BA Geography with International Study / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG21511
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
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 why it 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.


  • Develop your understanding of geomorphology both as a series of historical events and processes, and of the current operation of processes. 
  • Improve your knowledge of erosional and depositional processes relating to a range of landscapes, including glacial and aeolian environments. 
  • Develop your understanding of landscapes and landsystems involving a combination of processes interacting with one another.
  • Allow you to 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.


Topics may include: the action of wind (atmospheric processes), the actin of water (hydrological processes), the action of ice (glacial processes), the action of biota (biogeomorphological processes), the action of gravity (mass movement processes), and how these processes interact to create the landscapes we observe today. We will not only explore terrestrial landscapes, but also consider the extra-terrestrial. You will take part in a desk-based virtual fieldtrip to examine the geomorphology of California. There will be opportunities to consider and discuss careers involving geomorphology. 

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered though lecture classes (10 x 2 hour) and supported by a programme of seminar-style activities and discussion, largely delivered in a computer practical format (4 x 2 hours), but also embedded within the lectures (discussing pre-set readings)a virtual field trip to California, and a seminar (1 x 2 hours) about careers using geomorphology. Independent reading and study is essential. Reading lists and links to electronic resources will be provided on the virtual learning environment (currently Blackboard). You are encouraged to use the online discussion forum on to discuss common questions and ideas about the course and share useful resources.

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit: Verbal feedback through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures and seminars; verbal feedback on any course unit issue through consultation hours; online feedback via a discussion board; written feedback on coursework essays in the latter part of the semester; written feedback on the examination through personal tutorials.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Identify, describe and explain key landforms produced by geomorphological agents (such as ice, wind, biota, gravity and water) and the combination of processes relating to these geomorphological environments.
  • Describe, explain and evaluate the approaches taken by geomorphologists in the study of landforms and processes in the field, via remote sensing and in the laboratory 
  • Demonstrate systematic comprehension of a range of key concepts in geomorphology, such as scale, magnitude and frequency of process operations and process-interactions. 

Intellectual skills

  • Apply critical thinking to key debates within geomorphology 
  • Demonstrate systematic comprehension of how sources of data are used in answering questions about landscapes, landforms and geomorphological processes

Practical skills

  • Use academic resources (readings and datasets) to appreciate the benefits of observations and measurements in geomorphology 
  • Use Google Earth to observe and identify landforms 


Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Collate information, read critically, evaluate ideas, methods and datasets
  • Appreciate how to apply subject knowledge within careers involving geomorphology 

Assessment methods

Formative Assessment Task         Length (word count/time)     How and when feedback is provided

Virtual Fieldtrip               Few words to sentence answers per prompt,     In real-time in the computer- 
                                       or a screen shot of a landform.                           classes.  In office hours / via 
                                       Totalling ~1000 words of notes over                   email. If requested, additional
                                       the 4 components.                                              written feedback on the 
                                       Can be completed in 8 hours (in class).             worksheet.


Assessment task                         Length           How and when feedback is provided    Weighting

Coursework essay                         2000              Written comments via Turnitin.                       50%
                                                                             Students can discuss further 
                                                                             in office hours. Prior to   
                                                                             examination and at the 15 
                                                                             working day guideline.  

Examination (Online OBE)          Equivalent to      Written comments via Turnitin.                 50%
Section A (answer all questions)  2 hour exam      On return of grades as
Section B (answer one question)                           specified by programme team. 

Recommended reading

Key readings will be given for each lecture, as well as extended lists to help with wider reading and revision. Course texts are (available through The University of Manchester library): 
• Bierman, P. R., Montgomery, D. R. (eds) 2013. Key Concepts in Geomorphology. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York.
• Huggett, R. J., Shuttleworth (2023) Fundamentals of Geomorphology, 5th edition. Routledge, London.
• Summerfield. M. A. (1991) Global Geomorphology. Prentice Hall, Harlow.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Practical classes & workshops 8
Seminars 2
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Abigail Stone Unit coordinator

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