Environmental Sciences - September 2014 entry

BSc (Hons) - single

A-level: grades BBC or equivalent - preferred subjects include Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Environmental Sciences and Geography.
Clearing places for some of our courses may require grades of ABB or higher at A-level and certain equivalent qualifications. However, there may still be Clearing opportunities for applicants with different grades on other courses.
Accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences and a pathway accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

This course is run by the Department of Biological and Medical Sciences

In the last decade, environmental industries have experienced massive growth, creating exciting opportunities globally. From climate change to biodiversity preservation and environmental change, our graduates get involved in changing our world for the better by identifying, assessing and managing the impact of human activities on the environment.

This broad-based course explores the nature of natural environmental processes, the role of living things, and the impact and management of human activities. It provides an understanding of the science that explains how the world works, how environmental challenges arise, and how we can address them.


Why choose this course

  • There has never been a better time to study environmental sciences. The UK environmental industry has experienced massive growth, with over 400,000 people currently employed in 17,000 companies and an annual turnover of £25bn - roughly the same as the pharmaceuticals and aerospace sectors. Driven by tighter environmental regulation, increased development and scarce natural resources, this growth is set to continue. There are also international career opportunities, with rapid growth expected in world markets.
  • Our broad-based Environmental Sciences degree suits students with many different interests.  It also addresses the demands of the environmental sector by providing graduates with subject knowledge and transferable skills applicable to a variety of environmental job roles. From climate change to biodiversity preservation and environmental change, you can get involved in changing our world for the better.
  • We place a strong emphasis on laboratory and field work including residential courses in the Cévennes (in southern France) and Devon, enabling students to put skills into practice.
  • We have great links with regional environmental organisations, providing exciting work placement and career opportunities. For example, one of our students worked for ADAS, the UK’s largest independent provider of environmental consultancy, rural development services and policy advice.
  • Students have opportunities to work with our own research groups and external conservation organisations with whom we have very good working relationships. Some of these are linked with our Centre for Ecology, Environment and Conservation.
  • includes involvement in a real-life consultancy project with an external client.
  • In recognition of its quality the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES) accredits our degree, potentially enhancing your career prospects.
  • A pathway within the course is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). In order to receive this accreditation you need to take a particular set of modules. These are marked with * in the module lists under 'This course in detail', below.

This course in detail

The study of environmental sciences involves understanding the science that explains how the world works, how environmental challenges arise as a result of human activities (and sometimes natural processes) and how we can address them.

The subject matter is topical, absorbing and wide-ranging. Teaching is supported strongly by both practical work and fieldwork, enabling you to develop the field skills required by the sector. There are field courses in the Cévennes (southern France) and Devon, and an opportunity to gain real-life experience of environmental consultancy or other work experience.

This course is broad-based with an emphasis on the interdisciplinary nature of environmental sciences, so that environmental challenges (such as climate change, desertification, loss of biodiversity) may be understood and interpreted within the context of the underlying natural processes.

In Year 1, the core modules will introduce you to some of the earth's natural systems. In particular, you will learn about the diversity of living things, their relationships with the environment and their significance in terms of the cycling of substances on local and global scales. You will also cover human and environmental geography and environmental sustainability. There are also modules that give you a good science grounding and help you with the quantitative features of a science course.

A feature of your first year is a series of tutorials with your academic adviser (a member of the teaching staff who is responsible for overseeing your academic progress). The tutorials are designed to help you to adjust to academic life at university and establish good study habits.

Areas of particular interest that you can follow in Years 2 and 3 include wildlife conservation, animal behaviour, climate change, environmental management, geoarchaeology, ethics and threatened species.

Study modules

As courses are reviewed regularly, the module list you choose from may vary from that shown below.

Module titles marked with * in the lists below are those that need to be taken in order to benefit from accreditation by CIEEM (see 'Why choose this course?', above).

Year 1

Years 2 and 3

  • Advanced Topics in Wildlife Conservation*
  • Animal Behaviour*
  • Enterprise Skills for Life Scientists
  • Environmental Change: Field-Work and Research (double)*
  • Environmental Consultancy
  • Environmental Decision Making
  • Environmental Hazard Management
  • Environmental Processes, Pollution and Climate Change (double)*
  • Field Course: Surveys and Licensing*
  • Geoarchaelogy
  • Geographical Information Systems
  • Global Environmental Resource Policy
  • Independent Study in Life Sciences*
  • Plant Science*
  • Project (double)*
  • Research Methods for Biology and Environmental Sciences*
  • Science and Humanity*
  • Special Study in Life Sciences
  • The Ethical Geographer
  • Threatened Species*
  • Work Experience

Work placements

Our work experience module usually takes place during part of your summer vacation. It not only gives you a fantastic opportunity to gain some professional experience in an area of interest to you but also enables you to develop links with environmental organisations, which will enhance your career prospects.

Students have worked for ADAS, the UK’s largest independent provider of environmental consultancy, rural development services and policy advice and have opportunities to work with our research groups, including our Environmental Information Exchange and Pond Conservation.

