Module descriptions for Geography

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

  • Introduction to Human Geography (compulsory, single and combined hons) 
    What is Human Geography or, rather, what are Human Geographies? Can geography help us to understand the complex diversity of human identities and patterns of human activity? How are themes such as space and place, nature and culture involved? Does change in society and culture contribute to shaping the landscape or to creating spatial differences and inequalities? How can Human Geographers' approaches to contemporary problems and issues on the global and local scale offer insight into possible political positioning? These are some of the questions that are examined in this module.  

    Introduction to Environmental Geography (compulsory, single and combined hons)
    This module introduces students to selected themes and environments in environmental and physical geography, using climate change as a context. The module incorporates a disciplinary grounding in climate change science, and then examines other areas that are inherently linked with climate change in environmental and physical geography (including environmental processes and environmental management). For example topics may include some of the following: computer modelling, Earth surface processes, geomorphology, oceanography.

    Geography of the Oxford Region (compulsory, single and combined hons) 
    This module examines geographical aspects within the Oxford region. Each environment is introduced by a series of lectures, online study skill resources followed by field visits to the locality under investigation. Multidisciplinary in character, this module is designed to be appropriate and stimulating to both the physical and social approaches favoured within the geography field. The module’s study of selected local environments has a strong emphasis upon structured, interactive and self-paced field teaching material. 

    Concepts in Geography (compulsory single hons, recommended combined hons)
    What are the key concepts of geography? Rather than having one central organizing concept, geography has many. A number of concepts lie at the centre of the discipline; these include space, place, time and scale. The aim of this module is to help you to understand the use of these concepts within the discipline of geography, providing a foundation for geographical knowledge and practice.

    Deep History (recommended,single and combined hons)
    This module introduces students to the science of studying the human past. We will review the variety of tools used by researchers to analyse archaeological remains including fossil evidence, artefacts, ecofacts, and features. This module also explores the dynamic role of the environment in human behavioural patterning, post-depositional processes, and taphonomy.

    Environmental Sustainability (recommended single and combined hons)
    This module introduces you to the concept of sustainable development, and examines how issues of sustainability affect the UK's built and natural environment through arrangements for infrastructure and resource use. The emphasis is on the land use planning system as the main mechanism that can help deliver a more 'sustainable environment', where the environment is seen as extending beyond its physical components and including the quality of life, equity and distribution aspects.

    In implementing sustainability the focus is not just about the relationship of people to the environment (usually expressed as the impact of humans on their surroundings), but also about the relationship of people to each other. Resources and opportunities should be fairly distributed on a global scale between countries, and between the developing and the developed world. It also means that access and control over resources and opportunities concerning the environment should be equally available on a local scale to all people regardless of any other issue, such as age, gender, race or social class. Policies or restrictions should not unfairly disadvantage some people over others, either intentionally or unintentionally.  

    Combined honours students complete their first year programme with modules from their other subject. Single honours students complete their first year programme with up to two optional modules, usually from the Department of Social Sciences.  

    Geographical Enquiry and Field Research (compulsory single and combined hons) 
    This double module provides a grounding in geographical research methods, followed by an application of the resulting skills in designing and executing a field-based project. As such, it explicitly recognises the central importance of fieldwork to the discipline and offers skills that are vital to further geographical enquiry, notably when undertaking dissertations. The module requires attendance at a week-long residential field course, normally held at a location outside the United Kingdom.

    This module is designed to introduce the scientific background to biogeography and ecosystem research across a range of spatial and temporal scales. With a primary focus on terrestrial and freshwater environments, the module will explore species' distribution and ecosystem processes in response to past, current and future environmental changes. This module is heavily influenced by current global research developments. Where possible, topics for lectures and coursework will be based upon recent scientific publications, and the researcher-led case study lectures will be driven by on-going staff projects. Students electing to take this module will be introduced to key concepts and techniques in this varied and rapidly evolving field. Biogeography and ecology is a specialist area of physical geography, the study of which has crucial insights to offer regarding many current global challenges such as conservation, climate change and human impacts.

    Carbon Management and Technology: Addressing Climate Change
    Carbon management is central to tackling climate change. This module explores the many different dimensions to carbon management, from consideration of the context and motivation; identification, measurement and interpretation of key indicators of environmental change; energy systems, their efficiency and the adoption of renewable energy technologies; carbon reduction in key sectors (buildings and transport) and solutions (e.g., carbon capture and storage). Throughout, the approach takes an international perspective, which includes the role of human behaviours (e.g., individual vs collective responsibility, acceptance vs NIMBYism), politics and governance/leadership.

    Cities: Geographies of the urban experience
    This module examines the geographies of the world’s great cities from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, with a particular emphasis on cities in North America and Western Europe. Throughout, its focus is as much on urban society as on city form, regarding people and place as inseparable.

