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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

BSc Climate Science

Please visit this page for further information.

F645 Climate Science BSc Undergraduate 2021



Please note: 2020-21 courses may be affected by Covid-19 and are therefore subject to change due to the ongoing impact of Covid-19. Summaries of course-specific changes resulting from the impact of Covid-19 will be provided to applicants during August 2020.

For the latest information on our plans for teaching in academic year 2020/21 in light of Covid-19, please see

UCAS code F645
Degree BSc
Mode of study Part Time + Full Time
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications
Contextual Offers You may be eligible for an offer which is one or two grades lower than our standard entry requirements. Find out more.
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Course Summary

Course Summary


Anthropogenic climate change and humanity’s response to it will define life on the planet for billions of people.The United Nations states that climate change is ‘the defining issue of our time’. Despite this there are few undergraduate programmes that focus on the broader climate problem:this programme uniquely offers a big-picture approach that encompasses an appreciation of both recent climate and palaeoclimate change, and of the impact of climate change on earth and human systems. It provides a holistic perspective of climate science, and equips graduates with the knowledge and skills to lead society towards the mitigation of this emergency.

The programme acknowledges the breadth of the field of climate science by providing students with both the fundamentals and increased specialisation as they progress through the degree. Unlike other undergraduate programmes that focus on a single aspect of climate science (e.g., meteorology), the Climate Science BSc programme provides students with a solid background in diverse aspects of climate science that span geological time. The programme delivers opportunities to study the physical aspects of climate change, how past climates are reconstructed, the carbon cycle, geochemistry within a climate context, numerical modelling, physical geography (including glaciology), environmental geoscience, and the politics surrounding modern climate change. This allows students to choose a pathway through the degree of most interest to them. The programme is consistent with the relevant QAA Subject Benchmarking Statement criteria for Earth Science, Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies.

Students will graduate with a thorough understanding of the climate problem and will have the scientific background needed to become informed leaders in society and business,or to thrive in postgraduate study. The degree will impart climate-specific knowledge, alongside transferable skills in mathematics, scientific writing, informatics, policy, critical analysis, and project management.

Course Structure

Level 1 provides an introduction to Climate Change and sustainability, and serves to bring all students to a uniform minimum standard in knowledge. Students can choose between two maths modules –the advanced maths module permits students to follow a more geophysical and data-rich pathway through the degree. A mark of 40% or above at L1 is required to progress on the honours programme.

Level 2 builds on the knowledge and skills acquired at L1. At Level 2 students can take six single modules in Earth Sciences or Geography, where only one is compulsory. Choice is a key part of the programme of study: optional modules in both Earth Sciences and Geography offer the student the possibility of focussing on modelling (learning coding),  learning about how glaciers impact the landscape, how carbon is cycled through the climate system both in a modern context and throughout geologic time, and how climate change affected life and the environment in the past —crucial in understanding the link between climate change’s impacts on life (including on how current anthropogenic climate change is contributing to a mass extinction). Greater independence in learning is required, particularly through project work.  At the end of L2, students will have the skills necessary to be able to undertake a research dissertation in L3, which may include some field or laboratory work.

In Level 3, 40 credits will consist of a dissertation module, which will consolidate their knowledge and research skills, and require considerable independence. The only other compulsory module is Earth System and Climate, which focusses on interpeting climate data. Students can take optional modules to the value of 60 credits from a list of nine possible modules (including two 10 credit modules). Students will learn about topics they are most interested in at a greater depth than previous years, including modules on atmospheric dynamics, reconstructing sea level, on how climate change affected civilisations in the past (via a new Archaeology module), and oceans. Students can also take environmental geoscience modules, if these are of interest.

Year 1

Core modules

Environment and Resources (GEOL)

Introduction to Climate Change (GEOG)

Optional modules may include

Mathematical Methods in Geosciences (GEOL)

Further Mathematics (GEOL)

Geoinformatics (GEOL)

Understanding Earth Sciences (GEOL)

Planet under Pressure (GEOG)

Modules from other departments including language modules offered by the University’s Centre for Foreign Language Study.

