Global Environmental Change




Part Time, Full Time

| Admissions status: Open
Study the scientific background and approaches deployed in studying Earth’s environmental changes over the past, present and near future, together with the societal implications of our current research. Choose either a science or a policy stream to help prepare for careers in environmental change research, consultancy and/or policy development.

  • To enable those with first degrees in a range of disciplines – geography, physical sciences, engineering, computer science etc - to focus on specific issues relating to environmental change in the Earth system, and in particular on anthropogenic influences on the terrestrial, hydrological and atmospheric environments, and their biological, physical and societal consequences.
  • To expose students to current understanding of the processes and nature of environmental changes occurring in Earth’s terrestrial, hydrological and atmospheric environments, to understand the linkages and causes of these forcings, and to allow them to place this knowledge within the context of our understanding of both natural variability and Earth’s history of environmental changes over the period of human societies and before.
  • To expose students to the methods used to examine the potential future consequences of current environmental changes, and the potential for future significant perturbations to the Earth environment, including changes to the carbon cycle, climate, to the planet’s hydrological regimes and to its land use and land cover.
  • To enable students to evaluate environmental change research critically and with regard to the strengths and weaknesses and potential societal implications of the science.
  • To allow students to develop research skills in the undertaking and presentation of environmental research, and to develop specialist skills in one or more of the research tools used to investigate such issues.
  • To provide an understanding of the scientific evidence needed for policy makers and society to respond to the problems associated with global and regional environmental changes happening to the Earth system, and to understand the nature of the uncertainties involved in future predictions.
  • To promote initiative and the exercise of independent critical judgement in identifying, analysing and providing answers to research questions at an advanced level.
  • To develop relevant transferable skills embedded in the learning and assessment schemes in the programme.
Student destinations
The MSc is designed to prepare students for careers in environmental change research, consultancy and/or policy development. It provides interdisciplinary research training for those going onto a PhD in environmental and/or Earth system science within King's or elsewhere, and students entering the job market immediately after graduation are expected to be highly marketable in three main areas; local and national governmental and non-governmental agencies (eg Environment Agency; County Councils; Nature Conservancies); environmental consultancies and businesses (eg Environmental Informatics providers; Environmental Businesses - including Carbon Trading; Insurance; Waste Management and Energy Industries), and policy development organisations (eg government departments such as Defra). The Seminars in Environmental Research, Management and Policy module offers students the chance to hear and meet practitioners in many of these key areas.
Programme leader/s
Professor Nick Drake (
Awarding Institution
King's College London
Credit value (UK/ECTS equivalent)
UK 180/ECTS 90
One year FT, two years PT, September to September.
Strand Campus.
Year of entry 2015
Offered by
Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy
Department of Geography
Closing date
Early application to this programme is recommended. Applications received before 1 July 2014 are more likely to be successful. Although, if places are still available, we may consider applications later than this date.
Approximately 20 FT/PT.
PT Home: £3950 (2013)
PT Overseas: £8125 (2013)
FT Home: £8,250 (2014)
FT Overseas: £16,500 (2014)
Contact information
Centre for Arts & Sciences Admissions (CASA)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7848 1977 / 7203 / 7230 / 1434 / 7204 / 2912
Email Website

This MSc programme is designed to meet the need for multidisciplinary training in the study of Earth's environmental changes, both past, present and future. Focusing across the terrestrial, hydrologic and atmospheric components of the Earth system, the course covers both anthropogenic influences and natural variability and includes study of key techniques used by scientists and policymakers to investigate these issues and their potential effects. Suitable for those first degrees across a range of subjects, the programme is divided into "science" and "policy" streams, depending on student background and primary interest. The programme is designed to prepare graduating students for careers in environmental change research, consultancy and/or policy development.

The wide ranging, large-scale “global” environmental changes we are increasingly being made aware in the Earth system are most often a mix of natural processes enhanced or altered by human activities. To understand and investigate the magnitude and scope of these issues and their effects requires proper interdisciplinary study, including an appreciation of the degree and type of human disturbance, and of the underlying background variability upon which these disturbances are overlain.

This MSc programme is designed to meet the need for multidisciplinary training in these areas, focusing on the terrestrial, hydrologic and atmospheric environments, examining anthropogenic influence in the context of natural variability, and elucidating the biological, physical and societal consequences. The programme includes coverage of both the scientific background, some of the research methods and tools commonly applied, and the societal and policy implications of current research understanding. It is designed to prepare students for careers in environmental change research, consultancy and/or policy development, and is delivered by a multidisciplinary team with assessments based on a series of written reports and a research dissertation.

