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Study abroad : Subject Guides

Where should you study Environmental Science?

Environmental Science is a global subject with great importance, but where should you study it?

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As human beings we are lucky to live in such a beautiful world, from the mountain ranges of central Asia to the bottom of the Pacific, our planet provides many wonders. But the natural world is also fragile in the face of modern humanity, and recent decades have shown the damage that human beings are rapidly inflicting on it, causing destruction that threatens our very existence.


In the summer of 2016 a group of geologists called for our age to be recognised as the ‘Anthropocene Epoch’, a term which describes the impact human beings have had on geology and ecosystems: in this epoch, human influence on the planet is now greater than any other factor, for the first time. This obviously reflects the incredible power of human society, but also has potentially terrifying consequences.


The figures speak for themselves, and paint a worrying picture about the future of the earth and humankind’s place in it:


  • Every day, nearly 30,000 trees are cut down to produce toilet paper alone
  • Ocean life is being rapidly destroyed by both pollution and overfishing
  • Extinction rates are now 100 times higher than their natural level
  • 1.7 million children die a year as a result of environmental pollution


Once the reserve of hippies and ecowarriors, ‘saving the planet’ is now a global industry. Understandably: the challenges humanity faces to ensure its survival require huge, genius solutions. The environmental or green industry is now rapidly expanding, owing to the challenges that need to be met. The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has even launched the Green Industries Initiative with the aim of growing “sustainable industrial development in the context of new global sustainable development challenges.”


With the expansion of green industries, jobs in the sector are in high demand, and gaining a degree specify you’re passionate about saving the world, a degree in Environmental Science will equip you with all you need to know to get started in the green industry.


Why study Environmental Science abroad?



The environment is, obviously, a global issue, and the solutions to environmental issues are most powerful when addressed internationally, through international treaties and global regulatory bodies. But environmental issues are also local ones: in London, for example, there is growing concern with the level of pollution in the air, while in parts of the USA there are very serious issues with water pollution. International students of Environmental Science have the advantage of being able to see environmental issues in both a local and global context, gaining a greater understanding of the solutions needs to address these problems.


One of the exciting things about Environmental Science as a degree programme is it allows you to draw upon many different disciplines: we’ve spoken about the distinction between social science and physical science, but Environmental Science brings both sides of this divide together. For example, students will learn about the science behind climate change, but also the legal response to it on an international level. Indeed, Environmental Science degrees are often split between a number of different university departments, for example Geography and Biological Sciences.


If Environmental Science is such a great option to study abroad, where is the best place to study it? Here are some exciting options in the USA, the UK, and Australia.


Where should you study Environmental Science in the USA?


The Evergreen State College's green campus


The Pacific Northwest is famed for its tradition of environmentalism, and it’s easy to understand why in such a beautiful part of the world, with its multiple mountain ranges, dense temperate rainforests and evergreen forests, and dramatic Pacific coastline, it’s among the closest one can get to wilderness in the USA. But it also boasts a number of great cities, among them Seattle, Washington State, and Portland, Oregon, centres of alternative lifestyle in North America. But it’s to the small state capital of Washington State, Olympia, that you should look if you want to study Environmental Science in the USA.


The Evergreen State College, located near the city, is a progressive, liberal arts college with a strong focus on the environment and sustainability as part of its very ethos. This is reflected in the institution’s campus, which is literally a living laboratory, including:


  • A five-acre organic farm
  • 1,000 acres of forest
  • 3,000 feet of coastline


These facilities allow students to get a truly ‘hands-on' approach to their degree, as Evergeen themsleves put it, “getting out in the field is easy when you have the field right outside the classroom.” For students of the college’s Bachelor of Science with an Emphasis in Environmental Studies programme, these are invaluable resources for a course which offers a “wide array of laboratory and field studies that incorporate social sciences, environmental justice, biology, geology, chemistry, climatology, evolution, ecology, hydrology, and oceanography.”


