Geography

What makes the Cambridge Geography course so special?

In recent years, the Department of Geography at Cambridge has consistently been at or near the top of the list of best places to study Geography in the UK according to the Guardian University Guide. First year students have an introduction to all aspects of the subject (human, physical, skills and methods), and thereafter individuals can choose whether to stay wide-ranging or specialise over the remaining two years of the degree. You will be taught by many leading geographers in their field, in lectures, supervisions, laboratories and in the field. Geographers are consistently amongst the highest employable students in external rankings; and can go into a huge range of occupations, from the civil service, media, NGOs, accountancy and consultancy, environmental services, urban planning, teaching, and much more besides. Geography is a great degree if you want to know more about the world, make it a better place, and set yourself up for a challenging, interesting and valuable career. 

Why choose Newnham for Geography?

Newnham admits four to eight students a year, which means it has a sizeable and dynamic community of Geographers. It has an excellent reputation in Geography, and Newnham students achieve very good results. The subject is well supported in the College: there are several funds reserved for Geography fieldwork, and a large collection of Geography books in the College library. Newnham has a strong teaching community in Geography (see below), so students can always find someone with whom they can discuss their ideas and interests. There is also a student-run Geography society (the Lucy Adrian Geography Society) which organises talks and social events for the Newnham Geography community. 

How many students take Geography at Newnham and what options can they choose?

Newnham usually admits four to eight Geography students a year. 

In the first year, all students take the same two major courses in Human Geography (covering Geopolitics and Political Geography; The Historical Geography of Globalisation; Understanding Cultural Geographies; Society, Environment and Sustainable Development; Unequal Geographies; Economic Globalisation and its Crises; Contemporary Urban Geographies; and Current Issues in Human Geography) and Physical Geography (covering The Earth; The Cryosphere; Atmospheric Processes and Climate; Oceans and Coasts; Environmental Change during the Quaternary; and Life on Earth). There is also a course in Geographical Skills and Methods. 

In the second year, greater choice is possible, in combination with a core course that all students take. The core course examines issues that are central to Geographical analysis and study, including cultures of risk, environmental hazards, and creating geographical knowledge. Students then choose three options from a choice of six Human and Physical Geography papers. In 2020-21 the option papers were: Austerity; Development Theories, Policies and Practices; Citizenship, Cities, and Civil Society; Quaternary Climates and Environment; Glacial Processes; and Biogeography.

In the final year there is a completely free choice, taking four papers from a list of twelve Physical and Human Geography papers. To give you an idea of the variety of courses in this year, the papers run in 2020-21 were:  The Geographies of work and employment; Geographies of the Arctic; Political Ecology in the Global South; Demographic Continuity and Change; Political Appetites: Geographies of Food and Power; Geographies of Postcolonialism and Decoloniality; Legal Geographies; From Earth Observations to the Climate System; Glaciology; Volcanology; Life within Limits: Science for climate and ecological futures; and Biogeography: Biological Processes and Environmental Change

There is a certain amount of assessed coursework that the student must carry out during the three years. In the second year, students carry out a project based on a one-week field visit overseas. In the last few years, Mallorca, Berlin, Morocco, Ireland and Portugal have been the destinations of these field trips. In the summer between the second and third year, all students carry out research (in the UK or abroad) which forms the basis of a dissertation that contributes to the final exam results at the end of the third year. The Department is exploring alternative fieldwork sites/alternatives to fieldwork, depending on the coronavirus situation.  

How will I be taught at Newnham?

All students from all Colleges attend lectures in the Department of Geography. Field classes and practical classes are also organised through the Department. Supervisions are organised by the College. Supervisions normally consist of two or more undergraduates meeting with a lecturer for discussion on topics arising from lecture courses, and students will usually complete an essay for the supervision. Geographers generally have two or three supervisions a fortnight. In the first year at Newnham most supervisions will be with other Newnham students, but thereafter undergraduates of different Colleges are often supervised together according to their interests. 

Can you tell me more about the Newnham Geography Fellows?

For information on the current teaching staff and Fellows for Geography, please visit our teaching webpages.

What jobs do Newnham Geography students go on to do?

Geographers have excellent job prospects and enter into a wide variety of occupations – indeed, across the UK, a Geography degree has one of the best conversion rates into a good graduate job. Prospective employers welcome Geographers as people with a range of critical skills and analytical abilities trained to be both numerate and literate over a wide field. Newnham Geographers can be found in environmental organisations, development organisations, law, landscape architecture, the Civil Service, information technology, chartered surveying, accountancy, management banking, and teaching, as well as in further research and lecturing. Some take specialist professional courses after their BA, including accountancy and law, while others go on to graduate study as Master’s or PhD students. 

Are there any A-level subjects that are particularly useful?

Students have usually studied Geography at A level (or equivalent), although this is not essential – we encourage you to think about Geography even if you have not taken the A-Level. Other suitable supporting subjects are varied but include Economics, English, Geology, History, Politics, Mathematics, Modern Languages, Science (Biological or Physical) and Sociology. An interest in contemporary issues gained from newspapers and journals (e.g. Geographical Magazine, New Scientist, The Economist) is also a good background for studying Geography. 

Can I take a gap year?

The College is sympathetic to applicants who wish to take a gap year to work and/or travel before starting university; and we understand that others may prefer to go straight into university. There is no implication for the admissions process either way, so you should decide based on your own interests and circumstances. 

How should I prepare for interview at Newnham?

There are usually two separate interviews at Newnham, each lasting 20-25 minutes. These do not involve written assessments, although applicants may be asked to comment on material (text, a map or photographs for example) made available during or just before the interview. Information on preparing for interviews can be found on the Department of Geography’s website, and the University of Cambridge’s Undergraduate Admissions pages.  

Applicants may also be asked to submit two pieces of written schoolwork.  We recommend that you keep copies of this work and re-read them along with your personal statement as they may be referred to at interview.  More information regarding written work requirements can be found at: https://newn.cam.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduates/how-to-apply/ 

Is there an Admissions Assessment for Geography?

For the 2022 admissions cycle, there is no admissions assessment for Geography. 

Where can I find out more?

It is usual for the course in Geography to change slightly from year to year. The information above is correct at time of writing. For more details and up-to-date information, explore the Department of Geography website (http://www.geog.cam.ac.uk/). 

The Geography Subject Overview on the ‘My HE+’ website also provides information and resources for exploring your subject. It includes a list of books that might be of interest while you are thinking about University geography. https://www.geog.cam.ac.uk/undergraduate/reading/

The University Open Days are a great way to find out more about Geography and Newnham, and we also sometimes run Geography events at the College.  

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