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Degree type


Course length

3 years full-time


Durham City

UCAS code


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Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level AAB
International Baccalaureate 36

Course details

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 degrees that focus on the broader climate problem: this course 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 degree acknowledges the breadth of the field of climate science by providing you with both the fundamentals and increased specialisation as you progress through the degree. Unlike other undergraduate courses that focus on a single aspect of climate science (e.g. meteorology), the Climate Science BSc course provides you with a solid background in diverse aspects of climate science that span geological time. The degree 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 you to choose a pathway through the degree of most interest to you. The degree is consistent with the relevant QAA Subject Benchmarking Statement criteria for Earth Science, Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies.

You 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 (L1) provides an introduction to Climate Change and sustainability, and serves to bring all students to a uniform minimum standard in knowledge. You 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 degree.

Level 2 (L2) 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 you the possibility of focusing 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, you will have the skills necessary to be able to undertake a research dissertation in Level 3, which may include some field or laboratory work.

In Level 3, 40 credits will consist of a dissertation module, which will consolidate your knowledge and research skills, and require considerable independence. The only other compulsory module is Earth System and Climate, which focuses on interpeting climate data. You can take optional modules to the value of 60 credits from a list of nine possible modules (including two 10 credit modules). You will learn about topics you 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. You can also take environmental geoscience modules, if these are of interest.

Year 1

Core modules:

  • Environment and Resources (GEOL)
  • Introduction to Climate Change (GEOG)

Examples of optional modules:

  • 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).

Examples of optional modules:

  • 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).

Examples of optional modules:

  • 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).


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


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.

Entry requirements

A level offerAAB

Including two science A levels from Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geology,Geography, Environmental Science Economics, and Biology or Psychology are required.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical ExtendedDiplomaDDD

IB Diploma score 36

With 665 in higher level subjects, including two science subjects from list above.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.
  • If you do not satisfy our general entry requirements, the Foundation Programme offers multidisciplinary degrees to prepare you for a range of specified degree courses.
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

Alternative qualifications

International students who do not meet direct entry requirements for this degree might have the option to complete an International Foundation Year.

English language requirements

Country specific information

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £9,250 per year
EU students £29,500 per year
Island students £9,250 per year
International students £29,500 per year

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).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

Earth Sciences

Of those students who graduated in 2019:

  • 81% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 100% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £27,000.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here

Department information

Earth Sciences

Earth science draws upon elements of physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and physical geography. You will look at climate change, the formation of the oceans, mass extinctions, the nature of rocks and minerals, and the structure and chemistry of the Earth. Earth science embraces the entire planet from the surface to the core, and also contributes to our understanding of other planets in our solar system and beyond.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 50 in QS World University Subject Rankings 2022
  • 4th in The Guardian University Guide 2022


For a current list of staff, please see the Earth Sciences Department web pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • Top 10 in the UK for research outputs (REF 2021)


The Earth Sciences building is laid out across three floors, providing focused spaces for research, support, teaching and specialised equipment.  Academic staff, PDRAs, and PhD students are located on Level 3, providing a mutually supportive research environment. Research support and administrative staff are accommodated on Level 2, which includes four large teaching and seminar spaces, whilst technical staff are housed on Level 1 where the main research equipment facilities are located in purpose-built laboratories.


Find out more:

Use the UCAS code below when applying:



The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) handles applications for all undergraduate courses.

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