Geography

To learn more about geography at Keble, please visit our dedicated webpage and blog.

Undergraduate Geography at Oxford covers the breadth and depth of the subject across human, environmental and physical interests; you will learn about interactions between people and their environments in every continent of the world. It is the ideal subject for those who want to address the contemporary challenges of climate change and economic globalisation, to compare the impacts of urbanisation and the information revolution on diverse cultures and places, and to better understand political and ecological conflicts in both the developed and the developing world. The first year of the course provides an overview of current debates within all areas of academic geography, whilst the second and third years allow students to specialise within particular sub-fields. At this stage students also benefit from the opportunity to undertake an independent, original geographical research project of their own, to be written up in the form of a dissertation. Throughout the course, there are significant opportunities to undertake field-based study, both in the UK and overseas.

Geography provides for the development of a range of skills in high demand from employers. These include writing reports, presenting, interpreting and analysing data, and understanding and applying computer methods, including geographical information systems (GIS) and mapping. Such skills are developed through lectures, seminars, tutorial and practical sessions, and via the preparation of essays, as well as the dissertation. In all areas, the ability to critically analyse and articulate coherent arguments is of paramount importance. Many recent geography graduates have taken up positions in management consultancy, chartered accountancy, financial services, and law or marketing, but there is also an increasing trend towards the pursuit of further study through masters or doctoral programmes in geography, environmental science and vocational courses.

Advantages of Keble

Geography is a thriving subject at Keble and Keble is one of the top colleges for the subject in Oxford. The college’s tutorial team is committed and enthusiastic, keeping abreast of current developments in the field and helping students to draw innovative links with real world events. All of our tutors strive to promote academic excellence; Professor Richard Washington received a prestigious teaching excellence award from the University, Beth Greenhough joined in 2014 and the College has also welcomed Professor Sarah Whatmore – recently head of the University’s School of Geography and Environment (SOGE) - into its fold.

With an annual intake of around eight Geography students, Keble is a focal point for undergraduate geographers in Oxford. Beyond ensuring that there is a real sense of community among geographers within the college, such large cohorts also attract valuable additional resources in the form of field trips, extra tutors, entertainment allowances and extensive library material. As a result, while Keble geographers are a down-to-earth, social bunch, they also perform well in University Examinations, and have achieved some of the college’s top firsts across all subjects in recent years.

Keble’s central location means that it is a mere two-minute walk from the School of Geography. The Radcliffe Science Library (where the Geography department’s books are kept) is also directly across the road, whilst the University’s Bodleian Library is only five minutes away on foot. Closer to home, Keble’s Library is well stocked with geography texts and DVDs, and the college has plentiful resources to order in new books as required. Computing provision is also excellent; students can readily access email, academic articles and online bibliographic information from their rooms.

Keble Geographers maintain an active Facebook page and a blog. These will give you a sense of the frequent interactions that the college’s tutors and students enjoy beyond regular tutorial teaching. Recently, for example, students have accompanied tutors to a Parliamentary Seminar at the House of Commons in London, and on a trip to BMW’s MINI manufacturing plant in nearby Cowley. Keble’s geographers have also conducted their own independent fieldwork in places as far-flung as China, Tanzania, Mauritania, Indonesia and Malawi, often on the basis of successful applications for much sought-after Keble Association travel grants. For more information, including an account of a typical week in the life of a Keble geographer, and guidelines for what to expect in an admissions interview, you might like to visit a detailed web page set up by recent graduates.

Scholarly achievement is encouraged by academic prizes. As well as a prize for best performance in Prelims, there are two awards named for a former tutor, Gordon Smith: one is for best performance in the second year and the other is for excellence in dissertation research.

Course structure

The Oxford Geography course is split into Preliminary (first year) and Final Honours School (second and third year) components. The Preliminary syllabus leads to an examination in the Trinity (third) term and covers earth system processes (physical geography), human geography, geographical techniques, and geographical controversies.  Trips are held in the local region to help students put their learning into practice through hands-on fieldwork. There is a residential field course early in Michaelmas term to enable first-years to get to know one another better.

The Final Honours School syllabus runs over both the second and third years of the degree, and recognises that geography is increasingly differentiated into human, environmental, and physical components. Students choose two out of three ‘core’ or ‘foundation’ papers - Space, Place and Society, Environmental Geography and Earth System Dynamics. In addition, everyone undertakes a core ‘Geographical Research’ paper, which focuses on the development of higher-level research skills. All of these core papers are taught within college, by Keble tutors. Alongside these courses, the Final Honours School syllabus also requires students to study three ‘option’ subjects, and here far greater specialisation is permitted. Current options, for instance, include subjects as diverse as ‘climate change and variability’, ‘geographies of finance’, geopolitics in the margins’, ‘desert landscapes and dynamics’, 'biogeography, biodiversity and conservation', ‘African societies’, and ‘European integration’. A residential fieldtrip also runs during the Final Honours School. The venues for these vary from year to year, but in 2016-2017 students in their second year travelled either to Copenhagen or to Tenerife for a week.

