University of Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus 2015 entry

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Earth Sciences (Geology)

A BA (Geology) in 3 years or an MEarthSc in 4 years

UCAS codes: F642 (Geology), F644 (Earth Sciences)

Course statistics for 2013 entry

Interviewed: 94%

Successful: 31%

Intake: 34

Entrance requirements

A-levels: A*AA/AAAA

Advanced Highers: AA/AAB

IB: 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL

Or any other equivalent

Candidates are required to have Mathematics plus Physics or Chemistry either to A-level, or to Advanced Higher or Higher Level in the IB, or an equivalent qualification. Chemistry or Physics are also highly recommended as a third subject. Biology, Geology or Further Mathematics can also be helpful to candidates in completing this course.

How to apply (see page 118) [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note]

Tests: None required

Written Work: None required

Tuition Fees for 2014

Home/EU: £9,000/year

No upfront costs: you can get a loan for the full amount

Grants, bursaries and scholarships available

More on student finance: p 120 [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note]

More Information

+44 (0) 1865 272040

Oxford Open days

2 and 3 July, and 19 September 2014

What are the Earth Sciences?

The Earth Sciences are changing rapidly in scope and nature. The course at Oxford reflects these changes, and aims to provide earth scientists with a sound and broadly based scientific training. Earth Sciences courses at Oxford train students in the unique skills required for the interpretation of rock materials and geological phenomena as well as applying theory and techniques from physics, chemistry, materials science and biology to the study of the Earth and the environment.

Earth Sciences at Oxford

The Earth Sciences Department at Oxford has an international research reputation, and houses state-of-the-art laboratories and computing facilities within a recently completed building. The department is a lively place, an active laboratory, where students, teachers and visitors, many from overseas, mix and work together. Offices and teaching labs are close together but with plenty of shared open space, so you will very quickly get a sense of being part of a vibrant community where everyone knows each other. This makes for a very good atmosphere in which a student can not only learn the basics of the subject, but also get some feel for the discoveries emerging from current research.

The diversity of the subject is reflected in the range of courses which cover processes from the Earth’s interior, as mapped by seismic waves, to the evolution of the Earth’s crust documented in the rocks at the surface, to ocean and atmospheric circulation, through to the evolution of life on Earth. As an undergraduate, in addition to lectures, practicals and tutorials, you can find yourself on a field trip being taught by a geologist whose other field area is high up in the Himalayas; on a boat in the Atlantic learning about ocean circulation from an oceanographer who researches the Arctic; or in a laboratory using isotopes of uranium and strontium in stalagmites to measure the fluctuations of past climates.

Earth Sciences is part of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, which also contains Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Materials, Mathematics, Physics and Statistics. In the first year, it may, in principle, be possible to change to another degree course, subject to the availability of space on the course and to the consent of the college.

A typical weekly timetable

During years 1-3, your work is divided between lectures (about ten a week), tutorials (one or two a week), and practical classes, occupying about a third of your week. In year 4 you have the opportunity for independent work on special topics or in a research laboratory.

Fieldwork/international opportunities

The Earth Sciences course includes a number of excursions. These are designed to link closely to material covered in lectures, and to convey the practice of geology, geophysics, geochemistry, and palaeontology in the field environment. This work culminates in an independent project to study and map an area chosen by the student (with advice from lecturers). Many of the field excursions take place out of term time, so students on the course must be available outside of term.

Application information

Students can apply for a three-year BA in Geology or a four-year MEarthSc. These are exactly the same for the first three years. If students are not sure which course they would prefer, it is best to apply for the MEarthSc, as it is easier to transfer to the BA later on.

What are tutors looking for?

For information about the selection criteria please see:

Tutors are looking for highly motivated individuals with the intellectual skills necessary to do well on the course (e.g. problem-solving ability). As part of the interview process, candidates may be asked to comment on specimens of a geological nature, or to carry out simple calculations, but always with due recognition of their previous knowledge of, and experience in, the subject being discussed.

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Geography, Human Sciences, Materials Science or Physics.


Typical destinations for Earth Sciences


graduates include the energy industry, the environmental sector and engineering/ technical consultancies. Some enter professions unrelated to their subject, such as finance, in which the analytical and problem-solving skills they have developed are highly sought after. Around 40% continue to study, developing their interests through a PhD or further master’s course. Recent Earth Sciences graduates include a data analyst for a media organisation, a tax accountant and a hydrogeologist.

Martin, who graduated in 2009, currently works in the mining industry for De Beers Canada as a Field Geologist. He says: My Oxford degree helped me to develop the knowledge, understanding and confidence to approach geological problems in a critical and informed manner. I appreciate the course’s focus on both the theoretical and practical side of geology.

Rachael, who graduated in 2007, works for BP as a Geoscientist. She says: ‘I am currently working as an Operations Geologist in London for a project based in North Africa. My degree gave me the technical basis for my career, but more importantly it taught me how to think out complex issues from basic principles and to motivate myself to produce the best results I can.’

For more information about careers after Oxford, please see p 122 [Transcriber's Note: page number of the printed edition. End of note].

New Earth Sciences building

The new Earth Sciences building was officially opened on Thursday 5 May 2011, providing Oxford students with the best teaching spaces, specialist laboratories and communal spaces.

1st year


Students take all courses in five parallel streams:

  • Planet Earth

  • Fundamentals of geology I

  • Fundamentals of geology II

  • Physics, chemistry and biology for Earth Sciences

  • Mathematics for Materials and Earth Sciences

Field courses

  • Pembroke field course (pre-session)

  • Arran field course (introduction)

  • Local field courses


First University Examinations (Theory and Practical)

2nd year


Students take all courses in five parallel streams:

  • Palaeobiology

  • Petrology

  • Geochemistry and ocean chemistry

  • Mathematical and geophysical tools

Field courses

  • Dorset field course

  • Assynt field course (mapping)


Part A1 Examinations (2nd year, Theory and Practical)

3rd year


Students take a combination of core and optional papers from the following:

  • Natural resources

  • Sedimentary basins

  • The oceans

  • Palaeoclimate and sea level

  • Seismology and earth structure/ Continental deformation

  • Volcanoes and environment/Igneous processes and petrogenesis

  • Evolutionary turning points/Vertebrate palaeobiology

  • Earth materials, rock deformation and metamorphism

Field courses

  • South-east Spain field trip

Independent field mapping project (conducted over summer break between 2nd and 3rd years)

Extended essay


Part A2 Examinations (3rd year, Theory, Practical for Field course) BA Hons (Geology)

4th year


Students choose four options (out of eight to ten), generally two in each term:

  • Anatomy of a mountain belt

  • Planetary chemistry

  • Seismology

  • Records of major environmental change in

  • Earth’s history

  • Palaeobiology

  • Environmental, rock and palaeo-magnetism

  • Topics in oceanography

  • Topics in volcanology

Field courses

Optional field courses as announced each year

Independent work

Research project over 2.5 terms


Part B Examination (Theory) MEarthSc Hons (Earth Sciences)

Student statement

I just like the idea that you can have something that is several billion years old. To have even the slightest comprehension of that amount of time - I feel lucky. Naomi

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