University of Stirling

Quality Assurance

Academic Programme Specifications


School of Biological & Environmental Sciences

Environmental Science

Table Table
1. Awarding institution      University of Stirling
2. Teaching institution      University of Stirling

3. Programme Director

Dr C A Salt
3. Programme accredited by N/A
4. Final award BSc, BSc (Hons)
5. Programme Title        Environmental Science
6. UCAS code            F900
7. Subject benchmark statement   Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies
8. Date of PS preparation/revision June 2004

9. Criteria for admission

Year 1
Highers BBCC. A-levels CCD or a combination of A2 and AS levels, VCE and VDA. HNC or HND with 3 merits/BB in Integrative Assessments
Other qualifications are also acceptable
Year 2
A-levels or Advanced Highers BBB to include one of Geography/Geology/Environmental Science/Biology. HND with 3 final year merits/BB in Integrative Assessments in relevant HNDs
General Entrance Requirements apply

10. Educational aims of the programme

Our programme aims to produce graduates with:

  • an understanding of atmospheric, hydrological, geomorphological and ecological systems at a range of temporal and spatial scales
  • an understanding of the effects of human activities on these systems and how environmental resources can be assessed
  • an understanding of current environmental issues and the theoretical and practical basis for environmental management, planning and conservation.
  • a secure training in practical skills, problem-solving, investigative and research skills and generic skills that are relevant to future employment

11. Intended learning outcomes (Knowledge and understanding/Skills and other attributes/Professional practical skills/Transferable/key skills)

A Knowledge and understanding

A1. Structure and functioning of near-surface environmental systems in the lithosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere.

A2. Inter-relationships and interdependency of environmental systems.

A3. Environmental change at different temporal and spatial scales.

A4. Interactions of human activities with natural environmental systems at different time periods.

A5. Role of society in managing and regulating environmental systems.

A6. Environmental issues in a scientific and cultural context.


Skills and other attributes

B Intellectual skills:

B1. Critical reasoning

B2. Analysis and synthesis of information from a variety of sources

B3. Formulation and testing of hypotheses using appropriate and available lines of evidence

B4. Application of knowledge to address a range of environmental problems and issues

B5. Understanding of the key theories, principles and concepts in Environmental Science

B6. Planning, execution and reporting an original research project

C Practical skills

C1. Planning and conducting an original research investigation

C2. Sampling properties of the environment

C3. Collecting and recording data using a range of field and laboratory techniques

C4. Data analysis using a range of appropriate statistical methods and packages

C5. Interpretation of environmental data and awareness of data limitations

C6. Reporting the results of investigations with appropriate referencing of sources of information

C7. Working in a safe and responsible manner in the field and laboratory

D Generic skills

D1. Written, graphical and verbal communication

D2. Team working

D3. Independent learning towards academic and personal goals

D4. Library research skills

D5. IT skills including word processing, spreadsheets and GIS

D6. Use of internet, bibliographic databases and other electronic information sources


12. Teaching, learning and assessment strategies

Teaching and Learning approaches:

A. Knowledge and understanding are taught through a combination of lectures, practical and field work and directed reading, supported through tutorials, seminars, workshops and revision sessions. Students are encouraged to undertake independent reading on the topics covered in taught modules as well as related topics including environmental issues receiving press coverage.

B. The teaching and learning programme (outlined below) is designed to impart intellectual skills. Group discussions of controversial topics are incorporated into first year tutorials. Hypothesis testing (B3) is formally introduced in semester 4 and applied to project work in semester 5 and later. Open class discussions are encouraged, especially from semester 5 onwards.

C. Practical skills are acquired throughout the programme in practical classes and group/individual tuition for project work. Skills are introduced and consolidated systematically through practical work in specific core modules in semesters 1-8. Modules 25P1 and 25P2 focus on teaching fundamental practical science skills for laboratory and field work. Scientific report writing and referencing (C6) are introduced in year 1 (36E1/36E2). Data analysis (C4) and interpretation skills (C5) are acquired through module 36T4. In module 36T5 students acquire research design (C1), sampling (C2), data collection (C3) and safety (C7) skills and apply skills C4-C6. Module 36T6 (residential field class) is designed to consolidate skills C2-C7 through application in new field environments. Module 36P7 specifically addresses planning (C1), reporting results (C6) and safe working (C7) as preparation for the dissertation.

D. Communication skills (D1) are introduced and practised in first year tutorials and are further developed in the core modules during semesters 5 and 6. Team working (D2) underpins much of the work in practical and field classes, but is an essential component of group project work in core modules 36T5 and 36T6, the residential field class. Independent learning is expected in all Honours modules; guidance is given in core module 36T5 and independent work is central to the final year dissertation and review essays. Library (D4) and other information sources (D6) are introduced by the subject librarian through a workshop at the beginning of semester 6 and are practised and assessed in all Honours modules, but again most crucially in the final year dissertation and review essays. Basic IT skills (D5) such as the use of MS-Excel for data processing and graphing and the use of Digimap are taught in first year. IT skills including statistics and GIS are further developed in the core modules 36T4 and 36T5 in semesters 4 and 5.



A. Knowledge and understanding are assessed through coursework essays and reports, unseen written examinations (limited use of multiple choice format in year 1, thereafter short answer and essays) and the dissertation (37P7, 36P8). Understanding of environmental issues is specifically assessed through the final year review essay (36E8).

B. Assessment of intellectual skills is via essays, reports, oral presentations, unseen written examinations and through the final year dissertation and review essay.

C. Competence in practical skills is assessed throughout the programme via practical laboratory, field and IT reports in all modules.  First year modules 25P1 and 25P2 test technical knowledge and practical competence in a formal exam.  In 36T4 a series of on-line tests and a final exam assess competence in statistical data analysis. In the module 36T5 advanced practical skills are assessed via small group projects involving an oral presentation, an individual project report and a lab workbook. This is complemented by an unseen written examination. Assessment of the residential field class (36T6) is through three reports on group field investigations.  A wide range of practical skills are assessed in the dissertation (36P7, 36P8).

D. Generic skills are assessed through coursework assignments, the final research project (36P7/36P8) and the environmental issues essay (36E8). Oral and poster presentations test the ability to communicate verbally. Team working is assessed formatively through peer assessment in 36T5.  The effective use of scientific sources of information is assessed throughout the programme via essays and reports, but especially in the final year as part of the dissertation and the issues essay. Generic IT skills are assessed as part of coursework assignments in a range of modules while skills in GIS are specifically assessed in 36T5 and 36T6.

13. Programme structures and requirements, levels, modules, credits and awards

See Calendar entry

14. Indicators of quality and standards

Teaching provision in Environmental Science has been reviewed by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. The review expressed confidence in academic standards; the quality of student progression and learning resources was judged to be commendable and that of undergraduate teaching and learning was approved.
The Guardian newspaper recently ranked Stirling 12th best out of 78 UK Universities offering Environmental Science

15. Support for students and their learning

The University has a wide range of support facilities, including:

The University is committed to accessibility and transparency in its provision of information for students. It is currently investing heavily in a three year Student System Project (2001–2004) to provide better and more accessible information for students online. Students can now access their grade record, online progress reports, module enrolment and other registration data through the portal which is accessed from the University home page.