Taking advantage of the surrounding natural beauty for pleasure is also very easy with The Outdoor Program (TOP), the college’s society for outdoor pursuits, allowing students to go “hiking, climbing, snowshoeing, kayaking, or cycling” on their explorations. It’s this immersion in nature that Evergreen State College excels at.


Evergreen State College encapsulates what makes the United States an incredible place to study Environmental Science, with its incredibly rich natural heritage, and there are many other institutions in the US that offer similar programmes to the college, including:


  • Michigan State University, Bachelor of Science in East Lancing, Michigan offers the Environmental Sciences and Management Major, a popular combinantion at many instituions, and while the two may not seem like a natural fit, many careers in the green industry require graduates with a strong understanding of management.
  • At the University of Maine, the Bachelor of Science in Ecology and Environmental Science degree is "an interdisciplinary program offered cooperatively by the faculties of the Department of Anthropology; Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology; School of Earth and Climate Sciences; School of Food and Agriculture; School of Biology and Ecology; School of Economics; and School of Forest Resources."
  • Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science, which has a primary focus on the natural sciences but uses the social sciences as "additional tools to enable students to understand the interrelationships that characterize sensitive environmental issues."


Where should you study Environmental Science in the UK?


The University of East Anglia's iconic Ziggurats building


The UK might not boast the wilds of North America, but for a small set of islands it hosts a staggering array of ecosystems and is rich in biodiversity. Just north of London, East Anglia, a geographical region now associated most strongly with Norfolk and Suffolk, offers some of the UK’s most beautiful nature, from the Broads to the North Norfolk coast, or the famous Fens, an extensive area of manmade marshland, the result of thousands of years of human interaction with the natural world.


The University of East Anglia, located in Norwich, once awarded the title of most eco-friendly place to live in England and Wales, is the perfect home for the UK’s best Environmental Science degree, with their School of Environmental Sciences having existed for fifty years, growing into one of biggest Environmental Sciences departments in Europe. Emeritus Professor of the School is Tim O'Riordan, whose decades of research have focused on finding global solutions to environmental issues, while also helping to design future coastlines in East Anglia to prepare for sea level changes - precisely the mixture of global and local issues that makes Environmental Science such a great discipline for international students.


The School's reputation extends into graduate employment opportunities: studies show that within six months of graduating, nearly 70% of Environmental Science students in the UK are in work or further studies, however 88.4% of undergraduates leave UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences and find employment within six months.


Other Environmental Science courses in the UK include:

  • Environmental Sciences BSc (Hons) at the University of Greenwich, which allows students to "investigate solutions to environmental issues from various perspectives, including scientific, political, legal and philosophical positions"

  • Conservation Biology BSc (Hons) at the Plymouth University, which focuses on a very particular area of Environmental Science and includes two compulsory field courses, in Spain and Mexico.

  • Environmental Science MEnvSci at Bangor University, a truly interdisciplinary course bringing together "biology (giving students an understanding of organisms, their environments and their communities), chemistry (providing an understanding of many natural environmental processes and pollution), earth science (giving them a background in global processes), and land and water resource management."


Where should you study Environmental Science in Australia?


The University of Queensland's campus


On Australia's east coast, the city of Brisbane enjoys beautiful weather all year around (assuming you like the heat) and is surrounded by breathtaking coastline and beaches. But there is more to Australia than beer and barbeques, and in recent years it has been becoming 'greener', with the Australian Greens now the third largest political party in the country, an expansion of green industries, and universities like Brisbane's own University of Queensland offering cutting edge courses in environmentally-minded areas of study.


The Australian university system means that students have far more freedom in choosing what to study, with greater opportunity for specialisation in particular areas that interest them, so for example at the University of Brisbane there is a great variety of options for Environmental Science students, including:



Other degree programmes elsewhere in Australia that may interest prospective environmental scientists include:





If these options interest you, or you want to find more, you can begin your journey into the environmental industry here.

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