BSc Environmental Science

UCAS code Typical offer Length
F900 ABB (See full entry requirements) 3 years full-time
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Alistair Boxall teaching
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A multidisciplinary approach, incorporating knowledge of the physical and social sciences, is needed to ensure future environmental sustainability. In the Environment Department at York we are actively involved in research covering this broad range of disciplines. As our teaching is strongly research-led the BSc in Environmental Science at York provides students with the multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills needed to address the complex environmental problems we are facing today.

This degree provides you with the knowledge of the physical sciences needed to make informed judgements about environmental issues. A key advantage of our Environmental Science degree is that it embraces the broader social and economic aspects of managing the environment. This allows students to use their scientific understanding and knowledge realistically in the context of existing policies and environmental management strategies.


This degree programme will provide you with knowledge, understanding and practical skills in a wide range of environmental topics, including:

  • The science underpinning climate change and how we can adapt
  • Energy use and efficiency and how we move to a renewable future
  • The pathways of chemicals and pathogens through our environment
  • The impact of pollutants on ecosystems
  • Ecosystem functioning in aquatic and terrestrial habitats

From the first week of your course you will explore real-world environmental issues in depth. The course will not only expand your scientific knowledge, laboratory, analytical and reporting skills, but also develop other key employability skills such as research project design, independent study, group work, communication and decision-making.


Carmel Parry, Network Asset Strategy Planner, Yorkshire Water
Environmental Science, 2008

“Having a supervisor at York was invaluable. The pastoral care that the University offers helps with applications and interview skills. York also allows you to be independent and work at your own pace, which really helps when you start doing your own projects in a work environment.”

Study Abroad

The BSc in Environmental Science is offered on a full-time (3 year) basis. The University has exchange agreements with a number of other universities across the world. You can apply for a place on these exchange schemes during your first year, and if successful spend your second year studying abroad. 

New Building

From Summer 2015, the Department will be moving into a new state-of-the-art teaching and research building.

What you'll study

The BSc in Environmental Science is offered on a full-time (3 year) basis. Students complete 120 credits each year

Year 1

The first year lays the foundation for the course, and allows students entering with different strengths to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to study more advanced material in Years 2 and 3. All modules are compulsory, and the year does not contribute to the final degree mark. You will study the following:

  • Dynamic Earth (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Environmental Science (20 credits)
  • Tools & Techniques for Studying the Environment (30 credits)   
  • Environment, Development & Society (10 credits)
  • Ecological Principles for the Environment (20 credits)
  • Environment Field Project (20 credits)             

Year 2

The second year combines a core of compulsory modules (80 credits) with the remaining 40 credits chosen from a range of options, allowing you to specialise in topics that most interest you. Year 2 compulsory modules further expand your knowledge and understanding of key topics in environmental science and give you the opportunity to start designing and performing your own research projects. The year contributes 40% to the final (BSc) degree mark.

Compulsory modules include:

• Climate Change: Science, Observation and Impacts (10 credits)
• Environmental Geochemistry (20 credits)
• Ecosystem processes (20 credits)
• Environmental Systems Project (10 credits)
• Residential Field Course (20 credits)

Optional modules include:

• Biogeography (10 credits)
• Energy and the Environment (20 credits)
• Geographical Information Systems (10 credits)

Full listing of the degree structure and modules

Year 3

In the third year of our BSc degree you undertake a 40 credit independent research project, tailored to meet your specialist interests and aspirations. The remaining 80 credits are made up from a 20 credit compulsory module and 60 credits of optional modules.

Compulsory modules include:

  • Research project (40 credits)
  • Atmosphere and Ocean Science (20 credits) and/ or 
  • Pollution Monitoring and Control (20 credits)

Optional modules include:

  • Biodiversity and Society (20 credits)
  • Environmental Law and Politics (20 credits)
  • Glaciology and Volcanism in Iceland (20 credits)

Full listing of the degree structure and modules

Elective modules

You can take up to 20 credits of elective modules in years 2 and 3. Choose from across other degree course in the University. 

Academic integrity module

In addition to the above you will also need to complete our online Academic Integrity module. This covers some of the essential skills and knowledge which will help you to study independently and produce work of a high academic standard which is vital for success at York.

This module will:

  • define academic integrity and academic misconduct;
  • explain why and when you should reference source material and other people's work;
  • provide interactive exercises to help you to assess whether you've understood the concepts;
  • provide answers to FAQs and links to useful resources.

How you'll be taught

We have received a satisfaction rating of over 90% for our teaching in the National Student Survey over a number of years. .

Research-led teaching 

Our approach is research-led, ensuring that your qualification is relevant, well-regarded and up-to date. All our staff are research active, and many sit on international and national committees, demonstrating the recognition of our work at the highest level. Through the Stockholm Environment Institute (based within the department), we have particularly strong links to global policy makers such as the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organisation. You will be actively encouraged to participate in ongoing research projects within the department, particularly through your own third year research project.

Teaching approaches

As a department, we make use of a wide range of learning environments and approaches, including lectures, small group tutorials used to consolidate and develop lecture material, and seminars which often involve collaborative group work and oral presentations. Practical work is a key feature, through laboratory and computer practicals.

Field trips and courses form a key component of your degree as follows:

  • 1st year Field Project
  • 2nd year Earth Processes and Landform module trips to Lake District or Yorkshire coast
  • 2nd year trip to Tenerife
  • 3rd year trip to Iceland
  • Non-residential field visits form integral parts of several modules
  • Year 3 independent research project can include a substantial field element.

How you'll be assessed

Assessment methods

Assessment approaches include a mix of continuous assessment together with examinations:

  • practical write-ups
  • lab reports
  • oral presentations
  • data analysis exercises
  • essays
  • closed examinations
  • project reports

A diverse range of open and closed assessment methods is used deliberately so that all students have the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and none are disadvantaged by overreliance on a single assessment method.

Timings of assessments

Assessments are staggered throughout the academic year. Feedback about the assessment load received from students is used to develop an assessment schedule each year. This aims to ensure that there are no bottlenecks of assessment during the year and to help students manage their study time.


The Environment Department understands the importance of assessment feedback in underpinning student academic development in all of its degree programmes.

Marking adheres to a set of criteria laid out in a booklet on departmental assessment which all students receive.

All marks towards the degree awards are checked by a moderator or, in the case of large pieces of work such as the 3rd year project, are marked by two members of staff.

Written feedback is returned with all coursework, but other more general feedback opportunities are often provided in timetabled sessions within modules. Students are also encouraged to discuss the feedback they have received with their personal supervisors.

External examiners

All of the department’s assessment and feedback procedures are reviewed by an external examiner from another university who is appointed for a three year term.

Careers and employability

Our interdisciplinary approach across the degree course ensures that our graduates are equipped with practical, applied skills for both environment-related employment and more general career opportunities. The department has a track record of providing a springboard to a wide range of careers and postgraduate research.

With the BSc you will be a numerate graduate who has had do engage in quantitative data analysis, while also having to communicate clearly in written reports and during oral presentations.

Graduates from the department have gone on to work in a wide range of careers and with employers including:

  • Private utilities such as water and energy companies
  • Environmental management
  • Policy formulation
  • Environmental consultancies
  • Public sector bodies such as the Environment Agency, DEFRA
  • Local government e.g. pollution abatement, planning
  • Conservation bodies
  • Teaching
  • Typically, around 40% of our undergraduates go on to study for a higher degree.

Preparing you for employment

As well as the knowledge and skill you will acquire while studying the degree, we encourage you to think about your future employability by:

  • First year flood risk management exercise. With input from local and national employers you role play performing project management, feasibility studies and rapid data analysis., encouraging you to think about what employability skills are.
  • Personal employability plan development. This reflects on what employability skills you are acquiring at University (both academically and through student life generally).

What some former students have said about the employability skills gained in Environment

“The projects and presentations that we had to do at York meant that when I was ‘thrown in at the deep end’ at Yorkshire Water; I had already developed some of the skills needed for working in such an organisation, and thus was able to make an impact straight away.”

“My current job has very little direct link to my studies at York but I have been able to use the research skills and methods I learnt while studying for my degree. I currently spend a lot of time researching into the background of companies around the world often having to source information from obscure sources or through complex links. For example, confirming the details of a Luxembourg registered company through the US Patent and Trademarks databases.”

“My degree has provided me with the necessary transferable and hard skills needed in my work today: quantitative analysis, research skills, the ability to form and express opinions on complex topics as well as the resilience and confidence to succeed in challenging working environments. Furthermore, my degree has allowed me to further my passion for my subject and to back this up by rigorous scientific knowledge.”

“My degree has provided me with a good mix of both hard and transferable skills. The numerical skills I gained at University -- such as applied statistics and mathematics as well as the fact checking and research skills --are all part of my role today. Writing reports, analysing complex issues as well as talking to people and giving presentations have also been incredibly useful in my role as they have allowed me to appreciate different perspectives and to adapt quickly and effectively to communicating with people from diverse backgrounds.”

Find out more about how we can help make you more employable

How to apply

All applications must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service(UCAS)

A typical offer is ABB at A level or equivalent.  Those applying for BSc Environmental Science should normally have two subjects at  A-level (or equivalent) from among Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Physics and Psychology.

GCSE Mathematics or equivalent is required.  GSCE Science or equivalent is required if science subjects are not taken at A-Level.

Applicants are offered conditional or unconditional offers on the basis of their predicted or actual qualifications, respectively.

There are no formal interviews.  We meet students at University Open Days and applicants to whom we have offered places are encouraged to attend one of the Departmental open days held during the Spring term.

Mature students are particularly encouraged to apply and we welcome enquiries and prearranged visits from such applicants.

We are happy to answer any queries that you may have about any of the degree courses on offer so please feel free to email or phone us and we will get back to you.

We want to ensure that no-one who has the potential to study here is put off from applying because of costs. See more information about fees and financial support.


Entry requirements

A levels


You should normally have two subjects from among:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Geology
  • Environmental Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Psychology


  • GCSE Mathematics or equivalent is required
  • GCSE Science or equivalent if sciences not taken at A level

International Baccalaureate

34 points

Scottish Highers / Advanced Highers

Scottish Highers (without AH) - AAABB

Advanced Highers + Highers - AB + AABBB

Irish Leaving Certificate



BTEC National Diploma or QCF BTEC Extended Diploma with DDM.

European Baccalaureate

An overall average of 75% or higher.

Other qualifications

  • Cambridge Pre-U: D3 M2, M2
  • Access to HE: Obtain Access to HE Diploma with 15 credits achieved from units awarded Distinction and 15 awarded Merit or higher

Other qualifications are accepted by the University, please contact Undergraduate Admissions

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in all units
  • Pearson PTE Academic: 61 overall with 51 in all parts
  • Cambridge Advanced English (CAE): grade A
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): grade C

Mature students

Mature students are welcomed and considered individually.

Other options for this subject

Our Environmental Science degrees are accredited by the Institution of Environmental Sciences as well as CHES (The Committee for Heads of Environmental Sciences)

CHES button

Any questions?

Contact our admissions tutor if you've got any questions:

Dr Sylvia Toet
Undergraduate Admissions Tutor
Environment Department
University of York
York YO10 5DD
United Kingdom

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