Environmental Earth Sciences BSc (Hons)
2017 entry

Environmental Earth Sciences focuses principally on understanding the processes that influence Earth’s surface environments and how those are modified by both natural and anthropogenic processes. The programme addresses the main challenges facing society from climate change and the methods employed to better understand how the oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, and geosphere are interconnected and drive environmental change.

The degree utilises geology, chemistry, physics, and biology to understand Earth’s surface environment both past and present. Applied training includes hands-on experience with cutting-edge techniques central to field- and lab-based studies in environmental and geobiological sciences.

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the Earth Sciences MGeol degree, which allows you to graduate with a Master of Geology.

Applications for 2017 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

UCAS code


Course type

Bachelor of Science (single Honours degree)

Course duration

Four years full time

Entry requirements

SQA Highers

AAAB, including at least two sciences from the following:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Mathematics
  • Physics.
GCE A-Levels

AAB, including at least two sciences from the following:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Mathematics
  • Physics.
IB points

36, including HL6 in at least two sciences from the following:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computing Science or equivalent
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology.

Well-qualified school leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course. Find out more about direct entry to second year for Environmental Earth Sciences. 

For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject specific entrance requirements as outlined on their pages.

Find out more about international entry requirements.

Applications for 2017 entry for this course have now closed, see which courses are available for the upcoming academic year.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

Most students who enrol on this course have not studied Earth Sciences at school, and choose Earth Sciences based on a love of the environment, the outdoors, and science. If you are interested in the processes that shape the planet and its environment, a degree in Earth Sciences is likely the right choice. Preference may be given to candidates with strong science qualifications.

Faculty entry requirements

You must also meet the Faculty of Science minimum qualifications. These vary depending on which qualifications you hold.  

Other qualifications

Passes in other examinations at equivalent levels and subjects may be accepted by the Dean of the Faculty.

Find out more about Faculty of Science entry requirements.

Course information

The BSc (Hons) in Environmental Earth Sciences is a four-year course run by the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. During your degree, you will be able to take advantage of hands-on field and laboratory-based research projects that investigate topics as varied as the isotopic signals preserved in ancient rocks to recent sediments and what they record about conditions at the time of their formation, to the impact of volcanoes on climate.

In first year, you will be introduced to the main concepts of Geology, such as Earth structure and Earth history, including the origin of the planet and Earth’s biosphere.

In second year, modules provide additional and deeper study into mineralogy, sedimentary systems, palaeontology, geophysics and geochemistry.

At Honours level, there is a shift from broad-themed modules to more specialised ones that introduce students to a wide variety of exciting new research trends and findings. Modules involve the opportunity to get first-hand experience of new research discoveries and advances in Geology by staff in an integrated lecture-lab-field forum. Advanced topics available at Honours level include (but are not limited to) the study of global biogeochemical cycles, geochronology, sedimentary systems and isotope geochemistry.

The School is home to an array of state-of-the-art analytical facilities supported by full-time technicians. These allow for the detailed characterisation of natural and synthetic materials, culturing of micro and macro organisms in extreme environments, and geological and geophysical field deployment. These facilities enable addressing questions from fundamental field geology to assessing anthropological versus natural processes in driving climate change. Find out more about research facilities.

As you advance in your degree, you are given more flexibility to choose your focus of study, whether that be in geochemistry or global biogeochemical cycles. 


All students have the opportunity to obtain fieldwork skills via numerous day- to multi-week-long field trips associated with individual modules, as well as up to four weeks of fieldwork associated with their independent research projects.

Examples of field trips that are part of the BSc Environmental Earth Sciences degree include:

  • First year: the five-day “Highland Fling” to renowned geological sites in the Scottish Highlands.
  • Second year: six days of geological field mapping training in the Scottish Highlands.
  • Third year: six days in Rio Tinto investigating the geochemistry and geobiology of acid mine drainage in southern Spain.
  • Fourth year: a five-day West Coast cruise exploring oceanography, marine biology, and sedimentology on a research vessel on Scotland’s beautiful West Coast.

Well-qualified school leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course. Find out more about direct entry to second year for Environmental Earth Sciences.

It is possible for students to take a five-year Integrated Masters course in Earth Sciences, allowing you to graduate with a Master of Geology. Find out more about the Integrated Masters degree.

Find out more about studying Earth and Environmental Sciences at St Andrews


In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours) you will take the required modules in Environmental Earth Sciences alongside modules in at least one other subject.

Typically, you will take one to two Environmental Earth Sciences modules per semester during your first two years, and three to four during your third and fourth year (known as Honours). Find out more about the modular Scottish degree system.

Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their first year:

  • Planet Earth: provides a foundation into the study of Earth through a study of key elements of the planet and environmental sciences.
  • Earth Resources and Environment: builds on the understanding of planet Earth gained in the Planet Earth module, with an underlying theme of the Earth's resources and environment. 

Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their second year: 

  • Dynamic Earth: The Earth System: reflects an up-to-date approach to understanding of the behaviour of the solid Earth and its interaction with the atmosphere and biosphere and beyond.
  • Dynamic Earth: Magma, Minerals and Metamorphism: focuses on the geology and geochemistry of the solid Earth and high temperature processes in the Earth's interior.
  • Dynamic Earth: Earth Surface Processes: focuses on the low temperature processes that occur in the outer envelopes of the Earth, including land-atmosphere interactions, glacial processes, tectonic geomorphology, geomicrobiology and oceanography.

If you decide to take Earth and Environmental Sciences in your third and fourth years, you choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including modules in hydrology, geodynamics and geophysics.

Honours modules involve key skills training and the opportunity to get first-hand experience of new research discoveries and advances in Earth Sciences.

Here is a sample of Honours modules which have been offered in previous years:

  • Petroleum Exploration and Geophysics
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
  • Geochemistry
  • Processes and Product in Sedimentary Systems
  • Water in the Environment.

In your final year, you will undertake an independent research dissertation involving field and laboratory analyses and research presentations.  

The modules listed here are the compulsory modules that students must take in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. A full list of all modules currently available can be found in the module catalogue.


Teaching format

The School’s teaching philosophy is to provide a thorough understanding of Earth Sciences through experiential learning via field- and lab-based study, first-hand experience in collecting data, testing hypotheses and undertaking analyses, and student-led investigative research.

The BSc in Earth and Environmental Sciences is taught through a combination of:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • practical classes
  • field work
  • research projects. 

Each sub-honours module consists of four to five lectures (60 to 100 students) and one laboratory session per week, several single-day field excursions during each semester, and tutorial sessions (typically between four and six students).

At Honours level, students attend lectures (25 to 35 students) and continue to develop core skills in Earth Sciences through optional modules and your own research project. 


During first and second year, all modules are assessed by an equal weighting of coursework and written examinations including short questions and essays.

At Honours level some modules are assessed through coursework (50%) and a final examination (50%), and other modules are based entirely on coursework.

The Honours dissertation is assessed through a written dissertation, project proposal and presentation. 



Tuition fees for 2017 entry

Scotland and EU £1,820
Rest of the UK £9,250
Overseas £20,570

For overseas students, tuition fees will be fixed at this level for the duration of your programme.

More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page.

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation in 2017.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.

Funding for fieldwork

Fieldwork expenses for Environmental Earth Sciences students are subsidised by the School and the Irvine Bequest and contributions from alumni. There are financial awards at every level of study for students who have earned the highest marks in fieldwork.  

Find out more about undergraduate scholarships.

Your future


The School is proactive in developing career opportunities, and career activities are provided for all students from first year onwards. There is a wide variety of career options for Environmental Earth Sciences graduates in the energy, natural resources, and environmental sectors, as well as in wider science and policy areas. For some graduates, the course is a stepping stone to pursuing postgraduate education and research.

Several Honours-level modules feature lectures and laboratories run by industry professionals, providing hands-on experience with industrial problem solving. In addition, the BSc in Earth and Environmental Sciences is accredited by the Geological Society of London, which provides a faster track to chartered success

Recent employers of BSc Environmental Earth Science graduates include:

  • British Geological Survey
  • Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
  • Maersk Oil Ltd
  • BHP Billiton
  • Shell
  • Norsk Hydro
  • Neftex
  • Geotechnics Ltd.
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Balfour Beatty.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Study abroad

The University is delighted to offer undergraduates a number of exciting opportunities to apply to spend a semester or year abroad as part of a St Andrews degree programme. St Andrews is partnered with large and small institutions, ancient and young, across the globe. What unites all of our programmes is the quality of the academic provision, ensuring that participation in a St Andrews Study abroad programme opens the door to a new and valuable academic experience at another world-class institution. Study Abroad for credit is permitted on existing University-approved programmes only.

Student life

From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.

Students in the School may be interested in joining the Geology Society, which organises activities such as lectures and networking events as well as social events and field trips across Britain.

The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences is housed within the Irvine Building in the historical heart of the University between St Salvator's Quadrangle and St Salvator's Hall. Students will attend tutorials, seminars, lectures and individual meetings with tutors in this building and in designated lecturer theatres elsewhere on campus.

The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As the campus is located around town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh make it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland. Find out more about student life at the University of St Andrews.


School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of St Andrews
Irvine Building
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

Phone: +44 (0) 1334 46 3940
Email: earthsci@st-andrews.ac.uk

Earth and Environmental Sciences website