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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge


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Geography in Cambridge

The Geography course at Cambridge is an exciting and multi-disciplinary course, which offers a rich educational experience with ride-ranging topics in both Human and Physical Geography. First year topics in Human Geography range from Environment and Sustainable Development to Geopolitics and Economic Globalization and Its Crises. First year topics in Physical Geography include Dynamic Earth, Life on Earth, The Atmosphere, Coasts and Polar Environments. The second year core course is ‘Living with Global Change’ which offers diverse and timely topics, such as Volcanic Hazards and Climate Change. Students can specialize in either Human or Physical Geography, although many choose to combine both. Second year options in Human Geography include Development Geography, Austerity & Affluence, Citizenship and Cities & Society. The options in Physical Geography include Glaciers, Coasts, Biogeography and Satellite Remote Sensing. In the final year students specializes in a topic of their own choice and there are many options to choose from. Examples include Urban, Political, Historical, Risk, Ecology and Cities (human) and Biodiversity, Coasts, Volcanic Hazards and Glaciology (physical).

Full detail about the Geography course in Cambridge can be found here.

Geography in Murray Edwards College 

We welcome around 3-4 new undergraduate students in Geography each year, which means that College as a whole have 10-12 undergraduate Geography students. The intellectual atmosphere at Murray Edwards is modern, candid and fresh. We encourage students to solve problems by working in groups as well as independently, to develop their own ideas, think critically and pursue career goals on the basis of regular discussions with their Director of Studies. Students often join the JCR at college and CUGC, the University of Cambridge Geographical Society. Many practice sports, some play music and most volunteer. Or simply, “we get involved”.

Murray Edwards students often choose overseas topics for their Part II dissertations and spend much of the long vacation at the end of their second year in populated or remote, wet or dry, hot or cold parts of our planet. Examples of dissertations carried out by students at Murray Edwards are: Comparison of the Olive-backed Sunbird Across The Wakatobi Archipelago in Indonesia by Katherine Elsom, which received an award from the Royal Geographical Society in 2011. Another example is Empowerment of Arab Women in the United Arab Emirates Workforce by Jessica Rae, which received an award for outstanding dissertation in 2013. In 2015, Katherine Miles received an award for her dissertation “Hydrology of Glacier Noir and Glacier Blanc in the Ecrin National Park, France.

Students speak highly of their studies.  Fiona Rushbrook who graduated in 2011 is now a Humanitarian Programme Manager at the Department for International Development (DFID). She’s been taking active part in the UK’s fight against global poverty, first in Yemen and now in Afghanistan, where she is managing humanitarian and disaster preparedness programmes from DFID’s Afghanistan office. She writes:

"The best part of studying the Geography Tripos at Cambridge was its breadth of topics and first class teaching. Over my three years I studied a whole range of subjects from glaciers, atmospheric science and climate change to conservation and development, Arctic geopolitics and even the history of the AIDS pandemic. In particular, I enjoyed the opportunity to debate key issues with supervisors and lecturers, many of which who are leading academics in their field, in small groups of no more than 2 or 3 students.  For my dissertation, I volunteered with a charity called Education Partnerships Africa (EPAfrica) and spent my second year summer volunteering and conducting fieldwork in Kenya, looking at the gendered patterns of student drop out at a rural secondary school. This opportunity provided me with first hand development experience and the academic foundation to pursue an exciting career in international development. I am now looking forward to participating in Murray Edwards’ new International Development Alumni Network."

All students meet regularly with their Director of Studies. Currently Dr. Emma Liu takes this role for the first years, Dr. Poul Christoffersen for the second years, and Dr. Anna Barford for the third years. You can read a brief description of their research below, and check their personal Murray Edwards webpages for more information.

The Director of Studies oversees students' academic progress and the Geography fellows supervise topics in Physical and Human Geography, and Study Skills in the first year. In the second and third year all supervisions are set up and organised by the Department of Geography, which means that all students across the university's diverse range of Colleges are offered the same supervisions. The Directors of Studies collectively organise an annual Murray Edwards College Geography Dissertation Conference where third years present their own research findings; and host an Annual Geography Dinner and end of year dinner. Other subject based activities are run by the student Geography Society throughout the year.

Poul Christoffersen (MSc, PhD, Director of Studies) is a glaciologist and physical geographer who studies glaciers around the world. His research currently focuses on highly dynamic glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, where melting and flow of ice increasingly contribute to global sea level rise. He often leads scientific expeditions to remote regions in the Arctic and Antarctic.

Anna Barford (BA, MA, PhD) is a human geographer who studies austerity and socioeconomic inequality. She is particularly interested in the way cities in Britain and North America respond to recession, recovery, fiscal uncertainty, growing economic inequality, and changing policy demands. She also researches international health, including HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases and epidemics.

Emma Liu (MSci, PhD) studies volcanology. Her research interests include physical volcanology, volatile geochemistry, and volcanic ash generation. 

Applying to study here  

We look for students who are enthusiastic about their subject, motivated to learn more and have achieved highly in their examinations to date.

We usually set standard/typical offers at A level or equivalent ie usually A*AA. Full details of the entry requirements and selection processes in Geograohy  across all colleges can be found on the central University webpages.

Moving into a your career 

Geography students at Murray Edwards use intellectual, practical and transferable skills to pursue diverse career paths after graduation. Some will want to stay closely involved with their subject while others seek broader career challenges. The pursuits are informed and encouraged by the Murray Edwards’ Gateway Programme.

Fellows in this subject