Satelite image of the Lena Delta Reserve in Siberia, the colours of the blue water and green land appear vivid as if enhanced
Mode of Study
Full-time, part-time
Duration
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Start Date
September 2023

Overview

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are a major component of information technology – and if you're interested in pursuing a career in this innovative, exciting field, our GIS Master's course will give you the tools to succeed.

On this applied course, you’ll learn the fundamentals of using geospatial data for real-world solutions through a combination of practical work and background theory. You'll use the same software tools employed by professionals in the field, and find out how to apply practical GIS skills in a range of contexts.

Earth systems and environmental sciences at the University of Portsmouth is ranked 4th of all post-1992 universities for research quality

The course covers all the essential areas of geospatial data analysis, including GIS, remote sensing and Earth observation, geodatabases, programming, and field techniques. You'll analyse spatial data through your own project work and build on your previous studies and work experience, applying data analysis methods and software tools to help solve real world problems.

Once you graduate, you'll be well placed to pursue a career as a GIS and remote sensing specialist. Our graduates have gone on to enjoy careers in local and national government, healthcare, environment and conservation, construction, energy, transport, heritage, space and satellite technology, and university-based research.

Scholarships for international students

Eligibility

This course accepts UK, EU, and international students.

Course highlights

  • Get hands-on experience of using Geographical Information (GI) instruments and emerging technologies, including GPS, Total Stations and 3D laser scanners
  • Learn from experts with extensive industrial and consultancy experience and strong research portfolios
  • Practise your GIS data collection skills, both in the field and in our GIS and remote sensing laboratory with its own dedicated GIS technical team
  • Take part in three-days of fieldwork data collection at a National Trust conservation site with the processed data shared with the Trust to help inform their management practices
  • Use licensed industry-standard software (Esri ArcGIS, ERDAS Imagine), processing techniques and datasets
  • Learn image processing and spatial analysis techniques, including programming for GIS and remote sensing applications
  • Complete a research project on a GIS topic of your choice, applying the principles of research design, data collection and analysis
  • Hear from guest industry speakers including GIS and remote sensing analysts, town and city planners, digital cartographers, coastal managers who use GIS, and representatives of the space and satellite technology sector
MSc Geographical Information Systems – Dr Harold Lovell

Course leader Dr Harold Lovell talks about the MSc Geographical Information Systems at the University of Portsmouth.

Dr Harold Lovell: Geographical Information Systems, or GIS, is a way of digitally mapping geographical data.

There are many different application areas for this including navigation using your smartphone, all the way through to using satellite data to understand the speed and acceleration of glaciers melting.

Here at the University of Portsmouth what we're really trying to do is set you up for your career as you move forwards. There are field work opportunities on the course using things like surveying equipment, differential GPS equipment, drones and geophysical equipment, so ground penetrating radar, which allows us to image below the subsurface.

When students are undertaking their own individual research projects and collecting their own GIS and remote sensing data sets, it's a really exciting part of the course.

What you'll study on this MSc Geographical Information Systems degree course

Full-time

Modules studied
On this course, you'll study four core modules and one optional module.