Core programme content
Core module (60 credits):
  • 7SSG5167 Dissertation in Global Environmental Change (60 credits) (must Take and Pass)

Compulsory modules (60 credits):

  • 7SSG5110 Methods for Environmental Research (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5176 Global Environmental Change 1: Past and Present (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5177 Global Environmental Change 2: Present and Future (20 credits)

Indicative non-core content
Optional modules (60–90 credits):
Students must take 60 credits optional modules, with at least 40 credits from the “list of prescribed optional modules” given below for their pathway, and the other credits may come from any Level 7 (Masters) modules offered in the Geography Department (including those on either list of prescribed optional modules). Students on either pathway who wish to take greater than 180 credits overall (for a maximum total of 210 credits) will require approval from the Programme Director using the Module Amendment Form available from However, it is not necessary to take these additional credits and it is strongly advised that students generally restrict themselves to the minimum number of credits required.

List of Prescribed Optional Modules Specific to the POLICY pathway of this Programme:

  • 7SSG5070 Environmental Internship (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5073 Environmental Actors and Politics (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5104 Water Resources and Water Policy (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5117 River Processes and Management (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5149 Disasters and Development (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5165 Environmental Science and Policymaking (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5206 International Rivers (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5208 Understanding Climate Change in Society (20 credits)

List of Prescribed Optional Modules Specific to the SCIENCE pathway of this Programme:

  • 7SSG5029 Environmental Remote Sensing (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5031 Modelling Environmental Change at the Land Surface (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5035 Monitoring Environmental Change (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5109 Environmental GIS (20 credits)
  • 7SSG5111 Environmental Research Design and Application (20 credits)

Other Optional Modules Available to Students on this Programme:

  • Any Level 7 (Masters) modules offered in the Geography Department, including from the list of prescribed optional modules given above.
  • Up to 20 credits of Level 7 modules from any KCL Departments or Institutes outside of Geography.

Please note that the above programme structure is subject to formal approval.

Compulsory taught modules are all assessed by coursework-based methods (essays, presentations, practical writeups, online quizzes). Optional moduels are assessed by coursework and occasionally by examination. The three-month written research dissertation is core and is based upon work conducted overseas or in the UK.

More information on typical programme modules.
NB it cannot be guaranteed that all modules are offered in any particular academic year.

Module code: 7SSG5110
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 1 (autumn) 

This module aims to provide a background in issues and methods involved in doing environmental research, including research methods and design. To achieve this, the module consists of a series of lectures, seminars, and practicals giving an overview of methods in designing, analyzing, presenting and evaluating environmental research. A subcomponent of this module will be an additional unassessed but required set of practicals and seminars giving a overview of laboratory and field equipment available in the KCL Department of Geography. On completion of this module, the student will be able to define the features of environmental problems and will be able to assess environmental investigations in terms of their design strategies for collection of data, data analysis, and results presentation. When taken with SG/5111 the students will be fully equipped to carry out their own independent research into environmental problems using these methodologies.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.

Module code: 7SSG5149
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 1 (autumn) 

This module aims to provide students with training in critical social science with which to examine the causes of natural disaster associated with climate change and other extreme events and the ways in which natural disaster risk and recovery are managed. The module exposes students to vulnerability and capacity assessment methodologies, and management approaches including community based risk management. There is a particular, but not exclusive focus on Africa, Asia and Latin America. Theoretically the module draws from the political ecology of disaster and hazardscapes work.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.
Module code: 7SSG5073
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 1 (autumn) 

This module enables students to understand the main problems and opportunities of environmental actors with regard to environmental policy formulation and implementation. It gives students an insight into the pertinent debates surrounding the role of different environmental actors in the environmental management process and enables them to understand debates surrounding differences between environmental policy-making in advanced economies and the Third World and why different environmental actors are pursuing different agendas with regard to environmental policy and politics.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.
Module code: 7SSG5109
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 2 (spring) 

This module enables students to capture spatial GIS data from a variety of sources, to assess and manage spatial data quality, to integrate and analyse these data within the latest business and research standard GIS environments. The module focuses particularly on the integrated use of spatial (GIS) data alongside remote sensing technologies and simulation models for better understanding and managing the natural environment. Various aspects of spatial and spatio-temporal analysis are covered and the role of GIS in supporting management decisions is emphasised. Course materials focus on the physical environment and ecological systems but include socio-economic information where necessary.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.
Module code: 7SSG5070
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Full-year 

This module enables students to understand the main opportunities and constraints facing the policy-influencing capacities of environmental organisations, through the medium of an internship placement with an NGO. Students gain insights into the workings of environmental organisations and a feel for the day-to-day working practices of environmental activists. While on placement students learn how to collect/process environmental information relevant to the campaigning activities of environmental organisations, and subsequently put together a structured and coherent report reflecting on their practical experience.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.
Module code: 7SSG5029
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 1 (autumn) 

