Geography

Everything you are about to read has been written by current and recently graduated students at the University of Cambridge, to give you honest information about what it’s like to be a student at Cambridge.

Geography at Cambridge is based around the Geography Department on the Downing Site. However, you will likely have supervisions in individual colleges, or the William Hardy Building that backs onto the department. Geography is a medium-sized course (there’s about 100 undergrads in every year), which means you’re unlikely to be best-friends with everyone on the course, but you should have a vague sense of who they all are. Geography is not all about: rivers, colouring in, or country capitals- despite the jokes people make about it. It’s a really broad, dynamic course that’s deeply connected to current affairs.

Geography Credit: Cambridge University

What about the Geography course at Cambridge appealed to you?

Jack, Geography, St Catherine's College, 2nd Year
Jack
St Catharine's College, 2nd year
What Appealed

Unlike many universities, you don’t have to choose between Human and Physical Geography at Cambridge (although most do by the third year). This gives you a really broad introduction to the subject, which is an immensely useful thing to have before specializing. If I hadn’t had the broad introduction, I would never have found the particular specialty I want to go into in more detail (geographies of gender) so I’m really glad I had that broad intro. My favourite thing about the course is that I can have a lecture about glaciers in the morning, have a supervision on the global flows of Capital in the early afternoon, and finish the working day by reading about gendered clothing in Ugandan Churches. You jump from topic to topic so quickly you never have time to get bored with it (although I came close with Coastal Dynamics)

How have you found the structure of the course?

Jack, Geography, St Catherine's College, 2nd Year
Jack
St Catharine's College, 2nd year

The Course starts very ‘thematic’- you’ll spend a week or so on a different topic and then switch to something different (although there are general themes that tie everything together). In the 2nd and 3rd year, it becomes a bit more specialized, and you start to treat geography not as a bundle of different topics, but a way of looking at the world. The first year is very based around terminal exams, but the second and third years have a much bigger emphasis on fieldwork and your own projects- particularly the dissertation that you work on throughout the 2nd and 3rd years (which most people find to be their favourite part of the entire course)

What is your faculty/department like?

Matt
Robinson College, 3rd year
The Department

Geography at Cambridge is housed mainly in (you’ve guessed it) The Department of Geography building which is on the Downing Site, very central, next to a whole load of restaurants if you’ve got a lunch time sized gap between lectures and supervisions. There’s a top floor computer suite for practicals as well as labs in the adjacent William Hardy building for budding physical geographers. With a small, but well equipped library one of the best things about this course is your reading isn’t exclusive to Geography, you can easily head to other faculty libraries to follow new lines of enquiries. If you choose to do one of the glaciation modules you’ll find yourself heading down to the Scott Polar Research Institute with its lecture theatre home to a polar bear just hanging out on the wall.

What types of work do you have to do?

Matt
Robinson College, 3rd year

There are a lot of essays and follow up supervisions where you discuss your line of argument, broader aspects of your course and get the chance to ask someone who’s most likely the leading expert in their field any questions you have, it’s not all you do. Work for supervisions could also be a presentation, writing an op-ed piece around a contested issue or a book review. In your final two years you’ll be able to explore a topic of your choice completing a dissertation all about whatever you like eg. the geography of Swedish pop music or ! With field trips and (actually interesting) coursework titles, there’s always something to sink your teeth into. The Geography Department’s website is a must visit for basically all the information you’ll ever need while you’re hard at work.

Do you have career plans?

Matt
Robinson College, 3rd year

As a third year I have a vague idea of what I want to do once I graduate, but nothing’s set in stone. I know I want to work with music either in a record label, live events or through journalism. It’s worth taking advantage of the extracurricular activities on offer here – I’ve helped organise our college ball and hosted my own show on our student radio. Not very “geography” I know, but that’s the beauty of this degree, you’re building a whole skill set through writing extensively, interviewing, researching, colouring inside the lines (albeit through complicated mapping software). You don’t have to let your degree define you - my friends are looking to work in a load of different sectors, finance and consultancy are very popular and so is further study here at Cambridge or moving on elsewhere.

What about your course would you change?

Anna
Sidney Sussex

The geography course is very broad, especially in first year when you have to do all of the physical and human topics, so inevitably there are going to be some aspects you struggle with0 in my case getting to grips with atmospheric processes (I never did!). Some choice in topic would be nice, though you get to choose your topics to some extent in your exams, and in your second and third years you get to specialise and pick the topics you are most interested in. Though demanding at times, the breadth of the first year topics provides a solid base for the rest of your degree.

Typical timetable of a 1st year Geography student

Anna
Sidney Sussex

The typical morning is lectures - normally about three hours a day. There are usually fewer lectures in the second term than the first and almost none in the third term! After lectures I would do my supervision work which may be problem sheets for macro, micro and maths or reading for and writing an essay in history or politics. Whilst the work can be challenging, there is always time to get it done and do extra things such as sports. There are normally five supervisions every two weeks.

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9am - - - Lecture:Oceans and Coasts -
10am Lecture:Economic Globalisation - Lecture:Unequal Geographies - Lecture:Human Geography Methods
11am - Lecture on the afternoon's Skills Practical - - -
12am Lecture:Life on Earth - - - -
1pm - - - - -
2pm - Practical in the Computer Lab: Stats, GIS, Databases, etc. - - -
3pm - - - Supervision -
4pm - - - - -

What has been going on at Geography?

- Recent Events -

Cultural Geography

Cultural Geography took to centre stage tonight as Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite led a seminar on the perspectives of health inequalities between contrasting wards in the North of England, providing some new perspectives on a common theme.

Doreen Massey

The Geography Department had the great pleasure of hosting Doreen Massey today for a talk on a new ‘place-based’ politics- cutting-edge theory from one of the biggest names in Geography!

Climate and Sustainability Forum

Exciting times as the University held its annual Climate and Sustainability Forum- with a wide variety of talks, discussion and workshops led by those currently involved in climate theory and application

Course Gallery

Do you have a question?
Ask a student!

Don't forget to check our FAQ section first!

* Indicates required field

Please note that as student volunteers we are unable to answer questions on admissions requirements - e.g. school/college qualifications needed to apply. You are best asking these questions to admissions@cam.ac.uk