Core

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Apply skills and knowledge of new datasets, software and tools to solve geographic problems. Choose appropriate data and methods to answer a question and acknowledge uncertainties.
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of remote sensing and Earth Observation technqiues and methodologies applicable to a variety of circumstances.
  • Demonstrate self-direction and originality in problem solving and act automonously in planning and implementing remote sensing tasks at professional or equivalent level.
  • Identify, select and apply appropriate field techniques for a variety of fieldwork situations, including observational skills, data collection, appraisal techniques and participatory research techniques.
  • Can engage confidently in academic and professional communication with others, reporting on action clearly, autonomously and competently through the completion of a field report.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Translate a qualitative problem description into a formal entity-relationship model and implement a simple relational database design using a suitable database architecture.
  • Design and implement spatial and non-spatial SQL queries which include cross-table relational joins, sub-queries and group-bys.
  • Critically discuss the core issues involving specialist object-relational data types in databases, including construction, querying and indexing of these data types.
  • Undertake a mini-project that exploits an emerging technology or data source.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • With technical expertise, input, edit, manipulate and output spatially referenced data using industry-standard GIS computer software.
  • Critically evaluate alternative spatial models and how they impact on system functionality and applicability to real world problems.
  • Undertake complex spatial and surface modelling in a variety of GIS application areas.
  • Have a depth and systematic understanding of key theories and principles that underpin GIS.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Design and implement an advanced research project that is based upon the systematic collation, synthesis and analysis of primary data acquired by the student.
  • Prepare a comprehensive literature review and critically evaluate and discuss the research literature in the context of the students own research project.
  • Systematically analyse primary and/or secondary data using new skills and knowledge and use this new information to critically evaluate a clearly defined research hypothesis.
  • Undertake advanced analysis to generate new understandings and critically discuss these results in relation to identified limitations and within context of previous published research.
  • Report scientific results through different media including: thesis report written to a specified word limit using publication quality diagrams and figures.

Explore this module

Optional

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Critically evaluate and explain a range of definitions of the sustainable blue economy.
  • Assess the effectiveness of sustainable blue economy strategies in a variety of international settings and scales.
  • Critically evaluate the role of marine conservation as a critical component of the sustainable blue economy.
  • Identify and appraise the position of sustainable blue economy strategies in the broader mix of ocean and coastal governance approaches with a view to achieving the sustainable development goals.
  • To appreciate the practical challenges of developing and communicating a blue economy strategy at a variety of scales.

Explore this module

This module is designed to develop an overview of different geological and environmental hazards, and terrain evaluation methods for their identification and assessment.

Further module information to be confirmed.

Explore this module

Part-time

Year 1
Year 2
In year one, you'll study two core modules.

Core

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Apply skills and knowledge of new datasets, software and tools to solve geographic problems. Choose appropriate data and methods to answer a question and acknowledge uncertainties.
  • Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of remote sensing and Earth Observation technqiues and methodologies applicable to a variety of circumstances.
  • Demonstrate self-direction and originality in problem solving and act automonously in planning and implementing remote sensing tasks at professional or equivalent level.
  • Identify, select and apply appropriate field techniques for a variety of fieldwork situations, including observational skills, data collection, appraisal techniques and participatory research techniques.
  • Can engage confidently in academic and professional communication with others, reporting on action clearly, autonomously and competently through the completion of a field report.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • With technical expertise, input, edit, manipulate and output spatially referenced data using industry-standard GIS computer software.
  • Critically evaluate alternative spatial models and how they impact on system functionality and applicability to real world problems.
  • Undertake complex spatial and surface modelling in a variety of GIS application areas.
  • Have a depth and systematic understanding of key theories and principles that underpin GIS.

Explore this module

In year two, you'll study two core modules and two optional modules.

Core

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Translate a qualitative problem description into a formal entity-relationship model and implement a simple relational database design using a suitable database architecture.
  • Design and implement spatial and non-spatial SQL queries which include cross-table relational joins, sub-queries and group-bys.
  • Critically discuss the core issues involving specialist object-relational data types in databases, including construction, querying and indexing of these data types.
  • Undertake a mini-project that exploits an emerging technology or data source.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Design and implement an advanced research project that is based upon the systematic collation, synthesis and analysis of primary data acquired by the student.
  • Prepare a comprehensive literature review and critically evaluate and discuss the research literature in the context of the students own research project.
  • Systematically analyse primary and/or secondary data using new skills and knowledge and use this new information to critically evaluate a clearly defined research hypothesis.
  • Undertake advanced analysis to generate new understandings and critically discuss these results in relation to identified limitations and within context of previous published research.
  • Report scientific results through different media including: thesis report written to a specified word limit using publication quality diagrams and figures.

