Geography at Fitzwilliam College has a long and thriving tradition, making it one of best places in the world to study the subject. Geography is important to the College in terms of its degree results, the number of Fellows in the subject, the size of our typical admission and in terms of the successful history of the subject in the College. 

Number of students

We typically admit between eight and 10 undergraduates per year.

The course

First-year students are introduced to key themes and issues relating to human and physical Geography, such as globalisation, sustainability, geopolitics, urbanism, climate change, and the earth/ocean/ice/atmosphere system. Students also learn a range of geographical skills and methods, such as fieldwork, lab and data processing techniques. 

In the second year, students specialise in their preferred topics amongst a range of human and physical papers, along with research and analysis skills and methods. The students choose four topics among the following:

  • Living with Global Change
  • Austerity
  • Development Theories, Policies and Practices
  • Citizenship, Cities and Civil Society
  • Quaternary Climates and Environments
  • Glacial Pocesses
  • Biogeography

In the course of the second year, students design their dissertation project and undertake fieldwork in the summer. 

In the third year, students write up their dissertation (10,000 words) and choose the topics they wish to study amongst the following:

  • The Geographies of Global Urbanism
  • Geographies of the Arctic
  • Political Ecology in the Global South
  • Demographic Continuity and Change
  • Environmental Knowledges and the Politics of Expertise
  • Geographics of Postcolonialism and Decoloniality
  • Legal Geographies
  • From Earth Observations to the Climate System
  • Glaciology
  • Volcanology
  • Seascapes
  • Biogeography

For further information about studying Geography at the University of Cambridge see the Department of Geography website.

The benefits of Geography at Fitzwilliam College

Geography students represent a strong community at Fitzwilliam. All geographers, whether undergraduate, postgraduate or Fellow, are proud to belong to the Fitzwilliam Geographical Society. No first year geographer feels at sea on arrival, with a ready-made family of peers and associates with whom to socialise and enjoy areas of mutual interest. The Geography Society meets socially very regularly for meals, drinks, field trips and even ten-pin bowling. This engenders a strong sense of community among the students, with friendships and support developing over the three year groups. The mutual support extends to a range of academic activities as well. Final-year students, for instance, give talks on their dissertation projects, and their peers are able to provide feedback, discussion and support. This means that first year and second year students benefit from the experience of the third years when designing their own research projects.

The College has an extensive library collection in Geography, to complement that available in the University’s Department of Geography and the Scott Polar Research Institute. The College, through its scholarships and bursaries, is able to provide significant financial assistance for geographers who wish to carry out fieldwork in the United Kingdom and abroad, particularly in the vacation between the second and third years. There is a dedicated Environmental Studies Fund for travel linked to research on environment-related topics. Geographers at Fitzwilliam are particularly encouraged to choose overseas topics for their Part II dissertations and spend much of the long vacation at the end of their second year in faraway places. In recent years, the Part II students have conducted research in Kenya, Sweden, Brazil, USA, Japan, Mexico and the UK.

The admissions process

Candidates invited to interview can normally expect two face-to-face interviews lasting 30 minutes.

Entry requirements

Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A-level or 40-42 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB. A Level (or equivalent) in Geography is required. We may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances. For other qualifications, please consult the Admissions Office.

Geography Conference

The College organises an annual Geography Taster Day for Year 12 students.

Directors of Studies

Year 1

Professor Bhaskar Vira is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Geography, and Professor of Political Economy, Department of Geography. His research interests span the fields of political economy, development studies and environmental studies, with a regional focus on South Asia. he is particularly interested in state-society interactions over resource use, at a variety of scales. He teaches courses on environmental economics, development studies, and local natural resource management at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 

Year 2

Dr Celine Vidal is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Geography, and Marie Skolodowska Curie Fellow at the Department of Geography. Celine is a volcanologist, and her research focuses on the large explosive eruptions from the past and their impacts on climate and civilisations. For her research, she uses a forensic volcanology approach across disciplines to track the source of mystery eruptions only known from the climate records. Part of her research consists in reconstructing large eruptions from the Late Stone Age in Ethiopia and their potential impact on our hominin ancestors. 

Year 3

 Dr Richard Powell is a Fellow and Director of Studies in Geography, and University Lecturer in the Human Geography of the Polar Regions. His research interests encompass historical and cultural geographies, the geopolitics of territory and resources, geographies of science, and the histories of the social and natural sciences. He teaches courses on history of geography, fieldwork and the human geographies of the Arctic at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 

More information

Department of Geography >>