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Geographical Information Systems (Distance Learning) MSc

Course Description

This innovative programme combines expertise from the universities of Leeds and Southampton, both renowned for their Geographic Information Systems (GIS) teaching and research. It builds on the University of Leeds’ considerable experience in successfully delivering taught Masters programmes in GIS and draws on the University of Southampton’s expertise in teaching GIS in non-traditional settings.

The programme is designed to meet a wide range of requirements, covering areas of specialisation as diverse as business, environment, health and planning and is well-suited to an international audience.

It offers open distance learning for people working in commercial or public sector organisations, who need core training and skills development, as well as those who simply want to study in their own environment and at their own pace.

You’ll benefit from tutor support, including regular newsletter updates, and online discussion with fellow-students, and will have access to online resources at both universities.

More information

The Business, Planning and Developer streams are taught entirely by the University of Leeds, the Health and Remote Sensing streams are taught by the University of Southampton and the Environment stream is taught jointly by both universities. If you choose an environment, health or remote sensing stream you will complete your dissertation and graduate with a qualification from the University of Southampton. If you choose any of the other streams you will graduate with a qualification from the University of Leeds. Read more about the programme on the GIS Online Learning website.

You can also study this subject at Postgraduate Diploma and Postgraduate Certificate levels.

The programme manager is Helen Durham.

Course content

The programme runs over three years on a part-time basis, with study to Postgraduate Certificate level in year one, Postgraduate Diploma level in year two and an MSc achieved after three years.

The first year consists of four core modules, providing an introduction to theories and concepts that underpin GIS, skills in GIS software and database systems, knowledge of spatial analysis, statistical and mathematical modelling and the requirement to undertake a feasibility study of GIS in a workplace.

In year two you tailor your study to specialise in areas as diverse as business, environment, health, planning, remote sensing and GIS development. This is ideal for students already in full-time employment and looking to enhance their existing GIS skills to progress in their chosen career or make a career change.

In year three, you further build on your interests and expertise by undertaking a programme of independent research through the dissertation module. This gives you the opportunity to develop research in any area of GIS, expanding on work undertaken as part of the course, studying a problem of personal interest or researching a topic relevant to a workplace. You’ll be supported by a supervisor from amongst the distance learning teaching staff. We aim to submit the best dissertations for journal publication.

Course structure

Year 1 Compulsory modules

  • Principles of GIS (WUN) 15 credits
  • GIS in the Workplace (WUN) 15 credits
  • Using GIS (WUN) 15 credits
  • Spatial Analysis and GIS (WUN) 15 credits

Year 2 Compulsory modules

  • Applied Environmental GIS (WUN) 15 credits
  • Geodemographics and Database Marketing (WUN) 15 credits
  • GIS and Planning (WUN) 15 credits
  • Applied Population and Demographic Analysis (WUN) 15 credits
  • Introduction to Java Programming (WUN) 15 credits
  • Applied GIS and Retail Modelling (WUN) 15 credits
  • Web-based GIS (WUN) 15 credits
  • GIS for Health Care Management (WUN) 15 credits
  • Topographic Data Analysis Techniques and Applications (WUN) 15 credits
  • Remote Sensing for Earth Observation (WUN) 15 credits
  • GIS for Environmental Management (WUN) 15 credits
  • GIS for Analysis of Health (WUN) 15 credits

Year 3 Compulsory modules

  • Dissertation (WUN) 60 credits

For more information on typical modules, read Geographical Information Systems MSc in the course catalogue

Learning and teaching

The University of Leeds and the University of Southampton are linked seamlessly through the Worldwide Universities Network.

You’ll be provided with a variety of online learning materials throughout the programme. You’ll work as part of a virtual online community, discussing the materials online, collaborating in group tasks, participating in group exercises and generally supporting one another.

You’ll also get plenty of one-on-one support. Our qualified tutors are experts in the theory and practice of GIS and are there to support you and your group. Our tutors will act as mentors and provide you with personal guidance as you progress, advising you on how to make the most of the course and helping you to overcome any obstacles that you encounter. Any work you hand in will be returned to you with detailed comments and advice. Past students have found this comprehensive personal feedback one of the most valuable aspects of their study.


Assessment is through coursework with no exams. There is a mix of essays and reports, the latter usually based on analysis of real world datasets. Most modules have two assessments which are due for submission at the end of each three-month study period.

Career opportunities

Typical roles undertaken by our recent graduates are:

  • Assistant Analyst
  • Business Analyst
  • Data Analyst
  • Data Quality and GIS officer
  • GIS Analyst and Surveying Engineer
  • GIS Project Manager
  • Market Analyst
  • PhD study
  • Researcher
  • Technical Consultant.

Careers support

The School of Geography has a very strong commitment to enhancing student employability. Read more about our employability support.

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.

Visit the Geographical Information Systems (Distance Learning) MSc page on the University of Leeds website for more details!

Student Profiles

MSc Geographical Information Systems (Online) Scholarship - No. of awards TBC

The School of Geography, University of Leeds, is offering a number of partial fee scholarships for students studying the Masters in Geographical Information Systems (Online) and taking either the Business, Planning or Developer stream in Year 2. If you are awarded the scholarship will receive a reduction of £800 in Year 2 and £600 in Year 3. Join one of the largest geography departments in the UK where your teaching is enriched and underpinned by internationally recognised research. We are currently ranked in the UK top five for research power (REF, 2014) and in the UK top 10 for student experience (Times Higher Education, 2015).If you choose to study a Masters in Geographical Information Systems (Online), you will be taught by experts in their field who share your passion for the subject.

Value of Scholarship(s)



This scholarship is only available to candidates studying the MSc in Geographical Information Systems via distance learning and taking either the Business, Planning or Developer stream in Year 2. Information about the streams can be found at http://www.gislearn.org/list-of-modules.htm

Application Procedure

Please submit a completed School of Geography Scholarship application by email to [email protected] by the deadline.Applications must be submitted no later than 10 weeks before your Year 2 studies commence, or by deadlines as advertised by the School of Geography (please contact the Admissions Team for upcoming deadlines). These scholarships are only available to self-funding applicants.Please note that decisions on scholarship applications will be made at the end of your Year 1 studies. Scholarships are considered and awarded on a quarterly (3 monthly) basis. If your situation changes (e.g. if you take leave) you will be required to re-submit your scholarship application for consideration in the following round of scholarship allocations.

Further Information


Entry Requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in geography or a related subject. Relevant work experience is viewed positively and is taken into account particularly for candidates whose first degree grade is slightly below our requirement. We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. English language requirements: IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in listening, speaking and reading and 6.5 in writing..

Last Updated

10 August 2017

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