Explore this module

Optional

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Critically evaluate and explain a range of definitions of the sustainable blue economy.
  • Assess the effectiveness of sustainable blue economy strategies in a variety of international settings and scales.
  • Critically evaluate the role of marine conservation as a critical component of the sustainable blue economy.
  • Identify and appraise the position of sustainable blue economy strategies in the broader mix of ocean and coastal governance approaches with a view to achieving the sustainable development goals.
  • To appreciate the practical challenges of developing and communicating a blue economy strategy at a variety of scales.

Explore this module

This module is designed to develop an overview of different geological and environmental hazards, and terrain evaluation methods for their identification and assessment.

Further module information to be confirmed.

Explore this module

Changes to course content

We use the best and most current research and professional practice alongside feedback from our students to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, course content is revised and regularly reviewed.  This may result in changes being made in order to reflect developments in research, learning from practice and changes in policy at both national and local levels.

[The course] provided me with access to emerging technologies at the forefront of earth science research … this, plus the skills I’ve learned in time management and collaborative working, will help me achieve my goal to become a GIS consultant in the private sector.

Samuel Chandler, MSc Geographic Information Systems

Careers and opportunities

Careers this Master’s prepares you for

Once you complete this MSc Geographical Information Systems degree, you'll be able to apply your lab and field experience in small and medium-sized enterprises, global businesses or non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Alternatively, you could apply to do a postgraduate research degree in physical and human geography or earth and environmental sciences.

You'll use industry-standard software, and learn processing techniques, programming and database skils that employers are typically looking for in prospective employees.

Each year we organise a programme of guest speakers from industry to talk about thier work, new developments in thier field, careers paths and opportunities.

Graduates of this course have gone into areas such as:

  • Environmental protection
  • Surveying and statistics
  • Telecommunictions
  • Civil engineering
  • Retail and hospitality
  • Local and national government
  • International charities
  • Non-governmental organistations (NGOs)
  • The NHS
  • Banking, finance and insurance
  • Transport planning
  • Utilities
  • Coastal management
  • Space and satellite technology
  • Cartography
  • Software development

Graduates of this course have gone onto roles such as:

  • Geographical information system consultant
  • GIS and data analyst
  • Location planning analyst
  • GIS technician
  • Software development engineer
  • Spatial analyst
  • Remote sensing analyst

Graduates of this course have gone on to work for companies such as:

  • Ramboll
  • South East Water
  • Engenie Ltd
  • Dominos Pizza Group
  • Transport for London
  • Esri
  • ICEYE
  • Fugro
  • East Sussex County Council
  • RPS Group
  • CityFibre
  • Tunbridge Wells Borough Council

Career planning

During your course you'll have expert career support from your tutors and our Careers and Employability Centre – which you can access for up to 5 years after you graduate.

Female student standing at careers and employability help desk

You'll benefit from:

  • Networking events
  • Applied projects with employers
  • 1-to-1 appointments
  • CV and cover letter advice
  • Interview preparation and practice
  • Workshops to enhance your employability skills
  • Recruitment events including the Student and Graduate Opportunities Fair
  • Support starting your own business

Learn more about your career support

How you'll spend your time

We recognise that you'll probably be juggling more demands when you do your Master's degree, as you may be working or you may have family responsibilities.

We'll give you as much indication here as we can of how much time you'll need to be on campus and how many hours you can expect to spend in self-directed study, but please note that these indications are always subject to change. You should receive your full timetable several weeks before you start with us.

It is our expectation that all international students will join us here on campus in Portsmouth.

More about this MSc Geographical Information Systems degree
Hear from Luke, MSc GIS student

Discover some of the things our students love about this MSc Geographical Information Systems course. 

Luke: What I like most about the Geography course is that you get to put theory into practice, you can see everything you learn is actually out in the field, and it feels quite good to understand things. The University of Portsmouth helps me excel myself and take myself into the real world.

Course structure

Full-time (one year)

We recommend that full-time students allocate around 37 hours per week to their studies – equivalent to a full-time job. Approximately:

  • Two days per week of on-campus, in-person teaching (Tuesdays and Wednesdays)
  • Three days per week of self-directed study time

Part-time (two years)

We recommend that part-time students allocate around 18 hours per week to their studies – equivalent to a part-time job. Approximately:

  • One day per week of on-campus, in-person teaching (Wednesdays in Year 1, Tuesdays in Year 2)
  • One-and-a-half days per week of self-directed study time

There are some additional days of field work during the Spring term (two weeks/ten days maximum).

