Environmental Science by Research

MSc ( 1 year Full-time / 2 years Part-time )


Mountains in New Zealand

Both natural environments and those heavily influenced and altered by human activities are ever-changing. This programme allows you to explore the unique specialisms within our physical geography and environmental science research team, and to work closely on a specialist topic with an expert in your chosen field of interest. The support available is on a one-to-one basis and culminates in a substantial MSc dissertation. This can take the form of a traditional monograph, a research report or two draft manuscripts intended for publication in an international, peer-reviewed journal. This programme is ideal for those looking to continue on to PhD research or to work independently, for example, as a consultant.

Which topics can I study?

Projects available from our Earth Surface Science specialists can change every year and a list of research topics is available here. Recent topics have included:

  • environmental impact of historical landfill
  • lateral moraine formation
  • analysis of glaciotectonic structures
  • assessment of rare species
  • analysis of braided river channel networks

This programme:

  • places you with one or more internationally acknowledged experts in physical geography or environmental science, with superb research and analytical facilities that ensure a top-quality research environment 
  • offers you the opportunity to work with partner organisations, providing insight into their structure and operation
  • combines a smaller taught element that will provide you with key research methodology, skills, approaches and debates relevant to your field of study, along with a substantial element of independent work to focus on a specific area of research
  • provides you with a range of transferable skills suitable for further research and employment, including analytical field and laboratory skills, data modelling, statistical analysis, project management and critical evaluation of information.

Become part of QMUL Geography

  • Professional and friendly environment: We are recognised as an international centre for excellence in teaching and research. Our work is at the forefront of geography, shaping debates and providing significant new insight and understanding. We are also known for our friendly and welcoming ethos and are home to many leading physical geography and environmental science scholars. Joining the School of Geography places you alongside academics that are actively developing and challenging contemporary thinking in their field. 
  • Research excellence: Almost 80 per cent of the School’s research outputs (books and articles) are rated as world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) placing it 5th in the UK for this measure. Our scores increased across all areas in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) and we were ranked joint 11th for geography in the UK overall. We are also proud to feature in the top 100 geography departments in the world (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2018).
  • Employability: 94% of respondents from our postgraduates were in work or further study six month after graduation; 91% at graduate level (DLHE 2015).
  • Capital location: We're a School that cares about the world beyond the university, working with a range of community groups, artists, cultural and heritage institutions and policy makers, particularly here in east London. Our passion is to demonstrate through research and teaching the intellectual and political significance of geographical research and understanding. We encourage our students to become part of this vibrant intellectual culture.
  • Networks: You will develop knowledge and understanding relevant to employment in organisations such as Environment Agency, Defra, Natural England, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, British Geological Survey and environmental consultancies.


  • Walter Oldershaw Award: eight awards (£3,000 each) are available across all masters degrees offered by the School of Geography
  • Queen Mary Alumni Loyalty Award: all graduates of QMUL are awarded a £1,000 bursary 
  • Postgraduate Loans Scheme: eligible students are able to borrow loans up to £10,000 
  • Read more about these opportunities on the funding a masters page


  • Weekly research seminars: As a postgraduate student you will be invited to weekly research seminars as well as several research frameworks sessions with top-level academic researchers.
  • Dedicated working space: QMUL's new Graduate Centre, opened in 2017, provides excellent teaching and learning spaces for all postgraduate students, including a 200-seat lecture theatre, study spaces, seminar rooms, an open-plan study area, landscaped courtyard and a cafe. Additionally, postgraduate students have desk and computing space in dedicated offices within the School of Geography and access to facilities for specialist statistical and Geographical Information System (GIS) analyses, desktop publishing and the processing of video and electronic images.  
  • Facilities: There is a wide range of field equipment including state-of-the-art lab facilities for the analysis of environmental samples, a micromorphology and micropalaeontology suite, a luminescence dating laboratory, and a River Lab which features two experimental flumes and advanced geospatial survey technology for studying river processes.
  • University of London network: QMUL is a part of the University of London, so our students have access to the facilities, learning resources and libraries across the group's institutions. You can also use the first-rate resources of other libraries with London collections (e.g. the British Library).

Ask us a question

* Fieldwork costs are additional to tuition fees. In 2016/17, the cost of field trips on this degree programme were approximately £550. Other bespoke locations vary in price.


The programme is made up of 180 credits. For full details on our modules please go to the online module directory

Core module:

  • Independent Research Project (120 credits)

Compulsory modules:

  • Environmental Data Acquisition and Analysis (15 credits)
  • Environmental Science Research and Practice (15 credits)
  • Project-specific Research Training (15 credits)

Option modules:

  • Biogeosciences and Ecosystem Services (15 credits)
  • Desk Study (15 credits)
  • Environmental Pollution (15 credits)
  • Flood Risk Management and Modelling (15 credits)
  • Physical Modelling of Fluvial Processes (15 credits)
  • River Assessment and Restoration (15 credits)


Ask us a question

Entry requirements

An upper second class honours degree or higher in a relevant subject from a UK university (or an equivalent international qualification) together one supportive academic reference is usually required. It is not a requirement to have previously studied geography and we encourage applications from students from a natural and environmental sciences background. Applicants must specify a topic from our  list of research topics that they wish to investigate and include a research proposal with their application.

Candidates are expected to have good English language ability and to meet our minimum English language requirements. If you do not meet language requirements, it might be possible for you to undertake foundation or pre-sessional programmes that will prepare you for the masters programme.

