Postgraduate Diploma in The Geology of Yorkshire and Northern England

An online study programme


Northern England has an extraordinary diversity of landscapes and geological features, and Yorkshire, as the largest county, preserves a large proportion of them. From the rugged North York Moors and the limestone pavements of the Yorkshire Dales to the coalfields of South Yorkshire and the shifting coastlines of Holderness, it is in many respects a microcosm of the region. However, northern England is not just Yorkshire! This course also extensively examines the world-famous and spectacular geology of the Lake District, as well as touching upon other fascinating aspects of northern England, including the igneous legacy of Northumberland, the Carboniferous geology of the North East, Peak District and Lancashire and the Permo-Triassic desert environments of the North West and County Durham.

In the Postgraduate Diploma in the Geology of Yorkshire and northern England, students will obtain a regional geological understanding with which to interpret larger-scale Earth processes and structures. The programme will also provide students with training in advanced palaeoenvironmental analysis and science communication skills and will develop their research skills too. Students will also assess Yorkshire and northern England's importance to current controversies in Earth sciences, from fracking to climate change, examine human interactions with the region’s rocks and landscapes, from the Palaeolithic to the present day, and acquire an understanding of the region's vital role in the history of geology.

This is a part-time Postgraduate Diploma delivered online in a fully supported learning environment. The programme starts in late September/early October each academic year, and places are limited to ensure a constructive atmosphere for discussions. Students can exit with a Postgraduate Certificate after successful completion of the first year if their circumstances change.



The programme will aim to:

  • Introduce the key tenets and sub-disciplines of geology, focussing particularly on the geological evolution of Yorkshire and northern England.
  • Provide students with a holistic understanding of the geological origins and history of Yorkshire and northern England.
  • Introduce students to field and laboratory geological analysis, and the skills and techniques required to interpret geological features accurately.
  • Describe the main geological units present in Yorkshire and northern England, their composition, distribution and formation.
  • Explore the geological history of Yorkshire and northern England and its global significance in the development of Earth Sciences.
  • Examine and interpret the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic geology of Yorkshire and northern England.
  • Explain the scientific importance of Yorkshire and northern England's rocks, the pioneering geoscientists that worked upon them, and the role they have played in our understanding of the evolution of the Earth.
  • Further develop students' palaeoecological and palaeoenvironmental interpretation skills, through field and laboratory exercises as well as investigation of local, regional and international case studies, where appropriate.
  • Examine the Cenozoic and recent geological history of Yorkshire and northern England.
  • Provide students with an understanding of human interactions with, and exploitation of, the geological resources and landscapes of Yorkshire and northern England, from the Stone Age to the present day.
  • Further develop students’ knowledge of Yorkshire's role in the evolution of global geological hypotheses.



This part-time two-year programme will comprise six 20-credit modules:

Year One

  • Origins – the Development of Geology in Northern England
  • Dales and Vales – the Palaeozoic of Yorkshire and Northern England
  • Moors and Coast – the Mesozoic of Yorkshire and Northern England

Year Two

  • Advanced Palaeoenvironmental Analysis
  • Fire and Ice – the Cenozoic of Yorkshire and Northern England
  • People and Landscape -  The Human Geology of Yorkshire and Northern England.

Students will be required to complete all these modules in the first instance, though additional modules may be added in the future to accommodate future programme growth and offer a broader learning experience.

It is anticipated that assessments will comprise a balance of short and long critical essays, laboratory-based projects and project work.

Full details of programme structures and the modules which comprise individual awards can be found at Postgraduate Programme Specifications.

Residential Weekends

Important: Each year, at the start of the module, students will be required to attend a five-day residential course - attendance is compulsory as the residential programme comprises key content and contact hours. Each event is also an opportunity to meet your fellow students and staff, engage in discussion and share your knowledge of geology. Students are expected to meet the costs of their travel, accommodation and sustenance. The mandatory residential week for the first year is provisionally scheduled for the first week of term, which usually falls in the last week of September. The mandatory residential week for the second year is provisionally scheduled for the third week of term, which usually falls in the second week of October.

Additional optional residential weekends, which fall outside of the core curriculum, may also be arranged from time-to-time, and students will be given as much advance notice of these as possible. Students will also be encouraged to attend conferences, workshops and day field trips that are arranged by their local geology groups, as well as those within northern England, when possible.

What's involved?

Our approach to e-learning is distinctive and may be different from your general perceptions about online study:

  • Flexible, fully supported, modular delivery
  • Taught exclusively online
  • Two stages: Certificate and Diploma. Each stage typically takes 12 months
  • Comprises six distinct modules
  • Part-time study (approximately 15 hours per week) allows participants to structure their learning around the other life circumstances

Key points

  • These are not self-study programmes which leave you on your own, nor are they Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). You will be part of an active learning community with regular contacts and activities.
  • The technology-based approach means that our programmes are highly flexible, and you can study from anywhere at a time convenient to you. They are however carefully structured and you will be asked to participate in tasks and activities every week.
  • The programme is highly interactive and comprises numerous blog-driven tasks and exercises. You can engage with the tasks at any time during the week, and you don’t ever have to be online at the same time as other people, but can engage through a simple commenting function.
  • The learning takes place within a reflective and supportive environment, providing all the benefits of studying as part of a community but without having to be in a physical classroom
  • As well as interacting with your fellow students, you will also have regular discussions with a dedicated and friendly academic and administrative team at York.
  • The programmes are situated within a Virtual Learning Environment called Blackboard. This is a user-friendly integrated website that provides access to study resources, discussion forums, the University of York Online Library and your University email account.

The York Team

A key feature of our programme is the availability and quality of support that we offer through module tutors, pastoral support and a dedicated administrative and technical support team.



null‌My amateur interest in geology had been reinvigorated by attending the Centre's excellent non-accredited courses and I decided to take the plunge and sign up for the postgraduate diploma.  As a full-time worker, I needed the course to be flexible and adaptable to complement my working patterns, and the course format does exactly that.  Participating in the weekly blogs, annual residential week and module assessments has really benefited me at work, noticeably enhancing the quality of my written and verbal communication and analytical skills.  Beyond work, I now see our landscape through new eyes, the programme having made me understand and appreciate the full wealth and sheer diversity of Yorkshire and northern England's geology.

Daniel Normandale



The Geology of Yorkshire and Northern England is both fascinating and complex. As a retired person, the course has made me look at the landscape in a totally different manner, and has added significant value to my quality of life.

The support that you will receive from both the Centre for Lifelong Learning and your tutor, Dr. Annette McGrath, is of the very highest standard. They are there to help you, be it either with workload or personal problems.

The course involves weekly reading lists and exercises, and you will be encouraged to explore additional reading through your own research. The Virtual Learning Environment allows you to share and comment on work with other students, allowing one to see how others analyse information, and your tutor will make constructive and supportive comments on all work.

The residential week each year is of considerable benefit, allowing you to meet your fellow students, and the exercises and field trips are both highly enjoyable and educational.

The Post-Graduate qualification will benefit your employment prospects and, as a retired student, I found that it improved my time management, logical and analytical thinking, ability to synthesise information, and written communication. All these are of lifelong benefit, and you will feel a more complete person for having mastered them.

David Wharton-Street

Entry Requirements & Cost

Who is the programme for?

The programme is aimed at anyone with an interest in geology.


Admissions Criteria

Normally students will be expected to hold a Bachelor’s Degree in a related subject area. CLL will also favourably consider any student previously awarded a BA/BSc in any subject, and with evidence of recent HE level study.

As a Centre based upon the cornerstone of open access, CLL will also seek to ensure that those without the qualifications highlighted above, but with the obvious ability to succeed, have the opportunity to engage.

In such instances, the presentation of a critical essay in the field of geology may be requested and considered by the admissions panel; CLL reserves the right to ask any student for academic work to support their application.

Any student may be called to interview.

Students must have an IELTS score of 7.0 overall, with no less than 6.5 in Writing (or equivalent). Details of the requirements for distance learning students can be found at English language requirements: distance learning 2017/18

  • Sufficient study time: approximately 15 hours per week including the capacity to take part regularly in the online weekly tutorial group discussions. These are an essential part of the study process.
  • A willingness to share your experience and be an active member of your tutorial group.
  • A personal computer with a broadband internet connection and Office software suite, compatible with Word and Excel formats. Students should also have a personal computer with a webcam and microphone to facilitate online video discussions if unable to attend residential weekends.


Programme Cost

The online postgraduate diploma in The Geology of Yorkshire and Northern England is priced in line with other University postgraduate programmes, details of which can be found at

For 2018/19, the cost of the first year will be £3,030. Fees in subsequent years are subject to confirmation.

Students can spread the cost of their tuition fees, including by paying monthly in advance. More information can be found at Finance and financial support for distance learners.

If you've successfully completed an undergraduate degree at the University of York, you could be eligible for a 10% discount on your tuition fee. See more information about the York Graduate Loyalty Discount.


Yorkshire Philosophical Society Bursary

Lifelong Learning is currently collaborating with the Yorkshire Philosophical Society (YPS: who are offering support to the programme, initially via a bursary of £100. The bursary will be awarded to students that require the qualification for professional reasons, rather than out of general interest, and it should be utilised for travel and other expenses to attend fieldtrips. In the first instance, interested parties should email

The PG Diploma tutor, Dr Annette McGrath, is also currently working with the YPS to develop relevant geological field trips that are specific to the requirements of the PG Diploma course participants and that are also of interest to YPS members. Dr McGrath will also discuss with the YPS whether other YPS geological field trips could be made available to course participants.


How to apply

You can apply for this course using our online application system.

If you've not already done so, please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process.





Amanda Pauw: 
Postgraduate Administrator 
Tel: +44 (0)1904 32 8482 

Dr Annette McGrath:
Associate Lecturer