BSc Geography with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:

Unit code GEOG21512
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Have you ever travelled to, or walked within, a new landscape and wondered why it looks the way it does? Have you stumbled up steep mountainous slopes, which are adjusting to the loss of the support of ice that once pushed back against them? Have you ever been to a desert, or sandy coastline, and trudged up a steep sand dune, where your feet slide backwards almost as much as they move upwards, and wondered how all that sand got (and stopped) there?

Geomorphology is about asking why the landscapes around us look as they do. The approach often begins with detailed descriptions of their appearance and then thinking about processes that have operated in order work out how they formed. In your first year (GEOG 10401: EPOCH), you started to think about the relative roles of geological and surface processes. In this introductory geomorphology course, we will focus on Earth-surface processes and how these mould landscapes. This relates to processes acting in the Earth’s spheres that you studied in first year (GEOG 10422: Dynamic Earth). Geomorphology involves both a study of modern-day processes and an appreciation of past (and on-going) processes acting over a long period of time, in order to understand the degree to which landscapes and landforms are the product of a particular sequence of events. We will explore a range of erosional and depositional landforms and the processes that created them; some of which remain contested.

Topics may include: action of wind (atmospheric processes), water (hydrological processes), ice (glacial processes), animals (biogeomorphological processes), gravity (mass movement processes), and how these processes interact to create the landscapes we observe today. We will explore not only terrestrial landscapes, but also the extra-terrestrial. You will take part in a desk-based virtual fieldtrip to examine the geomorphology of California and (travel restrictions permitting) participate in a 1-day field trip to Lancashire and West Yorkshire.


  • Develop an understanding of geomorphology both as a series of historical events and processes, and of the current operation of processes.
  • Gain a knowledge of erosional and depositional processes relating to a range of landscapes, including glacial and aeolian environments.
  • Develop an understanding of landscapes and landsystems involving a combination of processes interacting with one another.
  • Acquire and develop scientific skills relating to the study of geomorphology, in the field and through remote sensing: critical analysis, interpretation and discussion of landforms and processes.

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered though lecture classes (10 x 2 hour) and supported by a programme of seminars and computer practicals, a virtual field trip to California, and (travel restrictions permitting) a 1-day field trip to Lancashire and West Yorkshire.  Independent reading and study is essential. Reading lists and links to electronic resources will be provided on Blackboard. You are encouraged to use the discussion forum on Blackboard to discuss common questions and ideas about the course and share useful resources.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Ability to describe and explain key landforms produced by geomorphological agents (ice, wind, gravity, water) and the combination of processes relating to these geomorphological environments.

Intellectual skills

  • Ability to engage with key debates within geomorphology.

Practical skills

  • An appreciation of the benefits of field observations and measurements in geomorphology, and the role of remote sensing as a geomorphological tool.
  • Familiarity and confidence with methods used to understand landforms and geomorphological processes.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Developed abilities in information collation, critical reading, evaluation and analysis.
  • Developed numeric analytical skills including use of spreadsheets.
  • Experience of using Google Earth to observe and identify landforms and landscapes.

Assessment methods

Assessment task


Weighting within unit (if relevant)

Virtual Field Trip Worksheets (x3) (10%): Short answer questions related to the virtual field trip (recommend completing alongside the associated lectures and consolidate at the end of each theme)


Coursework essay (40%): 2000 words


Examination (50 %): Multiple data response short-answer questions and one essay

~1500 words




2000 words


2 hours









Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • Verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures &  seminars
  • Formative feedback during seminars
  • Verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours
  • Online feedback via a discussion board
  • Written feedback on coursework in the latter part of the semester
  • Written feedback on the examination through personal tutorials

Recommended reading

Key readings will be given for each lecture, as well as extended lists to help with wider reading and your revision. Course texts are (available through The University of Manchester library):

  • Beirman, P. R., Montgomery, D. R. (eds) 2013. Key Concepts in Geomorphology. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York.
  • Huggett, R. J. (2017) Fundamentals of Geomorphology 4th edition. Routledge, London.
  • Summerfield. M. A. (1991) Global Geomorphology. Prentice Hall, Harlow.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Anna Hughes Unit coordinator

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