The module enables students to understand the information content of optical, thermal and radar remotely sensed data and to be able to identify the appropriate type of data for use in different environmental investigations. Students will learn to understand and apply various data calibration, processing and analyses techniques to maximize the interpretation of remotely sensed imagery. They will search, order and import various types of remote sensing data into appropriate software packages, and will be able to identify, obtain, calibrate, process and interpret data from sensors such as the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer and/or Landsat Thematic Mapper to illustrate examples of environmental change phenomena.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.
Module code: 7SSG5031
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 2 (spring) 

Through seminars and hands on experience, this module enables students to develop a research-level understanding of environmental modelling applications and limitations. Students will gain the ability to build, develop and apply a wide-range of modelling solutions to environmental problems. Students will also be able to critically assess research involving models and the application of models.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.
Module code: 7SSG5035
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 1 (autumn) 

This module introduces students to the details and practicalities of environmental monitoring, using a variety of methodologies and measurement techniques, specifically using electronic-based sensors and instrumentation. Students acquire the skills to manipulate raw field, laboratory and logged data for analysis, to monitor, measure and analyse data on environmental stores and fluxes, and to interpret, analyse and present field and laboratory data clearly in written reports in order to explain processes operating in the environmental system under investigation. Students will also gain experience to design field or laboratory based research projects to monitor environmental systems, making use of appropriate field, laboratory and measurement equipment. Field monitoring methods are taught in the context of atmospheric environments, catchment monitoring, fluvial systems, hydrological processes, complemented with a practical fieldwork exercise.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.
Module code: 7SSG5104
Credit level: 7
Credit value: 20
Semester:  Semester 1 (autumn) 

This module provides an interdisciplinary introduction to the recent history of water resource allocation and management especially in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Priority will be given to outlining a conceptual framework identifying the relevant underlying ecological, economic and sociological principles relevant in the evaluation and management of water resources. The conceptual framework will also show the link between these underlying principles and environmental and economic policies. The roles of the institutions and technologies through which such policies can be implemented will also be analysed and exemplified.

Note that the list of Geography modules offered, as well as the term(s) in which they are offered, may still change from the above.

General entry advice

Minimum standard is a 2:1 degree or international equivalent, e.g. GPA of 3.3 from a US University, with preference given to geography, natural sciences (such as environmental science, physics, chemistry and biology) and engineering subjects. Candidates who do not achieve a 2:1 but have professional or voluntary experience will also be considered. Mature candidates will be considered favourably.

Enhanced criminal conviction check
Occupational Health clearance required?

To apply for graduate study at King's you will need to complete our graduate online application form. Applying online makes applying easier and quicker for you, and means we can receive your application faster and more securely.
King's does not normally accept paper copies of the graduate application form as applications must be made online. However, if you are unable to access the online graduate application form, please contact the relevant admissions/School Office at King's for advice.

We run a rolling admissions system. We aim to process all complete applications within four weeks; during February and March and over holiday periods, applications may take longer to process. There is no set deadline.

Please provide a personal statement that shows how your own interests are linked to the programme. In this statement please describe your academic background, your reasons for applying for this programme and what you hope to gain from it, including any relevant experience, strengths, ambitions or research interests.

Varied including Research Councils, University of London Scholarships, Departmental Bursaries and career development loans. For overseas students Chevening Scholarships are available from the British Council. For further information on funding, including conditions of eligibility, please consult the Postgraduate Funding Page on the Masters section of the Geography Department's website -

Student profiles

Global Environmental Change MSc

I chose to study the MSc Global Environmental Change because of its multidisciplinary approach, its student-faculty interaction and highly experienced faculty members, many of whom also engage in consulting and research work.

The optional modules are very interesting and I actually had a bit of difficulty deciding in only two and consequently I decided to audit one more. I chose 'Environmental Actors and Politics' and 'Environmental Internship' as the two optional courses for the year. I have now secured an internship at a consultancy in which I will acquire important knowledge for my professional future.

The Department of Geography, is located at the Strand campus which is a beautiful place to study in. As master's students we have exclusive access to facilities created especially for us, such as the common room, the computer laboratory and computer rooms in the Maughan Library (within a 5 minutes walk reach from the Strand).

Seminars at the Department are organised on a weekly basis and are always followed by a reception which helps to get to know more of the students in the Department. There is also a weekly pub trip to which all are invited, professors and students.

Thanks to Conacyt (Mexican Government scholarship organisation), a great part of my living expenses and tuition fees are covered. This has undoubtedly helped to focus my attention on studying and not to worry about taking a part-time job.

When I finish writing my dissertation I will search for a job in consultancy as I want to develop experience in this field. Later on I would like to open my own consultancy in Mexico.

King's is undoubtedly the best choice I could have selected. As the days go by the only thing that worries me is that I'm running out of time!