For more information, please contact the Admissions Office on +44 (0)20 7882 5533 or email admissions@qmul.ac.uk.

For detailed country-specific entry requirements, please visit the international section of our website.

Learning and teaching

As a student at Queen Mary, you will play an active part in your acquisition of skills and knowledge. We take pride in the close and friendly working relationship we have with our students. You are assigned an Academic Adviser who will guide you in both academic and pastoral matters throughout your time at Queen Mary.

Independent Study

For every hour spent in formal classes you will be expected to complete further hours of independent study. Your individual study time could be spent preparing for, or following up on formal study sessions; reading; producing written work and completing projects.

The direction of your individual study will be guided by the formal study sessions you attend, along with your reading lists and assignments. However, we expect you to demonstrate an active role in your own learning by reading widely and expanding your own knowledge, understanding and critical ability.

Independent study will foster in you the ability to identify your own learning needs and determine which areas you need to focus on to become proficient in your subject area. This is an important transferable skill and will help to prepare you for the transition to working life.


All modules are assessed through coursework, including essay writing, report writing, and presentations.


The Independent Research project which is a key component of this programme is assessed by 100% dissertation. The project may involve working with a partner organisation and it may therefore have an applied focus or contribute to the work of that organisation.


Tuition fees for Home and EU students

2020/21 Academic Year

Full time £9,950
Part time £5,000

Tuition fees for International students

2020/21 Academic Year

Full time £20,850
Part time £10,450

Part time fees are charged per annum over two years for a two year programme and per annum over three years for a three year programme. A percentage increase may be applied to the fees in years two and three.

This increase is defined each year and published on the intranet and in the Tuition Fee Regulations. A 3% increase was applied to the unregulated university fees in 2019/20. Further information can be viewed on our University Fees webpage, including details about annual increases.


There are a number of sources of funding available for Masters students.

These include a significant package of competitive Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) bursaries and scholarships in a range of subject areas, as well as external sources of funding.

Queen Mary bursaries and scholarships

We offer a range of bursaries and scholarships for Masters students including competitive scholarships, bursaries and awards, some of which are for applicants studying specific subjects.

Find out more about QMUL bursaries and scholarships.

Alternative sources of funding

Home/EU students can apply for a range of other funding, such as Professional and Career Development Loans, and Employer Sponsorship, depending on their circumstances and the specific programme of study.

Overseas students may be eligible to apply for a range of external scholarships and we also provide information about relevant funding providers in your home country on our country web pages.

Download our Postgraduate Funding Guide for detailed information about postgraduate funding options for Home/EU students.

Read more about alternative sources of funding for Home/EU students and for Overseas students.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 5079
email bursaries@qmul.ac.uk

Other financial help on offer at Queen Mary

We offer one to one specialist support on all financial and welfare issues through our Advice and Counselling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.

Our Advice and Counselling Service also has lots of Student Advice Guides on all aspects of finance including:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8717

Graduate employment

This programme will equip students with a range of transferable skills and attributes sought by diverse graduate employers. In addition, the programme will provide students with knowledge and understanding relevant to employment in organisations such as Environment Agency, Defra, Natural England, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, British Geological Survey and environmental consultancies. The opportunity to develop links with partner organisations as part of the research project will create work experience opportunities and provide insights into the structure and operation of these organisations.


Joshua Leigh, class of 2016

Joshua Leigh

"What I enjoyed most about my MSc is the freedom of exploration that I got from doing my own research and the fact that I could plan and conduct fieldwork where I wanted to.

"The facilities at QMUL are great, the library always has what you need and having our own computer room for masters student means I never struggled to access a PC.

"As I have also completed my undergraduate degree here, I managed to experience the great fieldwork opportunities the School has to offer - working in New Zealand was phenomenal! Having a masters degree from a London university should really help me stand out from the crowd, especially given QMUL’s great reputation."

Lucy Diggens, class of 2013

Lucy Diggens

"I studied my undergraduate course in the School of Geography and this focused my interest and developed my knowledge of glaciers and sub-glacial processes. I really enjoyed being in the department and knew it had great laboratory facilities to help me specialise further at postgraduate level.

"My MSc gave me the chance to learn how to use scanning equipment such as a tomograph in the Centre for Micromorphology. I'm now directly applying these x-ray computer tomography skills in the work that I am doing on a project analysing sediment samples from Poland in order to increase our understanding of the formation of mega-scale glacial lineations.

"I'm hoping to use these skills to either work as a research technician, or apply for a PhD. QMUL has helped by providing access to these facilities, which are not widely available in universities."

Michelle Morris, class of 2008

Michelle Morris, MSc Environmental Science by Research, Queen Mary University of London

"While completing my BSc Geography degree at Queen Mary I went on a fieldtrip to the Florida Everglades. My coursework involved looking at management techniques within the UK and, specifically, managed realignment. This was a topic that really interested me and so I spoke to one of the lecturers in the School about investigating this further at MSc level. The way the programme is structured meant I could take this specialism in a direction of my own choosing too, which was great. I also knew that having a postgraduate qualification to enter the jobs market in the environmental sector would be very beneficial and help me stand out from the crowd.

"After completing my MSc I worked as a laboratory manager - a position I definitely wouldn't have got if I didn't have an MSc. I then applied for a PhD, again, something that definitely required masters level study.

"Doing an MSc is great if you know you would like to stay in environmental science but have not yet pinned down exactly what you want to do. It gives you a year to explore different options and decide what areas really interest you, and at the same time you are learning new skills to add to the CV."


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