There are also opportunities to gain real-life experience of environmental consultancy. For example, one of our students worked for Oxfordshire Highways looking at the effects of salt on roadside verges.

Field trips

There are fantastic opportunities to go on field trips for many of our courses, which reflects our emphasis on learning through actively applying theory in both practical classes and the field.

Field course: Identification and Methodology
Students will undertake a one-week trip to the Cévennes in the South of France. Cévennes is a most spectacular and diverse landscape that is rich in natural history. You will identify animals and plants in the field and apply a wide range of field techniques learned in the classroom.

Field course: Surveys and Licensing
Students visit a range of local environments to gain field techniques for assessing key habitat types and species for UK flora and fauna.

Environmental Change: Field Work and Research
Students go to South Devon for a week to investigate environmental change using experimental design and advanced data analysis.

Please note: your course tuition fee covers the cost of mandatory field trips. The cost of an optional field trip is not included in your course tuition fee, and a separate fee will apply. Please contact our Enquiry Centre (see right for details) if you would like more information about the field trip(s) on this course.

Study abroad

Great opportunities to study or work abroad

You may be able to go on a European or international study exchange while you are at Brookes. Most exchanges take place in the second year.

Studying abroad provides an amazing opportunity to add value to your studies by:
  • increasing your employability within an international market
  • boosting your language skills
  • building your confidence in adapting to new situations
  • improving your knowledge of different cultures.
While on exchange you will gain credits which count towards your degree.

We have more than 100 partner universities around the world. Funding is available through the Erasmus scheme, and also via some international programmes such as the Santander Student Awards.
There is also a European work placement programme which gives you the chance to work abroad as part of your studies.

For more information, visit our pages on studying abroad and exchanges.

Free language courses for students - the Open Module

Free language courses are available to full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students on many of our courses, and can be taken as a credit on some courses.

Please note that the free language courses are not available if you are:

  • studying at a Brookes partner college
  • studying on any of our teacher education courses or postgraduate education courses.

Teaching, learning and assessment

Teaching and learning

Over the course of your Environmental Sciences degree (three years if studying full-time), you will study a minimum of 24 modules: eight each year over two semesters. Most modules run for a single semester, though some are double modules that will normally run over a whole year.

The teaching methods used on a module are varied. Most will make use of lectures to provide a framework for your learning and for introducing more difficult concepts. Practical work and fieldwork are also key features of many modules, enhancing your learning and enabling you to develop the skills you need for a relevant career. Other teaching methods include seminar discussions, debates, one-to-one or small group tutorials and problem-solving workshops.

Approach to assessment

Assessment is designed to ensure that students progress towards meeting programme outcomes while experiencing diversity and balance in assessment practice within and between modules and equity in module workloads. We are committed to providing students with clear assessment criteria, and useful and timely feedback on all their work.

The assessment for most modules is based on your performance in coursework and examination. Assessment for some modules is entirely coursework based. Coursework assignments are diverse including essays, laboratory and field notebooks, work diaries, practical reports, seminar and poster presentations, webpage creation and problem-solving exercises. Where the assessment for a module includes an examination, this will be timetabled at the end of the module, allowing you to complete one module before beginning another.

Learning outcomes

A graduate of Environmental Sciences will be able to:

  • assess the roles of living things in the structure, functioning and interaction of natural systems
  • interpret symptoms and measurements of natural and man-made environmental change on different spatial and temporal scales, in terms of changes to natural systems and their interactions
  • categorise (in terms of their nature, causes, impacts and human solutions) recent and contemporary impacts of environmental pollution on different spatial and temporal scales
  • recommend survey, measurement, monitoring and data analysis techniques for the examination of biological communities and their components, or the investigation of a pollution issue, to meet given objectives
  • critically assess the effectiveness of ecological survey techniques as tools for use in biodiversity assessment, maintenance and enhancement.

How to apply / Entry requirements

Typical offers

A-level: grades BBC or equivalent - preferred subjects include Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Environmental Sciences and Geography.
Clearing places for some of our courses may require grades of ABB or higher at A-level and certain equivalent qualifications. However, there may still be Clearing opportunities for applicants with different grades on other courses.

IB Diploma: 30 points

Students studying more than one science subject may receive a lower offer.

We seek to admit students who have the potential to make good scientists and accept that qualifications are not the only indicator of future potential. Typical offers also include:

  • A-level grades BB plus 2 AS-levels grade C (equivalent to 280 UCAS tariff points). 
  • 1 12-unit vocational A-level grade BB plus 1 A-level or 2 AS-levels grade C
  • other recognised qualifications, eg BTEC Nationals or Scottish qualifications (equivalent to 280 UCAS points).

If your combination of qualifications doesn't match our typical offer, please contact our Admissions Tutor.

Specific entry requirements

GCSE: Mathematics, English Language and Double Integrated Science (or equivalent) at grade C minimum

You must have studied science post-16, either at A-level or equivalent. If you do not have a background in science, we encourage you to consider our Life Sciences foundation year, taught at Abingdon and Witney College. This allows you direct entry into Year 1 of many life sciences related BScs at Brookes including Environmental Sciences.

