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Home>Study at York>Postgraduate taught>Courses 2019/20>The Geology of Northern England (PGDip)

PGDip The Geology of Northern England (online)

Uncover the extraordinarily diverse landscapes and geological features of northern England.

Year of entry: 2019
Show year of entry: 2020


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2019 (term dates)

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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. 

Although northern-England centric, the programme also examines elements of other significant areas of UK geology where relevant, for example the Chalk Group of Southern England; the North Sea Oil and Gas Province. You’ll also have the opportunity to focus your own reading and research on your home region or other areas of the UK or world.

The programme also covers topical aspects of geology on both a national and international scale; for example the sudden global warming and extinction event that resulted in the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM).

Undertaking this multidisciplinary qualification will equip you with a breadth of transferable skills including advanced research, science communication and palaeoenvironmental analysis. 

"It is not often that something exceeds one’s expectations by a very wide margin – but this course did."
Ken Madrell, completed the PGDip in 2018.

Read more from our students.

Completing the course has also been hugely beneficial to my career, giving me more personal and professional confidence, culminating in a promotion and opening doors to partnership working with eminent geologists at the British Geological Survey and various Universities.
Dan Normandale, completed the PGDip in 2017.

Join a global community

Broaden your academic horizons alongside enthusiastic staff and students.

Learn online

Access the flexible modules from anywhere, at any time, and shape your own learning experience.

Residential weeks

Challenge your geological knowledge and field skills in an academically rigorous environment.

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 one you will study the main Palaeozoic and Mesozoic geological units present in northern England. In your second year, 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. 

Should your circumstances change, you can end your studies after one year and graduate with a Postgraduate Certificate. You're also able to carry credits on to a Masters course at the Open University. 


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. 

During this year's residential you will acquire the skills and knowledge required to analyse and interpret regional geology at postgraduate level. You will extrapolate and integrate your own observations of geological features from fieldwork sessions in Yorkshire. 

The first year core modules are:

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. 

This year's residential week will allow you to develop your evaluative abilities and focusses primarily upon advanced and integrated palaeoenvironmental analysis skills. It includes a full-day workshop at the National Geological Repository at the British Geological Survey headquarters where you will examine key rock cores from several sub-surface boreholes of northern England.

The second year core modules are:

Please note, modules may change to reflect the latest academic thinking and expertise of our staff.

The York approach

Every course at York is built on a distinctive set of learning outcomes. These will give you a clear understanding of what you will be able to accomplish at the end of the course and help you explain what you can offer employers. Our academics identify the knowledge, skills, and experiences you'll need upon graduation and then design the course to get you there.

Students who complete this course will be able to:

  • Analyse, interpret and understand fundamental aspects of geoscience, through an examination of the key tenets and sub-disciplines of geology, achieved through a systematic study and understanding of the geological evolution of Yorkshire and northern England. 
  • Utilise digital skills, developed through visual, written and oral interaction and engagement with the distance learning online programme, and through this, make personal distinctions as to the value of their own work and that of colleagues. 
  • Interpret geological features accurately, using appropriate fieldwork methodologies, techniques and skills, and class-based geological analysis, during the two residential week courses at the University of York. 
  • Critically assess, evaluate, synthesise and interpret advanced palaeoecological and palaeoenvironmental information and data, at a local, regional and international level. 
  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the scientific importance, and where appropriate, global significance 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. 
  • Critically analyse the history of human interactions with, and exploitation of, the geological resources and landscapes of Yorkshire and northern England, as well as their changing value and importance through time, from the Stone Age to the present day.


Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2019/20

Study modeUK/EU/International
Part-time, distance learning (2 years)
Fees for subsequent years are subject to confirmation.
year 1 fee

Additional costs

We strive to make reading materials available digitally within licensing agreements. When this is not possible, students may have to obtain some key texts themselves.

UK-based students are encouraged to utilise the SCONUL Access scheme which allows students to borrow reading materials from other libraries belonging to the scheme. 

The annual residential weeks at York are included in the course fees but you should expect to pay for food, accommodation and travel, which will vary in price depending on your location and the standard of accommodation you choose to book.

Fees information

UK/EU or international fees? The level of fee that you will be asked to pay depends on whether you're classed as a UK/EU or international student.

Yorkshire Philosophical Society Bursary

The Yorkshire Philosophical Society is offering a bursary of £100 towards travel and field trip expenses to students undertaking the PGDip in Geology of Northern England for professional development. To find out more information about this bursary contact

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 weekYou 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.

Extracurricular engagement

You will have the opportunity to publish your weekly coursework articles and supplementary research in leading geological magazines, such as Earth Heritage and Deposits. You'll also be encouraged to make links with local and regional geological groups to further strengthen your knowledge and fieldwork skills, and provide you with access to workshops and events such as the Yorkshire Fossil Festival and the Yorkshire Geology Month.


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.

Within the VLE you will have access to a personal journal for talking to your lecturer on a one-to-one basis, and an online social space for conversing with other students about programme material and interests or to organise social events.

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 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

Transferable skills

You will develop a range of transferable skills during the course including:

  • Communication and literacy
  • Critical thinking
  • Analysis
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork
  • Self-management
  • Research
"The two five-day residential weeks were academically rigorous and challenging, but also exciting, interesting and inspiring. They are delivered in an engaging, supportive and friendly environment."

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer

Typically, you'll be a graduate in a related subject area.

We favourably consider students with a BA/BSc award in any subject and evidence of recent higher education level of study in this area. The University of York reserves the right to ask students for academic work to support their application, and any student may be called to interview. 

Other qualifications

We are committed to ensuring open access and will seek to ensure those without the qualifications highlighted above, but with evident ability to succeed, have the opportunity to study. In such instances, you may be asked to submit a 1,500 word critical essay in the field of Geology for consideration of the admissions panel.

Applicants are assessed on a case-by-case basis following the University's Equal Opportunities Policy.

Additional requirements

You will require access to a personal computer with a broadband internet connection and Office software suite, compatible with Word and Excel formats.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. You must have:

  • IELTS: 7.0, with a minimum of 6.5 in Writing and no less than 5.5 in all other components
  • PTE Academic: 67, with a minimum of 61 in Writing and no less than 51 in all other components
  • CAE and CPE (from January 2015): 185, with a minimum of 176 in Writing and no less than 162 in all other components
  • TOEFL: 96, with a minimum of 17 in Listening, 18 in Reading, 20 in Speaking and 23 in Writing
  • Trinity ISE: level 3 with Distinction in all components

Full details of the requirements for distance learning students.


You can apply and send all your documentation electronically through our online system. You don’t need to complete your application all at once: you can start it, save it and finish it later.

Applicants are advised to submit applications as soon as possible as places on programmes are limited. Please also note that applications can take up to six weeks to process. Our programmes are extremely popular but, to support the student experience, minimum numbers also apply, so we recommend that you submit your application by mid/late-July. As such, please do not leave your application until the last minute. 

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Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

Dr Annette McGrath, Associate Lecturer and Programme Leader
Amanda Pauw, Postgraduate Administrator

Learn more

Centre for Lifelong Learning