    Conservation and Heritage Management
    This module examines the evolution of heritage landscapes and their conservation and management through a study of the physical and human processes that have impacted upon them. The term ‘heritage’ is broadly interpreted. The module aims to help you understand the fundamental concepts, principles and theories of environmental conservation and heritage management in line with sustainable development. It also aims to help you recognise the roles of regulatory and advisory bodies and the policies, legislation and designations involved in the protection of sites. You will demonstrate an understanding of different ecosystems, their origins and the impact of human interactions in their development.

    Development and Social Change
    Why are some countries rich and others poor? Does development help or hinder growth? This module examines geographical approaches to international development. Typical issues covered include: history of development; political geography, colonialism and theories of development; development and international financial institutions; poverty, famine, and hunger; social development and participatory and community-based approaches; development as capacity building.

    Environmental Decision Making
    This module examines some of the theories that can be used to explain the way environmental decisions are made from both an individual and institutional perspective. The module explores a range of decision-making tools and approaches that are widely used within the context of environmental planning and management (e.g. Multi-Criteria Analysis; Strategic Environmental Assessment; Environmental Management Systems), along with the associated regulatory and policy framework that underpins them. In particular, the module examines the theory and practice of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the environmental decision making processes that are associated with major developments proposals such as power stations, wind farms, waste disposal facilities, and minerals extraction projects.

    Environmental Hazard Management
    This module examines the management of contemporary environmental processes, especially with reference to rapidly developing areas and hazardous events. It will also deal with the performance of different kinds of environmental management interventions under extreme conditions. The module's context is the ongoing ideological struggle between those environmental professionals who promote technological and those who promote ecological strategies in environmental management. Hence, it will analyse some key current debates in environmental management such as the relative efficacy of soft versus hard engineering, top-down versus bottom-up environmental regulation, technological control versus 'working with nature', sustainable versus self-sustainable development and specialist versus integrated management.

    Earth System
    The Gaia Hypothesis suggests that the global environment is regulated by the activity of the sum of its living organisms and functions as if it were itself a single living system. This module explores the scientific foundations and practical/ethical implications of examining the subjects of physical geography, especially biogeography and environmental science, from the perspectives of Gaia theory.

    Geoarchaeology uses analytical techniques, concepts, and field methodologies from the earth sciences to better understand the archaeological record. This module will introduce you to geoarchaeology focusing on fundamental concepts and techniques illustrated by case studies. The module will focus on the identification of sediments and soils, depositional environments, and dating techniques. Ancient human environmental impacts on the landscape will be explored along with the effects of abrupt climatic events on human societies in the archaeological record.

    Geographical Information Systems
    This module is concerned with concepts, components, and functions of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Students will develop a critical understanding of spatial data, including methods for data capture and spatial analysis within a GIS environment. The module involves extensive practical experience, including the creation and editing of digital maps and the incorporation of third party sources of spatial data. You will then have the opportunity to use these data for spatial analysis, modelling and decision support.

    Human Evolutionary Biology and Geography
    This module explores the development of human evolution over the last 2 million years from the biological, geographical and archaeological contexts. This module will consider the relationship between the various biological stages in human evolution, changes in society and behaviour as interpreted from the material record. Special emphasis will be given to developing an understanding of the role played by the palaeoenvironmental and palaeogeographical context of human evolution and behavioural change. Amongst the topics covered will be: human palaeobiology, palaeolithic material culture, early hominine diets, environmental change and reconstruction of palaeoenvironments, the development of Homo ergaster, human and Neanderthal populations in Europe, the emergence and spread of anatomically modern humans, development of language, and art and the rise of symbolic expression.

    Independent Study: Work and Community Related Learning
    This module aims to support your development in relation to your awareness and understanding of the world of work and future employability. The module will contribute to your development of graduate attributes and employability skills by requiring you to reflect critically on learning gained from activities in work, community related and extra-curricular settings. Specifically, the aims are that you will:  gain benefit personally and academically from experiences in the work and community context; engage in self-directed learning with appropriate academic supervision and structured reflection; reflect critically on and illustrate using specific examples the learning and personal development gained from work related or extra-curricular experience in relation to possible future professional roles 

    Political Geography: Place and Power
    This module offers an introduction to political geography and geopolitics, critically exploring the connections between place and power. The module will address both historical and ongoing debates on how to understand spatialities and materialities of political power. The module's aim is to facilitate critical interrogation of common assumptions about (geo)politics - highlighting not only the power of geography but also geographies of power. Throughout the module, ideas are explored in light of current events, stressing empirical relevance and real-world application of political geographical thought.

    Resource Management, Recycling and Contaminated Land
    An exploration of what is meant by the sustainable management of resources, the problem of waste and dealing with the legacy of contaminated land.


    Geography Dissertation (compulsory, single hons, optional for combined hons) 
    An individual investigation of an appropriate field-based, computer-based, laboratory-based or library-based topic which includes issues of concern to geographers.