Teaching

Master's study is deeper and more specialised than an undergraduate degree. This means you'll focus on something that really matters to you and your career as you work closely with academics committed to the subject.

You'll spend more time in independent study and research than you did for your undergraduate degree, but the majority of your teaching time will be in-person and face-to-face.

Key theoretical content is delivered via pre-recorded mini-lectures and through wider reading and exploration of online materials. During the timetabled, in-person sessions, we'll focus on the practical aspects of the course.

Teaching on this course includes:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • workshops
  • practical sessions

Assessment

You'll be assessed through:

  • Coursework
  • Final project

Meet your course leader

Dr Harold Lovell, University of Portsmouth

Dr Harold Lovell

I'm a glaciologist with research and teaching interests in GIS and remote sensing, climate and environmental change, and glaciers and glacial environments, and I'm the MSc Geographical Information Systems Course Leader.

I teach topics at undergradaute and postgraduate level, including GIS and remote sensing, Earth observation, environmental change, glaciers and glacial environments, and applied geophysics.

My research focuses on highly-dynamic glaciers and the geomorphological and sedimentological records they produce. This work is largely based on glaciers in the Arctic which exhibit surge-type behaviour, characterised by atypical periodic velocity increases and glacier advances.

Read my full profile

Term dates

September start

The Master's academic year runs from September to the following September. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter. Over the summer you'll be writing your project/dissertation.

See key dates

Joining us as an international student

You'll feel at home in our international community and our diverse city. You'll be joining over 5,000 international students from more than 150 countries who are studying with us.

Learn more about international student life and how we can help you with visas, applications, arrival and settling in. 

Information for international students

Facilities

An aerial shot of a glacier

GIS and remote sensing lab

Discover more about the planet's physical structures and scientific processes, such as glaciers and coastal flooding, using drone data, aerial and satellite remote sensing and geographic information systems.

Explore the lab

Supporting your learning

Master's study is more focused on independent learning than undergraduate study, but you'll get lots of support via video, phone and face-to-face from teaching and support staff to enhance your learning experience and help you succeed. You can build your personalised network of support from the following people and services:

Types of support

Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to postgraduate study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your Master's.

As well as regular scheduled meetings with your personal tutor, they're also available at set times during the week if you want to chat with them about anything that can't wait until your next meeting.

You'll have help from a team of faculty learning support tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.

They can help with:

  • improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
  • understanding and using assignment feedback
  • managing your time and workload
  • revision and exam techniques

As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK) for one-to-one support in areas such as:

  • academic writing
  • note taking
  • time management
  • critical thinking
  • presentation skills
  • referencing
  • working in groups
  • revision, memory and exam techniques

Our online Learning Well mini-course will help you plan for managing the challenges of learning and student life, so you can fulfil your potential and have a great student experience.

You can get personal, emotional and mental health support from our Student Wellbeing Service, in person and online. This includes 1–2–1 support as well as courses and workshops that help you better manage stress, anxiety or depression.

If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.

They'll help you to:

  • discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
  • liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
  • access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
  • liaise with external services

Library staff are available in person or by email, phone or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from the faculty librarian for science.

The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.

If English isn't your first language, you can do one of our English language courses to improve your written and spoken English language skills before starting your degree. Once you're here, you can take part in our free In-Sessional English (ISE) programme to improve your English further.

The Maths Café offers free advice and assistance with mathematical skills in a friendly, informal environment. You can come to our daily drop-in sessions, develop your maths skills at a workshop or use our online resources.

