Undergraduate Study

Our planet and its life are undergoing unprecedented changes. The fossil record provides a rich but relatively untapped data source for how biodiversity has previously responded to environmental changes, from the emergence of the modern biosphere in the Ediacaran–Cambrian to major crises at mass extinctions. Understanding the interplay of environmental change and biodiversity in the past is critical to predicting how life will respond to modern climatic changes.

At Oxford, the primary pathway to studying palaeobiology is through the undergraduate Earth Sciences course which leads to a MEarthSci (4 years) or BA (3 years) degree.

What is Earth Sciences?

Earth Sciences is the study of the planet we live upon. The broad scope and rapidly-advancing nature of the subject is reflected in the course at Oxford, which provides sound and broadly-based scientific training.

We combine physics, chemistry and biology with geology, geography and palaeontology to answer fundamental questions about the origin, development, and future of the Earth.

What will you learn?

You will be trained in the skills required for the interpretation of rock materials and geological phenomena as well as applying theory and techniques from other disciplines to the study of the Earth and the environment.

You will learn about how our planet works, and address some of the major issues of our times: from the origin of the solar system, the Earth and life, to the climate system and the fate of glaciers and ice sheets.

Why Oxford?

The department has an international reputation, and houses state-of-the-art laboratories and computing facilities.

Students and academic staff mix and work together. Offices and teaching labs are close together, creating an atmosphere in which students not only focus on their course, but also get a feel for the discoveries emerging from current research.

Earth Sciences (Geology) at Oxford University

The Course

During Years 1–3, your work is divided between lectures, tutorials, and practical classes.

In Year 4 you have the opportunity for independent work on special topics or in a research laboratory.

What will I do?

Students are expected to spend at least 40 hours a week studying, including the scheduled teaching, so a good portion of students' time should be spent on private study. 

Tutorials are usually 2-4 students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. There would usually be no more than around 20 students though classes for some of the more popular papers may be up to 40 students. 

Who will teach me?

Other than the field courses, all teaching takes place in the department and most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by members of the Earth Sciences Department. All are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by post-doctoral researchers from the department who are experts in their area of research. Postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate students from the Department will also assist in practical sessions and on field courses.

Earth Sciences (Geology) at Oxford University

What are we looking for?

We are looking for highly-motivated individuals with the intellectual potential necessary to do well on the course.

As part of the interview process, candidates may be asked to comment on geological specimens, or carry out simple calculations, but always with due consideration of their previous knowledge of the subject being discussed.

Visit the Earth Sciences website for more detail on the selection criteria for this course.



A-Levels A*AA to include Mathematics plus Chemistry or Physics or AAAA to include Mathematics plus Chemistry or Physics.
Advanced Highers AA/AAB to include Mathematics plus Physics or Chemistry. 
International Baccalaureate 39 (including core points) with 766 at HL to include HL Maths plus HL Chemistry or HL Physics. 
Other qualifications See admissions page