    Arid Zone Environments
    This module develops an understanding of the nature and extent of arid environments and their interaction with the global climate system. Long-term and short-term variations in climate, the nature and extent of drylands, and the rates and types of processes operating in these environments will be explored. Human impacts on drylands (desertification, salinization, deforestation) and the impact that future climate change may have on arid systems will also be examined.

    Atmosphere and Climate
    This module will enable you to develop a broad understanding of atmospheric science, and how observational geographical research contributes to the global "big picture" of environmental change. The module will look at how investigation of the chemical and physical nature of the atmosphere ultimately leads to informing the climate change policy-making process.

    Cultural Geographies of Nature
    What is nature? How is nature produced socially in the west? This module in cultural and historical geography focuses on the social and cultural significance of 'nature' in an Anglo-American context. We examine socio-cultural theories and in-depth case studies across a range of topics (from gardens and allotments to animal and genes), using a wide range of media and sources and local field study to acquire an informed and critical understanding of the inter-connections between nature and society in Britain and North America.

    Dawn of Civilization
    For 3 million years, early humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers whose prosperity was wholly dependent upon the ebb and flow of the climate. Then, around 10,000 years ago, there was a behavioural revolution that set into motion a series of exponential changes in human technology, subsistence, and organisation. This avalanche of development began in the region known as the Fertile Crescent, which includes the eastern Mediterranean, northern Arabia, and Mesopotamia. This module spans human history from 10,000 until 1,000 BC. We will review archaeological data, geography, the environmental record, and mythology from the world's first civilizations to understand how, where, why, and when they arose. To what extent did climate change and geography affect cultural developments in the Near East?

    Digital Development Geographies
    This module aims to examine a topic of growing importance to geographers and critical scholars: the emergence of new geographies of development as driven by the so-called 'digital revolution'. Drawing on the latest research and digital technology applications, the module will examine the transformative effects of spatial media in shaping the processes of economic, social, environmental and political development in the Global South. The module will build on knowledge and skills developed in previous modules relating to development geography, concepts in geography and theories of development and social change. Lectures will critically address a number of key issues which include: Geographies of digital activism, technology and the visualisation of digital data, the role of the state in promoting/concealing digital development, 'big data' and privacy laws, critical perspectives of digital information control, the relationship between digital development and the media, and the developmental effects of digitally enabled communities. The module will also critically analyse the use of digital methods as a growing component of human geographers' research toolkits, including the emergence of 'Digital Story Maps' to visualize local and global issues and historical and/or current events. Assessment include an individual essay and culminates with a group written assignment and presentation on either: i) a digital prototype design as means to visualize a specific development geography topic; or ii) an analysis of digital communities on a specific development topic.

    Geographical issues are as aptly studied by direct experience as by classroom investigation. This module seeks to combine the benefits of both formal and non-formal geographical education. You’ll be encouraged to join a major field research project or expedition that has aims of significance to the welfare of the environment and/or society. Examples of suitable expeditions include many of those sponsored by the Royal Geographical Society, by the Departments of Oxford Brookes University, by United Nations affiliates or by independent Non-Governmental organisations such as Earthwatch.

    Future Cities
    The aim of this module is to examine the ideas and principles that have underpinned thinking about the prospective reconstruction and management of metropolitan cities from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day, followed by an analysis of the trends likely to shape urban geographies in the period up to the mid-21st century.

    Geography: Research and Practice
    This module offers the opportunity to use the data collected in its linked prerequisite module, Geographical Enquiry and Field Research (U21126) to prepare a report in the form, for example, of an article suitable for a journal of undergraduate geographical research. You’ll be encouraged to examine in depth the links between their own data and the wider and more conceptual literature in the field. This module invites you to take a major stride forward, becoming a creator of knowledge as an individual rather than primarily a consumer.

    Independent Study in Geography
    This module provides an opportunity to undertake a geographical study of your own choosing. You will select a piece of individual work on an appropriate topic or set of topics to be conducted under suitable supervision and strictly subject to the approval of the module leader. No further limitations are placed on the subject matter, or method of assessment.

    The Geographical Imagination (double)
    A synoptic module, available at the conclusion of the geographical programme at Brookes, that invites critical reflection on how well geographers understand the world, how they should behave toward it, and the values that could shape geographical knowledge in the future. It draws equally on human and environmental geographical interests and emphasises the pervasiveness and importance of values and ethics at all levels of geographical inquiry. 

    The Making of the American West
    This module explores of the shaping of the American West, myth and reality, since the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Adopting a cultural-historical perspective, it analyses the geographical narratives, ideologies and imaginaries that underpinned the histories of contact, the appropriation of Native American lands, processes of economic change, ecological transformation and environmental protection, and the forging of Western identities.