Course Information

Studying in the Department

Our combination of lectures, practical classes, tutorials and field courses, provides an unrivalled education in the Earth Sciences.

Tutorials are the most distinctive feature about studying in Oxford: weekly classes of just 2 or 3 students. You will have work to complete before the tutorial – typically a practical exercise or a problem set – and in the tutorial you take the answers apart, or explore the context of the problems. Many tutorials are led by lecturers: leading experts in their field; others may be led by graduate students or post-doctoral researchers. Either way, the close contact this gives you with people who are actively engaged in research will be a stimulating and challenging experience.

The staff profile is young, and international: half of the faculty have either studied or taught overseas, and one third have taken up their posts in Oxford within the past five years. They include graduates in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Biology, in addition to Earth Sciences/Geology. The course is continually evolving, reflecting our evolving understanding of the Earth – from the depths of the Earth and the Oceans, through the origins of life, the tectonics of continents, the chemistry of the atmosphere and the circulation of the oceans to the history of the solar system and the formation of the planets.

The first two years of the course provide all students with the same broad foundation across the subject. From the third year, after completing an independent field mapping project in a carefully researched location of their choice, students to start to specialise with a choice of courses. The independent essay paper allows students to follow a topic of particular interest to much greater depth. In the fourth year, directed seminar classes are led with student presentations based on the current work in the field. The main aspect of the fourth year is the research project: a piece of original work, spread over two terms. For many students, this is the highlight of the course – and many of these projects will eventually be written up and published as research papers.

The course modules are listed below, and will be supplemented with further information in due course. For more in-depth explanations, download the Undergraduate Handbook at the bottom of the page.

First Year

Students take courses in 5 parallel streams

  • Planet Earth
  • Fundamentals of Geology I
  • Fundamentals of Geology II
  • Physics, Chemistry & Biology
  • Mathematics

Field Course (current destinations) 

  • Pembroke (Wales)
  • Arran (Scotland)
  • Day courses


  • Preliminary examinations (4 written)
  • Practical assessments

Second Year

Students take courses in 5 parallel streams

  • Earth Deformation and Materials
  • Sedimentary environments and palaeobiology
  • Geochemistry, Climate and Carbon Cycle
  • Mathematical & Geophysical Tools

Field Course (current destinations) 

  • Dorset (S. England)
  • Somerset
  • Assynt (Scotland)


  • Part A1 Examinations (3 written exams)
  • Practical assessments

Third Year

Students choose 6 options from about 10, these are currently:

  • Natural Resources
  • Oceanography
  • Biological and Physical Oceanography
  • Climate Dynamics
  • Vector Calculus and Continuum Mechanics
  • Volcanology, igneous processes and petrogenesis
  • Quantitative Palaeobiology
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Analytical methods
  • Chemistry of Earth’s Interior
  • Geophysics of the Deep Earth

Field Course (current destinations) 

  • Integrated Geoscience (Spain)

Independent Work

  • Independent Summer Project
  • Extended Essay


  • Part A2 Examinations (7 written papers)

If you end your study here you will graduate with BA Degree (Geology)

Fourth Year

Student choose 4 options from about 8, these are currently:

  • Planetary Science
  • Structure & Dynamics of the Earth’s Mantle
  • Coevolution of Earth and Life
  • Palaeobiology
  • Rock & Palaeo-magnetism
  • Topics in climate science
  • Topics in Volcanology
  • Environmental Geophysics

Field Course (current destinations) 

  • Greece OR Bermuda (Oceanography)

Independent Work

  • Research Project


  • Part B Examinations (4 written papers)

If you end your study here you will graduate with MESc Degree (Earth Sciences)


Students: Log into CANVAS (requires University Single Sign-On – SSO).

Download the Undergraduate Handbook