Introducing Geological Science


Geology combines all the basic sciences in a broad-ranging discipline for studying the way planet Earth works. This course explains the origin of the Earth, its chemical composition and internal structure. We examine the distribution of continents and oceans; we account for the great diversity of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks and their constituent minerals. The history of life on Earth is elaborated through the study of fossils. Mankind faces important geological issues in today’s world: natural disasters, species diversity, climate change, fossil fuels and other natural resources, are among the topics that feature in this course.

No prior academic knowledge is assumed. This is a hands-on course, in which each session includes practical work with specimens. Students are encouraged to ask questions and initiate discussion. There will be eight classroom sessions on Wednesday evenings, with a half-term break on 1st November, and two fieldwork sessions on a weekend day in November.

Programme details

Course starts: 4 October 2023

Please note: There will be no class on Wednesday 1st November

Week 1: Course introduction. Planet Earth and the solar system. Composition: core, mantle, crust. The geological cycle in continental crust.

Week 2: Plate tectonics. Causes and locations of earthquakes, volcanoes and mountain chains. The geological timescale.

Week 3: Igneous rocks. Magmas and lavas: formation, emplacement and eruption.  Basalt, andesite, granite.  Minerals in rocks.

Week 4: Sedimentary rocks. Deposition of sandstone, limestone, clay, salt. Sequences of rocks in stratigraphy.

Week 5: Metamorphic rocks. Heat and pressure. Gneiss, schist, slate, marble, from sedimentary or igneous starting materials.

Week 6: Life through geological time. From the simplest cells, to trilobites, ammonites, dinosaurs, mankind. Evolution, extinction.

Week 7: Geological history of the British Isles. Precambrian to present day. Relation of global events to British Geology.

Week 8: Earth’s environments and resources. Climate change through geological time, and now. The role of geology in the energy transition.

Weeks 9/10: Field trip(s) to see local geology: provisionally Saturday 18th or Sunday 19th November.


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


Dr Carol Lister

Carol has a doctorate in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, a master's degree in Applied Landscape Archaeology, and many years’ experience as a Professional Geologist and University Teacher.

Course aims

Geology is the study of the Earth. This course introduces the scientific study of rocks, minerals, fossils, and the natural processes that form surface and subsurface features such as volcanoes, mineral deposits, mountain chains and ocean floors.

Course Objectives:

  • To introduce the concepts underlying geological science, the interpretation of geological evidence for the way the Earth is made, and the processes that produce geological materials, features and environments.
  • To introduce practical skills of observation, description and recognition of commonly occurring rocks, minerals, fossils, geological outcrops and structures, in the lab and in the field.
  • To lay the foundations of geological science upon which more advanced geological study may be undertaken in the future; to provide a way-in to the subject, so that students may find out information for themselves.

Teaching methods

Classroom sessions on Wednesday evenings will include a balance of lectures and practical work with specimens and geological maps. Students are encouraged to take notes, and are shown how to observe and record geological information. There will be opportunities for discussion and for identification of students’ own specimens. A local field trip will be arranged, provisionally on Saturday 18th or Sunday 19th November, a.m. and p.m., to be agreed with the class at the first session.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • understand the basic principles of geological science, including present and past geological processes and events, the nature of geological materials and the development of life forms;
  • know how to identify the most common rocks, minerals and fossils, and how to read a geological map;
  • be familiar with the scientific methods of observation and description used in geology, and with the critical examination of geological evidence.

Assessment methods

All students will be expected to complete some coursework. This could be a minimum of two shorter pieces of written work, or one long essay, totalling approx. 1500 words or equivalent in labelled diagrams, maps, tables, &c.  Practical work done in class can be part of the coursework portfolio.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

The course is open to everyone including complete beginners.  No prior knowledge of the subject is assumed.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)