​Course costs and funding

Tuition fees (September 2022 start)

  • Full time: £8,100
  • Part time: £4,050 per year (subject to annual increase)

(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full-time: £8,100
  • Part-time: £2,700 per year

  • Full-time: £16,200
  • Part-time: £8,100 per year (subject to annual increase)

University of Portsmouth graduates may receive a 20% alumni tuition fee discount

Fees are subject to annual increase. Read our tuition fees terms and conditions.

You'll be able to pay your fees in instalments. Find out how to pay your tuition fees.

Funding your studies

Explore how to fund your studies, including available scholarships and bursaries.

If you're a UK student, you may be eligible for a Government Postgraduate Master's Loan, which you can use to help with course fees and living costs.

If you're a UK student who achieved a first in your undergraduate degree you may be eligible for a £3,000 University of Portsmouth scholarship.

Environment, geography and geosciences scholarships

International students may be eligible for the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences (SEGG) Scholarship.

Find out if you're eligible and how to apply

International students may also be eligible for the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences (SEGG) Scholarship. Visit our page to find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Additional costs

These course-related costs aren't included in the tuition fees, so you'll need to budget for them when you plan your spending. Additional costs could include:

  • Accommodation: Accommodation options and costs can be found on our accommodation pages.
  • Recommended reading: You can borrow key texts from the library and if you choose to purchase these texts they may cost up to £60 each.
  • General costs: such photocopying, memory sticks, printing charges, binding and specialist printing. We suggest budgeting £75 per year.
  • Final project transport or accommodation: where necessary, which related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose.

Read more about tuition fees and living costs, including what your tuition fees cover.

Entry requirements​

Eligibility

This course accepts UK, EU, and international students.

September 2023

  • A second class honours degree or equivalent in geography, geology, earth science, applied geology, civil engineering, environmental science or a related discipline.
  • Professional experience in a relevant area and other qualifications may be taken into consideration for applicants not meeting this requirement.

Please get in touch if you're not sure if your undergraduate subject is relevant to this degree.

Equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will also be considered, such as previous study, employment, voluntary work and training courses, including courses and qualifications you didn't complete. Learn more about our Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

If you're applying as an international student with a non-UK degree, you’ll need to show you meet the UK entry requirements listed above.

To find out if your non-UK degree or other qualification is accepted, please visit our page for your country and view the UK equivalent of your qualification. 

  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 (or equivalent) with no component score below 6.0.

You do not need an IELTS or equivalent certification if:

  • you have a UK degree
  • you have a degree from a majority English speaking country (not taught by Distance Learning)
  • you are a national of a majority English speaking country

Degrees taught solely in English from non-majority English speaking countries will be considered on a case by case basis. Find out more about our English language requirements.

If you do not meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.

How to apply

Unlike undergraduate applications, which go through UCAS, applications for this Master's course are made directly to us.

There's no deadline for applications to this course. We accept applications right up until the start date in September, as long as there are places available. If you wait until September to apply, you may find that the course is full.

If you're applying as an international student, remember that you'll need to leave plenty of time to get your visa organised.

You can find more advice about applying in our Master's application checklist. International students and current students and recent graduates of the University of Portsmouth also have some different application options, which are detailed below.

Extra information for international students

If you're an international student, you can apply directly to us using the same application form as UK students.

You could also get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region. To find out what to include in your application, head to the how to apply page of our international students section.

If you don’t meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.

Ready to apply?

Standard applications

Start this course in September 2023

Apply now (Full-time) – 1 year

Apply now (Part-time) – 2 years

I'm a current Portsmouth student, or a recent Portsmouth graduate

If you're currently in your final year of study at Portsmouth, or you graduated since July 2021, you're eligible to make a fast track application. You'll have:

  • a shorter application form to complete
  • access to the 20% Alumni fee discount
  • a guaranteed conditional offer, for most Master's courses 

Learn more about fast track

After you apply

Once we receive your application, we may ask you for further information. We will then either make you an offer or suggest alternatives if your application is unsuccessful.

You'll usually get a decision within 10 working days, so you shouldn't have to wait too long. Some courses have an interview stage – we'll let you know if you need to prepare for one.

Learn more about how we assess your application.

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.