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Course structure and content

Course structure and content

The course is split into two strands: 'Social Sciences and Humanities', 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 Social Sciences and Humanities 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 Sciences or Polar Social Sciences 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 research skills, methodologies and techniques to enable the student to undertake their dissertation.

Candidates would normally follow the two modules in either the Social Sciences and Humanities or the Physical Sciences. 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 additional training on making effective use of electronic resources for polar research, accessing archival and other material, and presentation skills.

Applicants should note that the precise content of the course and teaching schedule may vary slightly from year to year, depending on staff availability.

The Module teaching currently comprises:

Social Sciences and Humanities Strand:

Module 1: The Emerging Poles: exploration, science, governance and resources

1: Blank space? Histories of Arctic Science and Exploration

2: Ethnographies of polar field science

3: Arctic Governance and Geopolitics

4: Resource Extraction and the Canadian Arctic

Module 2: Northern Peoples and Cultures

1: The Taking of Northern Lands and Counter Narratives

2: Northern Minds and Bodies

3: Northern Rights? Geographies of Self-Determination

4: Studying the North

Polar Physical Sciences Strand:

Module 3: Polar Remote Sensing

This module consists of four 2-hour sessions dealing with Polar Remote Sensing. 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.

Module 4: Glacier and Ice Sheets: Present and Past

1: Past Glacial Activity - the Record in Glacimarine Sediments

2: Current Mass Balance of Greenland and Antarctica

3: Contemporary changes in the flow of Antarctic ice streams

4: Modelling the flow of Glaciers and Ice Sheets

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