Source: Ulster University
Promoted by Ulster University

Ulster University: Flexible Online Geography and Environmental Sciences Postgraduate Programmes

Time is a precious commodity, especially if one wants to do it all — work, study and live. In Northern Ireland, there is a university that lets you achieve all three: Ulster University. The university offers online postgraduate programmes with flexible learning options, multiple exit points, and the opportunity to enrol for a postgraduate certificate, a postgraduate diploma, a Masters or to take individual modules for CPD.

The university is currently and 44th in the Complete University Guide (CUG) 2022 League Table, continuing to climb in the standings year on year. This sheer grit in performance and excellence can be seen in its distance learning courses as much as its in-person programmes — and is best exemplified by its School of Geography and Environmental Sciences (GES)

GES is ranked joint first in the UK for societal impact by REF 2021 and third out of 70 universities in the UK (first in Northern Ireland) for student satisfaction by the Complete University Guide, 2021. It has over 20 years of experience in providing part-time online Masters courses, which are fully distance learning and asynchronous, meaning people can study in their own time around their other commitments, including work and family. This has led to the creation of many useful features, one of which being the implementation of real-time data by students from their professional day to day strategic projects and challenges, as a key part of their coursework, ensuring practical and applicable real-time learning. In addition to which, students have access to an array of course materials, support, e-learning platforms and communication tools (such as discussion boards, email or video-conferencing) that guarantees they are supported in a variety of mediums with the ease of convenience.

MSc Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems graduate Julia Nikolaus remembers receiving “fantastic” support from the tutors as she juggled work and studying. She set an hour or two aside each day to work on the tutorials continuously instead of doing it all in a day or two at the weekend. It was an arrangement that benefited both her and her employer. “As soon as I realised I was running out of time due to other important work commitments, I would contact my tutor to ask for an extension (I only had to do this once),” she says.

The Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems programme brings together theory and practice to help students develop a vital skillset in areas such as remote sensing and photogrammetry; analysis of active and passive remote sensing data; Geographic Information Systems (GIS), spatial data management and analysis; programming for GIS and remote sensing; and applications of remote sensing and GIS in marine studies or environmental management. There are many application areas for this PgDip, PgCert or MSc programme, including climate change, agriculture, forestry, natural resource management, marine planning, sustainable urban development, epidemiology, and crime analysis.

Nikolaus is now a research associate at Ulster University. “What was inspiring was to see what other students do with the same skillset but in other fields,” she adds. “In an academic world where collaborations and multi-disciplinary projects are becoming more and more important, this is a great opportunity to get to know other people within the wider field.”

Sophie Birchall-Rogerson is one of them. She works for a local governmental authority in Wales and was in a unique position when applying to Ulster University, as she was not your traditional applicant – having no university degree, which is often a pre-requisite. However, the breadth and depth of her professional work experience, made her more than qualified, even more so a fantastic addition to the Environmental Management with Geographic Information Systems programme. Likewise, the programme has also allowed Sophie to blend her work and study commitments seamlessly and bolstered her career. “I was a 36-year-old with a senior officer role in local government with a young family too! If that helps with showing how manageable the course is,” she says.

Ulster University

Source: Ulster University

Her programme covers how environmental management and spatial data handling tools are applied in making knowledge-based decisions on managing the environment. This information is considered in the context of environmental legislative/policy frameworks within which industry, government, and voluntary bodies work. “Each module was perfect. I was able to learn something from it and put it into operation or a project,” she says. “The academic support and group-based learning projects have been an eye-opener.”

Since joining the Environmental Management with GIS program, only 2 years ago, Birchall-Rogerson has been promoted to Lead Environmental Strategy Manager, thanks to the professional development and support she has received from the programme. Sophie has also seen a number of national awards and formal recognitions for her efforts across the UK, which include but are not limited to the Geo-Place Exemplar Award 2022, a commendation by the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management 2022, and Association of Public Service Excellence (APSE) Innovation Award in the category of highway maintenance in 2022.

Perhaps the most profound impact the programme has had on Birchall-Rogerson has been the ability to easily apply the research and academic content she’s worked on, to the real-world, allowing her to take ownership in carving out a new career path, but also as a leader, as she has begun to formally upskill her new team. “I would recommend this programme to managers in both the public and private sectors who would like to develop their teams and staff at all levels of the ladder, as it offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a river ecologist wanting to learn GIS skills or simply at the start of your career, you’re able to enhance your daily work through learning how to adopt a data-driven approach, undertake research projects, as well as the inner workings of legislation and environmental frameworks to help design ways to bring new mindset to environmental management techniques and practices across a number of industries” she says.

Ulster University

Environmental Science and Geography Students Undertake Fieldwork in South Donegal. PSource: Ulster University

For those who prefer focusing on how to set environmental management tools into the context of how ecosystems are structured and the legislative/policy framework for environmental planning, the Environmental Management programme is ideal. Students learn the importance of an evidence-based approach in developing management strategies, how to apply quantitative techniques to assess the effects of environmental management, produce environmental impact statements and advise on implementing environmental management systems, among many other outcomes. Upon completion, students can apply this knowledge to a genuine environmental management problem through a 12-month Environmental Management research project (leading to the MSc) or earn a PgCert. They can also take the course as a series of stand-alone modules, building up to the PGDip over a more extended period.

Ulster University’s postgraduate programmes are as flexible as they are geared towards enacting real change. For example, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Module equips you with knowledge of the current regulations and rules as well as the skills to prepare standard EIA reports, scoping documents and statements widely needed across private and public organisations, consultancies and NGOs. By learning about the planning and operation of projects using EIA, Habitats Regulations Assessment and Health Impact Assessment, students are also able to identify issues and enact resolutions.

As famed English biologist and natural historian David Attenborough once said: “No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” GES programmes teach students to care and gives them skills, knowledge and experience to make a difference.

To become a part of Ulster University’s School of Geography and Environmental Sciences, click here now.

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