Focus on Geography


Entry Requirements: A*AA

(No specific subject requirements but a high grade in A-Level Geography and/or another essay-based subject is preferred)



Luke Dell is a first-year Geography undergraduate based at Robinson College. He represents his year group on the Geography department Staff-Student Committee, is an RGS Geography Student Ambassador, Speakers Officer for the Geography Society (CUGS), editor for the CUGS magazine, theatre reviewer for The Tab, and is involved in the bustling Cambridge theatre scene!



A typical day as a Cambridge Geographer:

7am - Get up and have breakfast and a shower. Check my emails and the news headlines before consulting my diary and planning the day ahead.

8:30am - Work on my current supervision essay on Fordism by reading a couple of chapters from a book (Ash Amin's 'Post Fordism: A Reader') and a journal article (this one is on apparel manufacturing and production in Torreon, Mexico).

9:40am - Head to the Geography department in Downing site for the day's lectures.

10am - Physical Geography lecture on global patterns of biodiversity for the 'Life on Earth' lecture series.

11am - Head upstairs to the department library and carry on with this week’s supervision work.

12pm - Human Geography lecture on global and national scale wealth inequality for the 'Unequal Geographies' lecture series.

1pm - Cycle back to college and have lunch with my friends at the Garden Restaurant (or sometimes I just make a sandwich and have it in my room if I have a particularly busy work schedule).

1:45pm - Preparation for this week's supervision based on the essay I submitted a few days ago about drivers and evidence of climatic change for the 'Environmental Change during the Quaternary' module.

2:45pm - Cycle to Churchill College for my Physical Geography supervision.

3pm - Supervision with one of the other Robinson geographers on the Quaternary period. This involves going over some of the core themes and ideas that came up in lectures and in the wider reading. We then discuss our essays with our supervisor.

4pm - Cycle back to college and crack on with some more work. (This time I am reading a journal article on feminisation of the workforce in an electronics factory in the Guangdong Province of China.)

5pm - Take a break from reading by meeting up with a friend in the Red Brick Café.

5:30pm - Back to work!

6:30pm - Off to the Garden Restaurant with my friends for dinner. There is lots of choice on offer as always but I decide on the Lasagne with some vegetables and chips.

7:30pm - A small bit of supervision work before the evening sets in.

8:15pm - Off to Queens' College for a 'Bugsy Malone' rehearsal. Not long to go until opening night so it is a long one!

11pm - I head back to Robinson - time for bed!



Course structure:

The Geography Tripos is split into a number of different papers (the Tripos term for modules), which you sit at the end of each of your three years of study. At the end of your time at Cambridge, you will get a BA degree based entirely on your results from your final year.


In the first year (Part IA), you sit two papers (each assessed with a three-hour examination at the end of the year) as well as a module on Geographical Skills and Methods (for which you submit five pieces of assessed coursework). Each paper is made up of a number of different topics including aspects from contemporary human, historical, sociocultural, environmental, and physical Geography. Paper one, 'Human Geography: People, Place and Politics of Difference' covers topics ranging from Fordism and the study of cultural landscapes, to Geopolitics and Sustainable Development. Meanwhile on paper two, 'Physical Geography: Environmental Processes and Change' you cover everything from volcanology and the atmosphere, to biogeography and oceanic processes. On the skills course, you learn about using GIS software, conducting statistical analysis on data, and you get to put into practice a number of different Human and Physical Geography fieldwork methods.


In the second year (Part IB), you have more choice to begin to shape your degree. The first compulsory paper, 'Living with Global Change', looks at contemporary global challenges, in particular notions of risk and vulnerability in a changing world. This is accompanied with another skills module. You then get to choose three papers out of a selection of six (three human and three physical) which allows you to specialise in certain geographical disciplines ranging from citizenship and development to remote sensing and glacial processes. These papers are in the '2+1 examination' form so comprise of a two-hour exam and a piece of written coursework. You also get the opportunity in your second year to go abroad on a heavily subsidised one-week residential field trip to practice your fieldwork methods. This year's trips have included exploring biodiversity on the volcanic island of Tenerife and looking at development in Morocco.


The third year (Part II) is the most important of your Cambridge degree as this is the year that really counts towards your final grade. You will complete four papers from a selection of twelve which are either in a 'three hour' or '2+1' examination form. These vary year-on-year; however, there is always a good mix of physical and human geography topics on offer. The most important thing you do in your final year is conduct the research for, and write, your 10,000 word dissertation! This is your opportunity to research whatever you want and is a fantastic means of exploring your favourite part of Geography in a lot more detail. It is also your opportunity to go abroad for research if you want to.



Why do I love Geography?:

Geography is such a broad and diverse subject covering a range of historical and contemporary issues. It covers both the physical and social sciences, teaches you loads of new skills, and is an opportunity to learn more about some of the big, pressing socioeconomic and environmental challenges facing our planet. The Cambridge course is also particularly unique. Not only are you being taught by some of the best academics in the country (in both lectures and supervisions), you also get the opportunity to study both human and physical Geography in the first year - something which most Geography degree courses don't allow - before specialising in a field of Geography that particularly interests you! Cambridge also has a great Geography society (CUGS) which hosts a number of fantastic guest speakers every term as well as many different social events. Geography at Robinson, and at Cambridge as a whole, has a great, welcoming vibe, which makes it a fantastic academic and social community to be a part of. The relevance of the subject to contemporary issues also makes it extremely valuable, and one that employers highly value.