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PGDip The Geology of Northern England (online)

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

Year of entry: 2020/21


2 years part-time

Start date

September 2020 (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 the focus is on northern England, 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 course will equip you with a breadth of transferable skills including advanced research, science communication and palaeoenvironmental analysis. 

Completing the course has 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, PGDip The Geology of Northern England

Read more from our students.

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 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. 

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. 

Core modules:

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.

Core modules:

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
It is not often that something exceeds one’s expectations by a very wide margin – but this course did.
Ken, PGDip The Geology of Northern England

Read more from our students.

Fees and funding

Annual tuition fees for 2020/21

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

For courses which are longer than one year, the tuition fees quoted are for the first year of study. Fees for subsequent years are subject to increase (no more than 2% each year).

Additional costs

We strive to make reading materials available digitally within licensing agreements. When this is not possible, you may have to obtain some key texts yourself. You'll be issued reading lists in advance of each term.

UK-based students are encouraged to make use of the SCONUL Access scheme which allows the borrowing of 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 to York, which will vary in price depending on your home location and the standard of accommodation you choose to book. Minibus travel on the field trips is included in the course fees.

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 the Geology of Northern England for professional development. To find out more 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 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.

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 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

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 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 support that you will receive from both the Centre for Lifelong Learning and your tutor is of the very highest standard - they are there to help you, be it either with workload or personal problems.
David, PGDip The Geology of Northern England

Read more from our students.

Entry requirements

Qualification Typical offer
Undergraduate degree 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.
Other qualifications and experience 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.
Other international qualifications Equivalent qualifications from your country

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.

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.

English language

If English isn't your first language you may need to provide evidence of your English language ability. We accept the following qualifications:

Qualification Minimum requirement
IELTS 7.0, minimum 6.5 in each component
PTE Academic 67, minimum 61 in each component
C1 Advanced and C2 Proficiency 185, minimum 176 in each component
TOEFL 96, minimum 23 in each component
Trinity ISE III Distinction in all components
Duolingo Minimum overall score of 120

For more information see our English language requirements.


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.

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Next steps

Contact us

Get in touch if you have any questions

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

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Centre for Lifelong Learning