Study here/Undergraduate studies/Available Subjects/
Geography

Approximately ninety undergraduates are admitted to read Geography at Oxford each year.

It is one of the biggest departments in the country, with the School of Geography and the Environment as one of four sister institutions within the Oxford University Centre for the Environment. The others are:

Academics from all the sister units are involved in teaching and research supervision of undergraduates. The OUCE building, in the University Science Area on South Parks Road, contains lecture rooms, laboratories, computing facilities and tutors’ offices, and is within a few a minutes’ walk of the Radcliffe Science Library and the Bodleian Library.

College and University Life

Jesus College normally admits 8 geographers annually. Students are admitted to read for a degree in Geography purely on the basis of their ability and potential. We were a pioneer Oxford college in awarding Scholarships and Exhibitions in Geography, and since that time over 60 years ago, the subject has retained a firm place in the College.

Undergraduates’ activities in Oxford are divided between University and College: in this respect Geography is like other subjects. Lectures, practicals and field classes are arranged by the University and attended by students from all the colleges. Similarly, examinations are set by the University. On the other hand, tutorials and discussion groups are organised by the College and attended only by Jesus College students.

Course structure

During their three-year course, undergraduates take two public examinations – the Preliminary Examination at the end of the first year and the Honour School at the end of the third year.

The Preliminary Examination consists of four papers (exams):

1. Earth System Processes (physical geography: Atmosphere, Biosphere, Lithosphere)
2. Human Geography (‘Space and Place’, ‘Networks and Mobilities’, and ‘Power and identity’)
3. Geographical Controversies (critical issues faced by modern geographers) (a) 1 examination (b) I practical folder
4. Geographical Techniques (research techniques in physical and human geography) (a) 1 examination (b) 1 fieldwork notebook

The Honour School is examined in one compulsory subject, two Foundational courses (from a choice of three) and three options (plus 3 extended submitted essays). Candidates also undertake a significant piece of independent research between their second and third years, leading to a geographical dissertation. Students also undertake a week’s fieldwork during the Easter Vacation of their second year: currently this is in either Berlin or Tenerife.

Compulsory course: Geographical Thought (1 Examination Paper & 1 fieldwork notebook)
Foundational Courses:
1. Earth System Dynamics (1 examination paper)
2. Environmental Geography (1 examination paper)
3. Space, Place and Society (1 examination paper)

Optional subjects are available to all students at all colleges in their second and third years. Applicants should consult the School website for details.

Teaching

Geography provides undergraduates with a varied course ranging in content from earth history, environmental problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss, global geopolitics, the future of global cities, aid and developmental issues, and in method from GIS and computational modelling to focus groups, questionnaires, philosophical discourse, and textual analysis.

Dissertation research has taken recent Jesus geographers to study topics, such as autonomous spaces for queer working class women in London; perceptions of home amongst hypermobile airline cabin staff; the Bodele depression and dust in the Sahara; sacred forests in Kenya; and the palaeo-ecological history of coastal swamps in Georgia.

College teaching is undertaken mostly in paired tutorials and college-based discussion groups. Oxford terms are short and intense – each is only eight weeks – so students are expected to do a good deal of vacation reading, thinking and writing. University lecture courses in Geography are numerous and varied, but emphasis is on the need for each student to learn for themselves.

Lectures and tutorials are supplemented by reading and discussion of written work with college teachers.

Joint Schools (Combinations of degree subjects)

There are no Joint Schools for Geography.

Prof Patricia Daley is the Helen Morag Fellow and Tutor in Geography, and a Professor in Human Geography of Africa at the School of Geography and the Environment. She teaches the human geography components of the course, including development geographies, geopolitics, economic globalization, African societies, and the philosophical and methodological underpinnings of the discipline of geography. Her research interests are in African politics and political ecology; political and gender-based violence, refugees, ethnicity, citizenship and sustainable peace.

Prof Richard Grenyer is a Fellow and Tutor in Geography, and an Associate Professor in Biodiversity and Biogeography at the School of Geography and the Environment. He teaches the physical aspects of the geography course, including ecology, geomorphology, remote sensing, statistics, biogeography, biodiversity conservation, and global environmental change. His research interests are in the role of space in macroevolution, and how to use mathematics and computing to make conservation more efficient and effective. He particularly works on mammals and plants.

We interview most, but not all applicants, to read Geography at Jesus. Decisions about whom to interview are made on the basis of information on applicants’ UCAS forms, past and predicted examination performance, and where available, contextualised GCSE data.

Academic requirements:

Offers made to candidates will be conditional upon A-level results (A*AA) or equivalent qualifications. The A* may be in any subject. It is highly recommended for candidates to have Geography to A-level, Advanced Higher or Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent. Statistical analysis has grown in importance in recent years, so Mathematics (at AS or A-level or equivalent) is a useful supporting subject: it is desirable, but not essential.

Written test:

All candidates must take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) in schools on 4 November 2021. The TSA is administered by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, and candidates will need to register by 15 October 2021. Further information about the TSA can be found here.

Written work:

Candidates are not required to submit written work as part of the admissions process.

Interviews:

Applicants receive two interviews: one in human and one in physical geography. We are looking for an ability to identify the key arguments and to express these clearly. No prior training in critical thinking is required for this exercise. In the interview applicants can expect to be questioned about the article. They may also be asked to comment on a variety of graphical, cartographic and tabulated data which are given to them during the interview, and may be asked questions arising from other aspects of their geography course.

Deferred Entry:

You must apply for deferred entry at the time of application to Oxford: you cannot change your mind after an offer has been made. You should be aware that any applicants who are offered places for deferred entry will generally be among the strongest of the cohort for their subject. We do not usually offer many deferred places per subject in order not to disadvantage the following year’s candidates. An applicant for deferred entry may be offered a place for non-deferred entry instead. If you require any further advice, please contact admissions.officer@jesus.ox.ac.uk.

Further information about Geography at Oxford can be found on the School of Geography and the Environment website here. 

Further details of the Oxford application process as applies to Geography can be found here.

The School of Geography and the Environment has one of the largest graduate and advanced study programmes in the UK. The following degrees are offered:

  • DPhil Geography and the Environment
  • MSc, MPhil Biodiversity, Conservation and Management
  • MSc, MPhil Environmental Change and Management
  • MSc, MPhil Nature, Society and Environmental Governance
  • MSc, MPhil Water Science, Policy and Management
  • 1+1 MBA at the Said Business School and any MSc above (2 years)

Numerical, research, laboratory and argument skills are developed by geographers and are much appreciated by a range of employers. Geography graduates go on to a very wide variety of careers. A number of graduating Jesus geographers continue with their subject as teachers, researchers or planners, but many go into business, the civil service and into professions, such as law or accountancy.