which are assessed by either written examination or by a combination of written examination and coursework. Papers on offer vary each year but recent examples include:
- Imagining Europe
- The Human Geography of the Arctic Regions
- Political Ecology in the Global South
- Geographies of Discipline and Social Regulation in the Nineteenth Century
- Biosedimentary Coastal Systems
- Glacial Environments
- Changing Cultures of Risk
You also write a dissertation of 10,000 words on a topic of your choice, which you start work on during the summer vacation between your second and third years. The topic must be defined by the second term of Year 2 and the proposal is assessed as part of your second-year coursework.
Typical offers require
A Level: A*AA
IB: 40-41 points, with 776 at Higher Level
For other qualifications, see our main Entrance requirements pages.
Essential No specific subjects
Useful An arts/science mix
There is no single combination of subjects that is especially good for students wishing to study Geography; the teaching programme for the course is broad enough to encompass those whose primary interests are in the humanities, the social sciences, the natural or the environmental sciences, or any combination of these.
It isn't even essential to have studied geography at A Level (although in practice nearly all our students have done so). If you are particularly interested in contemporary human geography or historical geography, then Economics, English Literature, History, and Sociology are useful (though not essential), as are courses in world development.
If you are interested in physical and environmental geography, then Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics and Physics are useful supporting subjects, as is Environmental Science. However, there is no distinction between 'human' and 'physical' geographers in terms of their GCE A Level subjects, as, for instance, an interest in studying the environment and global development issues typically calls for understanding of both social and physical sciences. Wherever your interests lie, though, knowledge of a foreign language will also help you understand developments in this international discipline, and to gain a greater insight into regional geographies.
Girton College encourage Mathematics to AS Level (or equivalent) though this is not essential.
Check College websites for College specific requirements. See also Entrance requirements and our Subject Matters leaflet for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.
The table below sets out the ways in which each College assesses applicants for this subject. For more information about these methods of assessment and why we use them, see the main Admissions tests and written work page.
|College||Assessment of applicant for this subject|
|Christ's||School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview|
|Churchill||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Clare||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Corpus Christi||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Downing||Preparatory study at interview|
|Emmanuel||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Fitzwilliam||School/college essay; Preparatory study before interview|
|Girton||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Gonville & Caius||School/college essay|
|Homerton||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Hughes Hall||Test at interview|
|Jesus||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|King's||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Lucy Cavendish||School/college essays; Test at interview|
|Murray Edwards||Test at interview|
|Newnham||School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview|
|Pembroke||Not available at this College|
|Peterhouse||Not available at this College|
|Queens'||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Robinson||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|St Catharine's||Preparatory study at interview|
|St Edmund's||Interview only|
|St John's||Interview only; Interviewees will be asked to make comment on a graph/diagram|
|Selwyn||Preparatory study at interview|
|Sidney Sussex||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Trinity||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Trinity Hall||School/college essay|
|Wolfson||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
Find out more about Geography at Cambridge
- Course website - Explore Geography in more detail on the course website.
- Course guide - A detailed guide to the Geography degree.
- Course FAQ - Some frequently asked questions about the Geography course can be found on the Course Guide page.
- Facilities - Some information about the facilities available to Geography students can be found on the Course Guide page.
Tools to help you with your Geography application
- Geography and your College choice - Information about College admissions and teaching can be found on the Course Guide page.
Geography and your future
- Career opportunities - Information about the careers opportunities available to you after studying Geography at Cambridge can be found on the Course Guide page.
The student experience
From September 2012, every undergraduate course of more than one year's duration will have a Key Information Set (KIS). The KIS allows you to compare 17 pieces of information about individual courses at different higher education institutions.
However, please note that superficially similar courses often have very different structures and objectives, and that the teaching, support and learning environment that best suits you can only be determined by identifying your own interests, needs, expectations and goals, and comparing them with detailed institution- and course-specific information.
We recommend that you look thoroughly at the course and University information contained on these webpages and consider coming to visit us on an Open Day, rather than relying solely on statistical comparison.
You may find the following notes helpful when considering information presented by the KIS.
- The KIS relies on superficially similar courses being coded in the same way. Whilst this works on one level, it leads to some anomalies. For example, Music courses and Music Technology courses can have exactly the same code despite being very different programmes with quite distinct educational and career outcomes.
Any course which combines several disciplines (as many courses at Cambridge do) tends to be compared nationally with courses in just one of those disciplines, and in such cases a KIS comparison may not be an accurate or fair reflection of the reality of either. For example, you may find that when considering a degree which embraces a range of disciplines such as biology, physics, chemistry and geology (for instance, Natural Sciences at Cambridge), the comparison provided is with courses at other institutions that primarily focus on just one (or a smaller combination) of those subjects.
- Whilst the KIS makes reference to some broad types of financial support offered by institutions, it cannot compare packages offered by different institutions. Different students have different circumstances and requirements, and you should weigh up what matters to you most: level of fee; fee waivers; means-tested support such as bursaries; non-means-tested support such as academic scholarships and study grants; and living costs such as accommodation, travel.
- The KIS provides a typical cost of private (ie non-university) accommodation. This is very difficult to estimate as prices and properties vary. University accommodation can be substantially cheaper, and if you are likely to live in College for much or all of the duration of your course (as is the case at Cambridge), then the cost of private accommodation will be of less or no relevance for you. The KIS also provides the typical annual cost of university accommodation and the number of beds available. Note that since most universities offer a range of residential accommodation, you should check with institutions about the likelihood of securing a room at a price that suits your budget. Knowing the number of beds available is not necessarily useful: it may be much more important to find out if all students are guaranteed accommodation.
- Time in lectures, seminars and similar can vary enormously by institution depending on the structure of the course, and the quality of such contact time should be the primary consideration.
- Whilst starting salaries can be a useful measure, they do not give any sense of career trajectory or take account of the voluntary/low paid work that many graduates undertake initially in order to gain valuable experience necessary/advantageous for later career progression.
The above list is not exhaustive and there may be other important factors that are relevant to the choices that you are making, but we hope that this will be a useful starting point to help you delve deeper than the face value of the KIS data.