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Course structure and content

Course structure and content

The course is split into two 'strands': Humanities and Social Sciences, and Physical Sciences. Students follow an individual strand, depending on their background, experience and research topic. The taught component of the Course contains four Modules: two in the Humanities and Social Sciences strand and two in the Physical Sciences strand.

Each module consists of 8 hours of formal teaching, plus guided reading. Students are also expected to attend relevant research group seminars (e.g. in Polar Physical Science or Polar Social Science and Humanities) held in the Institute. In terms two and three, students work towards their dissertations. The teaching within each strand is complemented by supervisions with the student's supervisor, and training in appropriate methodologies and techniques to enable the student to undertake their dissertation.

Candidates would normally follow two modules in either the Social Sciences or the Physical Science strands. However, it is possible to take alternative combinations with the permission of the MPhil Course Director if a student's research topic has strong interdisciplinary elements.

In addition, the course provides training on making effective use of electronic resources for polar research, the use of archival material and an overview of the material available in other circumpolar languages.

Applicants should note that this information, the content of the course, its structure, the staff teaching it, and the scheme of examination can vary from year to year. Late alterations may also be necessary.

The proposed Module teaching comprises:

Humanities and Social Sciences Strand:

Module 1: Northern Peoples

Session 1: Traditional indigenous understandings of the world

Session 2: Societies of forest and tundra: hunters and reindeer herders

Session 3: Concepts of land and resource and the struggle for self-determination

Session 4: Explorations around shamanism, theology and mental health

Module 2 : Histories of Polar Exploration

Session 1: The history of polar exploration: introduction and approaches

Session 2: The explorer as hero: myth-making and exploration

Session 3: Science, Technology and Exploration

Session 4: Not wanted on the voyage: race, class, and gender

Polar Physical Sciences Strand:

Module 1: Polar Remote Sensing

The Polar Studies core teaching in Remote Sensing consists of four 2-hour sessions. The first of these will provide a not too technical introduction to what Remote Sensing is, how it works and what kinds of data it can generate, and a brief introduction to the research areas of the Polar Landscape and Remote Sensing Group. Subsequent sessions will introduce 2 or 3 case studies of remote sensing in a polar context – e.g. of snow cover, pollution impacts on vegetation, and glacier surface geometry At least some of the last session will be devoted to a practical introduction to searching for remotely sensed imagery on the internet, and processing the data. These sessions will take place in conjunction some of the sessions in the MPhil in Environmental Sciences run by the Department of Geography.

Module 2: Glacier and Ice Sheet Processes

Session 1: Modelling the behaviour of former ice sheets (Neil Arnold)

Session 2: Past Glacial Activity - the Record in Glacimarine Sediments (Julian Dowdeswell)

Session 3: Current Mass Balance of Greenland and Antarctica (Ian Willis)

Session 4: Contemporary changes in the flow of Antarctic ice streams (Poul Christoffersen)

The First (Michaelmas) Term runs from October to December, and is followed by the Christmas Vacation. The Second (Lent) Term runs from January to March and is followed by the Easter Vacation. The Third (Easter) Term runs from April to June and is followed by the Long Vacation.

Further Information

Enquiries about this course should be addressed to:

Graduate Office Administrator,
Department of Geography,
Downing Place,
Cambridge CB2 3EN
United Kingdom

Telephone: +44 (0)1223 333375
Fax: +44 (0)1223 333392


Graduate Enquiries contact form