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Quaternary Science (MSc)

Course Description

This course offers comprehensive and flexible postgraduate training in the established yet dynamic field of Quaternary science, with the academic emphasis being on the time-dependent processes affecting environmental change.

By the end of the course you will have acquired and demonstrated specialist disciplinary knowledge and understanding of key issues pertaining to Quaternary science, in particular the core linking themes of high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records, high-precision dating, and multi-proxy approaches to the investigation of past environmental changes.

You will also be provided with advanced training in techniques used to assess the causes, scale and rapidity of past climate and environmental fluctuations; encompassing field, laboratory, statistical and computing methods used in the acquisition, interpretation and modelling of proxy climatic and environmental data.

See the website https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/geography/coursefinder/mscquaternaryscience.aspx

Why choose this course?

- The staff and facilities of the Centre for Quaternary Research (CQR) at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) provide a wide range of opportunities for postgraduate training and research 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.

- The Department 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 Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) recognizes this course as "Excellent".

- You will be provided with the temporal perspective necessary for the understanding of many contemporary environmental issues, such as climate change, biological responses to environmental change and soil erosion.

- The distinctive aspects of the research at the CQR are the emphases on high-precision dating, multiproxy palaeoenvironmental reconstruction, quantitative palaeoclimate estimates, high resolution stratigraphy/sedimentology and the influence of Quaternary climate change on early human evolution and dispersal.

Department research and industry highlights

The CQR was established in 1990 and has grown to become one of the leading international research centres in Quaternary science.

Since its inception the CQR has attracted funding from an increasingly diverse range of sources (NERC, AHRC, ESRC, Leverhulme Trust, EC Framework Programs, British Academy). Major research partnerships and initiatives have been forged (e.g. with the Natural History Museum, Museum of London, British Geological Society, English Heritage and Oxford University), which are fostering important advances in understanding Quaternary landscape evolution, quantitative palaeoclimate reconstruction, geochronology, biostratigraphy and Palaeolithic and environmental archaeology. The CQR has also benefited from recent £1.5M SRIF investment in laboratory refurbishment that has enhanced the centre’s research capabilities in OSL dating, tephrochronology, analytical chemistry and soil micromorphology.

On completion of the course graduates will have:

acquired and demonstrated specialist disciplinary knowledge and understanding of key issues pertaining to Quaternary Science, in particular the core linking themes of:
- high-resolution palaeoenvironmental records
- high-precision dating
- multi-proxy approaches to the investigation of past environmental changes.


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

Employability & career opportunities

Destinations of our graduates include 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. This course also equips you with a solid foundation for continued PhD studies; around 70% of Quaternary Science graduates over the last decade have gone on to a PhD.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/studyhere/postgraduate/applying/howtoapply.aspx .

Visit the Quaternary Science (MSc) page on the Royal Holloway, University of London website for more details!

Entry Requirements

UK Lower Second Class Honours degree (2:2), or equivalent, in a relevant subject (e.g. Geology, Geography, Environmental Science/Studies, Botany, Ecology, Archaeology). Candidates with extensive field and/or laboratory experience in a relevant vocation may also be considered for entry, but will be required to demonstrate proficiency in theoretical aspects of the subject.

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Recipient: Royal Holloway, University of London

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