Year 2

Core module

Isotopes and Climate (GEOL)

Optional modules may include 

Modelling Earth Processes (GEOL)

Ancient Life and its Environments (GEOL)

Carbon and Biogeochemical Cycles (GEOG)

Climate Change: Geographical Perspectives (GEOG)

Glaciers and Glaciation (GEOG)

Reconstructing Environmental Change (GEOG)

 Year 3

Core modules

Earth Systems and Climate (GEOL)

Dissertation (GEOL)

Optional modules may include 

Atmospheric Circulation and Dynamics (GEOL)

Environmental Geochemistry (GEOL)

Environmental Management (GEOL)

Sea Level Change and Coastal Evolution (GEOG)

Oceans Past and Present (GEOG)

Ice Age Environments GEOG)

Past Climates of the Low Latitudes (GEOG)

Antarctic Environments (GEOG)

Archaeology and Climate (ARCH)

Placement Year

You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.

Learning and Teaching

Course Learning and Teaching

The course is mainly delivered through a mixture of lectures, practical classes, and tutorials. Typically lectures provide you with key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate. Practical classes allow you to gain direct experience of practical and analytical skills in Climate Science. Tutorials provide the opportunity for smaller groups to discuss transferable skills (e.g., writing and presentation skills) and debate key issues based on the knowledge that you have gained through both your lectures and independent study outside the formal contact hours.

The balance of these types of activities changes over the degree, as you develop your knowledge and your ability as an independent learner. Independence is one of the key attributes that you will develop, thereby preparing you for work or further study once you have completed the course.

In the first year you will typically attend six hours a week of lectures, with 12 hours of practical classes. You are also required to attend six tutorial sessions during the academic year. Outside timetabled contact hours, you are also expected to undertake your own independent study to prepare for your classes and broaden your subject knowledge.

The balance starts to shift in the second year, as you develop your abilities as an independent learner. Lectures still play an important role in supporting you in developing your knowledge and skills, with an average of six hours a week, and you will participate in practical classes across the academic year that both introduce you to, and give you the chance to practice, research methods.

This move towards greater emphasis on independent learning continues in the final year. You are required to carry out a dissertation at Level 3, where you will be assigned a tutor appropriate to your dissertation topic. Support for your dissertation will take the form of one-to-one tutorial sessions with your tutor, typically a world-leading researcher in the field. This provides you with the opportunity to engage with academic issues at the forefront of Climate Science research, in a learning environment that is very much focused on discussion and debate of these issues. The emphasis on using the independent study and research skills developed in earlier years is continued through the dissertation, where you will produce a significant piece of independent research.

Throughout the course, you will have access to an academic tutor who will provide you with academic support and guidance, as well as an academic advisor with whom you can discuss future modules and any aspect of your learning experience. All members of Earth Sciences teaching staff have an open door policy and are available to meet with you on an informal ‘drop-in’ basis. Both the Department of Earth Sciences and the Department of Geography have exciting programmes of weekly one-hour research seminars, usually by speakers from other universities, which you are strongly encouraged to attend. There is also a seminar programme run throughout the year by the student-led Arthur Holmes Society.


Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

Candidates are assessed individually but with a typical entry level of AAB at A-level including two science subjects from Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Geography, Economics, and Biology or Psychology.

Applicants who are not native speakers of English should either: have been taught and passed the University entry requirements or have passed the University English Language proficiency test at the required level.  This includes the IELTS test or equivalent (6.5, no element less than 6). For more information please see the Learning and Teaching Handbook.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Fees and Funding

The tuition fees for2021/22 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

Full time study

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Part time study

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of part time study and are charged proportionately of the Full Time fee. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Open Days and Visits

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule