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MSc Dissertation with Placement - ENV00085M

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  • Department: Environment and Geography
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Brett Sallach
  • Credit value: 80 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
  • Notes: This is an independent study module

Module summary

This module runs alongside the standard ESM, EEM & CSEM dissertation, but permits students to work with an external partner as part of the module. This would typically involve collecting and analysing data to be used in their dissertation in collaboration with the partner institute. It is expected that a close relationship with the external partner will be maintained throughout the period of the dissertation. The student will also have a Department of Environment and Geography-based supervisor.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Summer Term 2022-23 to Summer Vacation 2022-23

Module aims

This module provides students with the opportunity to undertake an in-depth individual research project in an area of interest within their field of study. Moreover, the module provides valuable vocational experience.

Module learning outcomes

Subject content

  • apply skills acquired from taught modules to the identification and solution of problems in their field of study, showing an understanding of the nature of the problems and of their solutions;
  • develop the capacity to undertake independent research that satisfies the normal professional standards of the relevant disciplines; and develop the ability to report research results in a satisfactory way.
  • to undertake this research in collaboration with an external partner to provide vocational experience

Academic and graduate skills

The module provides experience in conducting a piece of independent research with advice and guidance from an experienced researcher in the Department, as well as external partner. This develops a range of generic skills including:

  • Problem analysis and task prioritisation
  • Time management
  • Effective written reporting of research
  • Effective verbal presentation of results
  • People skills
  • Critical evaluation of scientific data
  • Skills in data analysis
  • Practical skills in data collection
  • Communication of research to peers
  • Vocational experience

Module content

Supporting students in obtaining placements

1. Students will be made aware of the opportunity to undertake this module at the start of the academic year, with a view to investigating placement possibilities as soon as possible and certainly by the end of spring term. We will make clear the intended outcomes of a placement, how the placement will be assessed and students’ rights and responsibilities during placement, including the complaints process.

2. Students would be expected to find placements themselves, but in reality, many of the placements will arise through contacts with staff in the Department. The Module Coordinator and Industry Liaison Officer, Jenny Pollard will also make the students aware of relevant opportunities. If students are unable to find a suitable placement, they will need to undertake the alternative dissertation module for their programme:

ESM - ENV00066M

EEM - ENV00017M

CSEM - ENV00076M

3. In the event that two students wish to do the same placement, they will be interviewed by the course convenor and the host, to assess who has the most relevant skills.

4. Before starting the placement, students will be provided with some guidance on what to expect; workplace culture and environment; practical issues such as those around travel and insurance; and (in the case of overseas placements) advice that students should familiarise themselves with UK Government travel advice for that country (as relevant) and to be aware that the host country will have different customs and laws.

Supporting students on placement

1. Each student will be assigned a York supervisor during their external placement. The York supervisor will provide pastoral support if required and also check dissertation drafts. The Department of Environment and Geography will be responsible for assessment of the dissertation and presentation.

2. Before starting the placement, the York supervisor and the student will agree on how/when to communicate regularly. The attendance monitoring of Tier 4 students will need extra consideration. The York supervisor will remind the student of the range of support services available at York and also, remind their host to make students aware of local services in the vicinity of their placement.

3. Each placement provider will be scrutinised and approved before a student can accept a placement. We will use the same methods that are applied to our Year in industry placement providers. In particular, we will check:

  • that the learning outcomes of the module can be achieved through the placement opportunity
  • the placement provider can provide the resources (human and material) to operate the placement successfully
  • the professional capacity of the placement provider can successfully deliver their function(s) during the placement (e.g. ability to supervise/mentor), and how the provider will be supported in these functions by the department
  • health and safety measures are adequate, including the ability of the placement provider to provide an appropriate working environment for students
  • insurance is in place that covers the student while on placement
  • the range of business and ethical interests and links the placement provider may have, and whether these could represent potential risks to the placement or the University’s reputation
  • if the nature of the placement would require a Disclosure and Barring check and, if so, arrangements around this.

Further, we will consider the additional risks involved with international placements should they arise and only permit those that we are confident meet the necessary standards and that we are able to be in communication with the student at all times.

Ethics approval must be sought and agreed prior to going on placement.

No student can undertake a placement without these checks having taken place.

4. Each placement provider and student will be made aware of their responsibilities during the placement.

5. The success (or otherwise) of placements will be monitored to make sure the provider is suitable. Placements will be monitored via the University’s regular quality assurance mechanisms (Annual Programme Review and Periodic Review).

6. The Department of Environment and Geography will keep clear records relating to placements, providing an easily accessible record of all placement providers used.

Supporting disabled students on placement

1. Given the placement opportunities will be similar to those that could be carried out in the Department albeit in a different setting, we would expect that our disabled students would also be able to undertake a wide range of placement opportunities.

2. We will initiate discussion early on with such students regarding arrangements and support during a placement opportunity.

3. We will encourage students to disclose disabilities to the placement provider to permit the latter to provide support, make reasonable adjustments and arrange access where necessary.

4. In a case where a student wishes not to disclose, but we feel a student’s disability may present a risk to the student or others in a placement setting (e.g. working with chemicals and/or equipment that raises health and safety issues), we may need to consider not allowing that placement to go ahead.

Despite these measures, placements will sometimes go wrong. In these cases, the student would transfer back onto the standard dissertation module for their programme and complete a dissertation in the Department or Environment of Geography. The usual rules that apply to students with extenuating circumstances will also apply here. However, should a period of absence mean that the student is unable to complete their placement opportunity, they will revert to the standard dissertation module for their programme with extensions (etc) as necessary.


Task Length % of module mark
Graduate/Postgraduate Dissertation
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students can submit draft copies of their dissertation (or sections of the draft) to their supervisors to get feedback on their writing style and the scientific process.



Module feedback

Standard departmental turn-around of 4 weeks (subject to staff absences during the marking period when feedback will be returned within 6 weeks). Feedback is via a feedback sheet showing comments by markers.

Indicative reading

Will vary depending on the topic so no one key text

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.