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Masters Degrees (Paleoclimatology)

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Study Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway, University of London and you’ll receive comprehensive postgraduate training on the time-dependent processes that affect environmental change, helping you to understand and confront some of the most profound issues of our time. Read more

Study Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway, University of London and you’ll receive comprehensive postgraduate training on the time-dependent processes that affect environmental change, helping you to understand and confront some of the most profound issues of our time.

This flexible Masters programme is offered jointly with London’s prestigious Natural History Museum, and The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) recognizes this course as 'Excellent'.

You’ll acquire an advanced knowledge and understanding of key issues within Quaternary Science, including high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records, high-precision dating and multi-proxy approaches to the investigation of past environmental changes.

The Department of Geography is one of the leading centres for international geographical research in the UK. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework our research environment was recognized as overwhelmingly world class.

The staff and facilities of the Centre for Quaternary Research (CQR) at Royal Holloway provide a wide range of opportunities, including participation in internationally significant research programmes in Quaternary science and links with potential employers. This consortium of staff constitutes the strongest teaching team in the UK for the provision of Masters' teaching in the field of non-marine Quaternary earth science and environmental change. You’ll have the chance to contribute to this leading research culture with your own individual research project.

Study a Masters degree in Quaternary Science and you’ll develop a thorough understanding of many contemporary environmental issues, including climate change, biological responses to environmental change and soil erosion. and be well placed to pursue a rewarding career in your chosen field.

  • Masters programme offered jointly with London’s prestigious Natural History Museum.
  • Study in a department ranked 2nd in the UK for research by the Research Excellence Framework 2014.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of some of our most pressing environmental issues.
  • Graduate with excellent employability prospects and a strong opportunity to progress into further postgraduate study.

Course structure

Core modules

  • Quaternary Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
  • Quaternary Paleoclimatology
  • Palaeoecology, Dating and Quantification
  • Techniques of Quaternary Research
  • Oral Presentation
  • Field Training Programme
  • Dissertation

Optional modules

In addition to these mandatory course units there are a number of optional course units available during your degree studies. The following is a selection of optional course units that are likely to be available. Please note that although the College will keep changes to a minimum, new units may be offered or existing units may be withdrawn, for example, in response to a change in staff. Applicants will be informed if any significant changes need to be made.

  • Quaternary Palynology
  • Coleoptera
  • Micromorphology of Quaternary Sediments
  • Theory and Applications of Luminescence Dating
  • Quaternary Microfossils
  • Quaternary Mammals
  • Late Quaternary Palaeohydrology
  • Chironomids and Environmental Change
  • Glaciers in the Climate System
  • Quaternary Tephrochronology
  • Palaeofires

Teaching & assessment

You will benefit from small group learning and an intense but friendly atmosphere, and will receive individual mentoring and career advice from our staff (both from your personal tutor and a dissertation supervisor).

Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, practical exercises, field reports and a dissertation.

Your future career

Study Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway and you’ll graduate with excellent employability prospects. Our recent alumni have gone on to enjoy careers in the British Geological Survey, Natural England, the Environment Agency, journal publishing houses, Research Councils, environmental archaeology and museums, as well as academic positions within universities. 

Over the past decade, around 70% of Quaternary Science graduates have gone on to study at PhD level, with the Royal Holloway Centre for Quaternary Science providing opportunities to participate in internationally significant research programmes.

  • 90% of Royal Holloway graduates in work or further education within six months of graduating.
  • Strong opportunities for postgraduate training and research, and active links with potential employers.


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We offer MPhil and PhD supervision across a wide range of human and physical geography topics. Our research engages with applied issues and public policy concerns, as well as more abstract cultural and theoretical issues. Read more
We offer MPhil and PhD supervision across a wide range of human and physical geography topics. Our research engages with applied issues and public policy concerns, as well as more abstract cultural and theoretical issues.

We were recently ranked within the top 30 geography departments in the world (QS World University Rankings by subject). Almost all our research is world-leading or internationally excellent (Research Excellence Framework, 2014).

Our staff provide supervision in a range of specialisms. Our research focusses on four research clusters:

Physical geography

Our research strengths in physical geography include:
-Paleoclimatology
-Landscape evolution
-Applied geomorphology and natural hazards
-Quaternary geochronology
-Glaciology
-Water science

We carry out research through active collaboration with colleagues in Newcastle University and beyond. Our research takes us to a wide variety of environments across the globe, including:
-The UK
-Greenland
-Iceland
-Patagonia
-Turkey
-USA
-Tibet
-Japan

Economic geographies

Our research in economic geographies is theoretically-informed and politically-engaged. It covers the production, forms, experiences and impacts of uneven geographies of:
-Commodities
-People
-Finance
-Knowledge
-Technology

Our location in the north east is a European periphery. Our researchers in this theme explore 'ordinary', diverse and/or marginalised economies and subjectivities. They also scrutinise orthodox socio-economic models and practices in the following contexts:
-Western industrialised
-Post-socialist
-Post-colonial

Power, space, politics

In power, space, politics our research focuses on the expression of political power across space and includes topics around:
-Borders and boundaries
-Critical geopolitics
-International development
-Militarism and military geographies
-The politics of representation
-Issues of resistance, justice and peace

We conduct research on a range of scales. From the international and national to the individual, with reference to a range of global contexts. Our work is methodologically innovative, drawing on:
-Interactional research
-Ethnographic research
-Discourse analysis
-Participatory research
-Visual research

This enables us to produce grounded, empirically-informed reflections on the multiple ways in which concepts of power, space and politics intersect.

Geographies of social change

In geographies of social change we explore and extend an applied, critical understanding of cities and urbanism. Ideas that run through our research include:
-Identity
-Families and households
-Health
-Welfare and care
-Infrastructures
-Community

These lead us to connect with issues of:
-Gender
-Race
-Ethnicity
-Migration
-Youth
-Religion
-Class
-Size
-Generation

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