Finally, in addition to all of the above, the Final Honours School also comprises a dissertation. This component of the course enables students to undertake their own independent, original research, based on primary data collection, and can involve the exploration of any aspect of geography. Often students’ dissertation fieldwork involves travelling abroad during the long vacation between their second and third years. Projects previously undertaken by Keble’s students have addressed topics as diverse as climate change models, the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism, education-gender disparities in Kenya, and slope failure in Wales. You can read more about many of our students’ dissertation projects here.

Oxford’s Geography course therefore allows for considerable specialisation, if you should feel inclined to focus on a particular area of the subject. At present it would be possible, for example, to choose a set of core papers, option papers and a dissertation that provides a high degree of focus on the global climate and climate change. The Earth Systems Dynamics course examines long-term climate change over the last two million years, evidence of observed climate change from the last 150 years, global climate models and the way they have been used to make the link between greenhouse gas emissions today and projected future climate scenarios. The Environmental Geography foundation course covers components of climate change policy and governance that are currently being debated at a range of scales. For your options you might choose ‘climate change and variability’ as well as ‘climate change impacts’, and as part of the ‘Geographical Research’ core course, you could be taught to write computer code in order to analyse climate data.. Finally, your dissertation could then see you getting involved in an on-going fieldwork programme being undertaken by one of Keble’s tutors (for example http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/research/climate/projects/do4models.html), or in the analysis of climate modelling data. The global climate is just one possible stream of specialism, though!

The degree course and teaching at Keble is summarised in the table below:

Year

Courses

Compulsory?

Tutorials in Keble?

1 (Prelims)

‘Earth System Processes’, ‘Human Geography’, ‘Geographical Techniques’ and ‘Geographical Controversies’

Yes - all

Yes - all

2&3 (Finals)

‘Earth System Dynamics’, ‘Space, Place, Society’ and ‘Environmental Geography’

Choose two from three of these ‘foundation’ papers

Yes - all

2&3 (Finals)

Geographical Research

Yes

Yes - all

2&3 (Finals)

Dissertation

Yes

Yes (plus specialist supervisor, either within or outside of college)

2&3 (Finals)

‘Option’ Papers

Choose three from many (14 available in 2012-2013)

Varies according to expertise required

Typical pattern of teaching

Like many subjects in Oxford, the Geography degree is taught by both the University and the Colleges. Lectures, practical classes and field courses are organised by the  University  in the School of Geography and the Environment and are attended by students from all colleges.  Keble students are expected to attend all such courses in their first year and, subsequently, to attend all those appropriate for foundation courses and chosen options. For foundation papers, weekly tutorials, held in groups of two or three, are organised within the college. For option papers, similar tutorials are instead run by specialists from within the School of Geography, chosen according to their expertise (usually these are drawn from other Colleges, but not always). Seminar presentations given by students to their peers augment the college teaching programme, and act as a focus for the development of practical and transferable skills. Examinations are run by the University, but at the start of each term, Keble students also sit College Examinations as part of robust preparations for Final Examinations.

Qualities sought for entry

The usual conditional offer for those taking A2s is A*AA, including at least an A in Geography, although we do consider students who have not yet studied Geography. Other qualifications are welcome, such as International Baccalaureate (for which the requirement is 39 with 766 at HL) and Scottish Highers. Subject combinations can be diverse and may comprise the arts, sciences or a mixture. Students are selected on the basis of academic merit and potential alone.

Admissions criteria and procedures are determined by the department, not the College. You are advised to check the department’s website nearer the time of application. Note also that applicants will be required to take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) as part of the admissions process.

For further information see the Geography page of the Oxford Undergraduate Prospectus.

geography

Approximate yearly intake Keble: 8
Department: 82
Department Website School of Geography

Enquiries

Via the College Office.

Tutors

Prof Richard Washington, (Tutorial Fellow) teaches physical geography and techniques. His main interests are climate variability and change.

Dr Beth Greenhough (Tutorial Fellow) teaches human and environmental geography. Her main interests concern biomedical research

Professor Sarah Whatmore (Professorial Fellow) is a cultural geographer with interests in environment, science and democracy.

Dr Fiona Ferbrache (Senior College Lecturer) is Senior Visiting Researcher at the Transport Studies Unit of the School of Geography and Environment: she teaches human geography.

Postgraduates, of which there are several in Geography at Keble, also provide advice and support in their research fields.