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From the spectacular igneous geology of the Lake District World Heritage Site and Northumberland National Park to the Yorkshire Jurassic ‘Dinosaur Coast’ and the mineral wealth of the Pennines, the North has an incredible geological history spanning almost 500 million years.

Concentrating mainly upon the geological evolution of northern England, you will analyse and interpret key geological features and concepts to integrate regional knowledge into the interpretation of larger scale Earth processes and structures. You will assess the region’s importance in current and historical Earth science controversies and study human interactions with the rocks and landscapes of northern England from the Stone Age to the present day. 

Course content

This Postgraduate Diploma is a part-time programme taught over two years. Throughout the course, you will explore the geological history and scientific importance of northern England and its global significance in the development of the Earth sciences from the Stone Age to the present day.

You will take six diverse modules that are delivered by the Centre for Lifelong Learning. In Year 1 you will study the main Palaeozoic and Mesozoic geological units present in northern England. In Year 2, you will learn how to conduct an advanced integrated palaeoenvironmental analysis. You will also examine the Cenozoic and recent geological history of northern England to gain an understanding of human interactions with, and exploitation of, the geological resources and landscapes.

At the beginning of each year, you’ll attend a five-day residential week in York where you will have the opportunity to study several classic sites of national and international importance. 


You will take a total of 120 credits, which are split into three 20 credit core modules across the two years.

Year 1

In the first year of the course you are introduced to the key tenets and sub-disciplines of geology by focussing on the geological evolution of northern England. 

  • Origins – The Development of Geology in Northern England (20 credits)
  • Dales, Vales and Lakes – The Palaeozoic of Northern England (20 credits)
  • Moors and Coast – The Mesozoic of Northern England (20 credits)

Year 2

In the second year of study, you will further develop your palaeoecological and palaeoenvironmental interpretation skills through field and class-based exercises and case study investigations. You will assess and interpret the history of human interactions with northern England's rocks and landscapes as well as exploring the origins and changing value of economic resources in the region. 

  • Advanced Palaeoenvironmental Analysis (20 credits)
  • Fire and Ice – The Cenozoic of Northern England (20 credits)
  • People and Landscape - The Human Geology of Northern England (20 credits)

Teaching and assessment

You’ll work with world‐leading academics who’ll challenge you to think independently and excel in all that you do. Our approach to teaching will provide you with the knowledge, opportunities, and support you need to grow and succeed in a global workplace.

Teaching format

You will study online for an average of 15 hours per week. You can decide when you choose to work, as all activities can be completed around your schedule.

At the heart of the University's approach to distance learning are small cohort sizes. This enables your academic lecturer to provide a high level of support and guidance throughout.

Weekly activities

You'll learn through a combination of directed reading and guided online tasks that will challenge you to develop your independent learning, research, analysis and communication skills. There will also be regular virtual discussions and group debates where you can apply your new knowledge and understanding of key concepts within a collaborative and friendly environment. 

Residential weeks 

The two five-day residential weeks based in York will allow you to study several significant geological sites in northern England and gain an understanding of key geological concepts in a practical and interactive manner. This hands-on experience will also equip you with essential field-based skills and techniques.


Your learning will take place within a supportive Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Blackboard which will give you access to study resources, discussion forums, the University of York Online Library and your University email account.

You'll also have access to a number of resources including:

Assessment and feedback

You’ll be assessed through a combination of formative and summative assessments.

Formative assessments don't count towards your final mark, but offer the opportunity for valuable feedback to help your development throughout the course. These include informal presentations, quizzes and recording field-based research and observations in lab and field notebooks.

Summative assessments contribute towards your final mark. They consist of scientific reports and blog posts in which you are expected to demonstrate scholarship and follow academic referencing conventions. 

Careers and skills

Whether you're looking to pursue a geological career, support current employment, or evidence continuous professional development, this course offers a strong foundation for any vocational or geological/non-geological career path.

The programme has a strong emphasis on the development of research, analytical, writing and science communication skills. As a result, you will acquire and reinforce the key attributes required of an accomplished geologist. You’ll also obtain the scholarly foundation with which to progress to further education in geology or a related subject area at Masters or PhD level. 

Outside industrial and academic environments, you will have the opportunity to explore your personal geological interests. 

Career opportunities

On completion of the programme, graduates are well-prepared for pursuing geological careers within:

  • Research and research councils
  • Academia
  • Teaching
  • Museums
  • Archives
  • Government organisations

Graduates are also excellently equipped to pursue employment within a variety of industries, including:

  • Oil, gas and petroleum sector
  • Natural hazards
  • Groundwater and hydrogeology industry
  • Environmental geology and contaminated land
  • Mining and quarrying
  • Engineering geology and construction

Visit the The Geology of Northern England (Online) - PgDip page on the University of York website for more details!





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