Please also see the University's general entry requirements.

English language requirements

Please see the University's standard English language requirements

International and EU applications

Preparation courses for EU students

We offer a range of courses to help students meet the academic and English language entry requirements for their courses and also familiarise them with university life.

Find out more about the international foundation pathways we offer and our pre-sessional English language courses.

Country specific entry requirements

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information and local representatives who can help you to apply, please have a look at our country specific information pages.

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the University's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

How to apply

Full-time students should apply for this course through UCAS.

 Part-time students should apply directly to the university.

Conditions of acceptance

When you accept our offer, you agree to the conditions of acceptance. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

Credit transfer

Oxford Brookes operates the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). All undergraduate single modules are equivalent to 7.5 ECTS credits and double modules to 15 ECTS credits. More about ECTS credits.

Student experience

Why Oxford is a great place to study this course

As a student in Oxford you'll be at the heart of the UK's most successful economic region and in a centre for leading industries, providing  you with a host of learning opportunities. Students also benefit from our strong links with local organisations such as NERC's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Oxford is surrounded by over 100 Sites of Special Scientific Interest including Otmoor, Wytham Woods and Cothill Fen to name a few. Easy access to these sites provide excellent opportunities for fieldwork and we endeavour to make the most of the opportunities provided by our local environment.

Because Oxford is one of the world's great academic cities, it is a key centre of debate, with conferences, seminars and forums taking place across education, science, the arts and many other subjects.

In addition to our own excellent libraries and resource centres, our students have access to the world-renowned Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Science Library and can gain free entry to the Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum.

Support for students studying Environmental Sciences

Our Personal and Academic Support System (PASS) is gaining national and international recognition for its proactive approach to personal tutoring. It recognises that students need to make various adjustments as they move into higher education, whether from school or employment. The system encompasses three elements:

  • a structured group tutorial programme
  • an academic adviser who will help you to plan your degree programme and future career
  • interaction with other students on your course.

The first stage includes regular seminars covering a wide range of subjects including research skills, understanding assessment criteria and making the most of coursework feedback. Our programme also helps students adjust to university life by developing their transferable skills.

Secondly, our academic staff monitor your progress regularly to check that you are maximising your potential. If you experience academic difficulties we can arrange for you to receive academic mentoring support.

Thirdly, if you are faced with challenges that affect your ability to study, such as illness, bereavement, depression, financial difficulties or accommodation issues, we will work with you in finding a way forward. Please talk to your academic adviser or our student support team. Oxford Brookes also offers a range of excellent services to support you.

Specialist facilities

The department has a range of specially-designed facilities for students studying biology and environmental science related subjects. For example, the developmental biology area boasts both a butterfly lab and a laboratory dedicated to one of the most studied organisms in developmental biology, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Furthermore, we have a number of environmentally-controlled rooms and cabinets.

Alongside a range of microscopes enabling study of specimens from the organism to the cell level, the department also has a vast array of equipment for fieldwork and laboratory-based research at its disposal. From mass and atomic absorption spectrometers to bat detectors, moth traps and pond nets, you will get hands-on with chemical analyses and ecological surveys.

General support services

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Personal support services

We want your time at Brookes to be as enjoyable and successful as possible. That's why we provide all the facilities you need to be relaxed, happy and healthy throughout your studies.

After graduation

Professional accreditation

Our Environmental Sciences degree has been accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES), the professional body for environmental scientists. Accreditation means professional recognition, which could enhance your career prospects once you graduate.

As a student on an accredited course, you automatically become a student member of the IES, and are entitled to use the post-nominal StMIEnvSc. Benefits include access to the members' area of the IES careers website, and regular contact with the environmental sciences community through the IES newsletter. On graduation you become eligible to apply for associate membership, which is your route to full membership and Chartered Environmentalist status as your career develops.

A pathway within the course is accredited by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM). In order to receive CIEEM accreditation, you need to ensure that particular modules are included in your programme. These are marked with * in the module lists: see 'This course in detail', above.

Career prospects

The rapid growth of the UK and international environmental industry has created a wealth of diverse, rewarding and well-paid employment opportunities for our graduates. A recent woodland officer post for the Forestry Commission England starts at £24k, for example. Our students have a very good record of gaining employment relevant to their degree subject with employers valuing the knowledge and transferable skills gained from our degrees.

A large majority of our graduates are employed by environmental consultancies such as the locally-based but globally-operating RPS Group plc. Others have joined the Environment Agency, the Met Office, the Soil Association, local authorities, and governmental and non-governmental conservation organisations such as DEFRA, Natural England, the RSPB and other wildlife trusts. There are additional opportunities in environmental research organisations, including charities, as well as in business and industry.

Some of our graduates go on to further study while others go into teaching. Some choose not to pursue their subject specialism but use their degree to gain degree-level employment in a wide range of contexts including management, journalism and the media, finance and other areas of commerce, law, computing and the leisure industry.

Further study

Some of our graduates go on to further study at postgraduate level, for example our MSc degree in Conservation Ecology