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School of Geography

MSc Geographical Information Science (GISc) (online distance learning)

Applications open on 3 September 2018.

Start date: September 2019

Duration: 36 months, part-time distance learning (MSc)

24 months, part-time distance learning (PGDip)

12 months, part-time distance learning (PGCert)

Programme manager: Dr Luke Burns

Contact: geo-tpg-support(at)


This course will provide you with in-depth and specialist knowledge of GIS techniques. You will focus on scientific, technical and computational aspects of Geographical Information Science (GIScience), with particular reference to the socioeconomic and environmental sciences. 

Core modules introduce GIS, a rapidly evolving area in business and environmental applications. You will be introduced to GIS packages and a range of data sources/techniques, useful for those wanting to undertake social and environmental science research and those keen to understand the application of geotechnology as practitioners. You’ll study theories and concepts underpinning GIS and explore topics including Big Data with advanced visualisation, digital image processing, and geodemographics.

Students studying year 1 only are eligible for a PG Cert, years 1 and 2 lead to a PG Diploma, and students completing all 3 years are eligible for the award of MSc GISc.  

Course content

In year 1, you will study a foundational year of four compulsory modules covering core concepts and technical skills in GIScience. After completing these modules, you will be eligible to graduate with a postgraduate certificate (PGCert). 

In year two, you will be required to study four 15 credit modules from a selection of optional modules. You may choose to focus on developing your technical skills further with modules covering Big Data or digital image processing or you may choose from applied modules covering business and planning, environment, and geodemographics.

In year three you will work with your supervisor to complete a 60 credit independent research project – a chance to demonstrate the knowledge and skills you’ve gained and specialise in an area that relates to your career ambitions and interests.

Course structure


Year one: four compulsory modules

  • GIS Data Visualisation & Analysis 1 (15 credits)
  • GIS Data Visualisation & Analysis 2 (15 credits)
  • Programming for Geographical Information Analysis (Python) (15 credits)
  • Professional and Personal Development (15 credits)

Year two: choose four from a selection of optional modules

  • Web-based GIS (15 credits)
  • Big Data with Advanced Visualisation (15 credits)
  • Digital Image Processing for Environmental Remote Sensing (15 credits)
  • Geodemographics and Neighbourhood Analysis (15 credits)
  • GIS and Environment (15 credits)
  • Business and Planning (15 credits)

Year three

  • Independent research project (60 credits)

Learning and teaching

You’ll be provided with a variety of online learning materials throughout the programme. You’ll work as part of a virtual online community, discussing the materials online, collaborating in group tasks, participating in group exercises and generally supporting one another. 

You’ll also get plenty of one-on-one support. Our qualified tutors are experts in the theory and practice of GIScience and are there to support you and your group. Our tutors will act as mentors and provide you with personal guidance as you progress, advising you on how to make the most of the course and helping you to overcome any obstacles that you encounter. Any work you hand in will be returned to you with detailed comments and advice.


All assessment will be conducted via coursework and submitted online.  Modules will typically require you to complete a portfolio-style assessment followed by a project which draws upon the skills obtained throughout the module. 

Entry requirements, fees and applying

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in a relevant subject e.g. Geography, Computer Science, Geology, Earth Science, Environmental Studies or other appropriate physical/computer science subject.  Previous employment / working experience will be considered in lieu of / in addition to qualifications if appropriate.

All applicants will need to have GCSE English Language at grade C or above, or an appropriate English language qualification.

We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, see our English language equivalent qualifications

Improve your English

International students who do not meet the English language requirements for this programme may be able to study our postgraduate pre-sessional English course, to help improve your English language level.

This pre-sessional course is designed with a progression route to your degree programme and you’ll learn academic English in the context of your subject area. To find out more, read Language for Science (6 weeks) and Language for Science: General Science (10 weeks)

If you need to study for longer than 10 weeks, read more about our postgraduate pre-sessional English course.


UK/EU: To be confirmed

International: To be confirmed

Career opportunities

This programme centres on the development of specialist intellectual knowledge and skills which are highly vocational and are in high demand from employers, both in the UK and overseas. Numerate and spatial data savvy MSc GISc graduates with programming and software development skills are highly sought after and go into a range of different positions, organisations and roles both in the private and public sector. Popular careers include data analysts, GIS professionals and planners at destinations such as the United Nations, Statistics Agencies, Local Government, Police/Fire Service, Retail Consultancies, Utility companies and more.  Many graduates use the skills developed on the programme to seek promotion in their current roles.

The University's Careers Centre also provides a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.


The dissertation project is one of the most satisfying elements of the course. It allows you to apply what you’ve learned to a piece of research focusing on a real-world problem, and it can be used to explore and develop your specific interests.