The Final Honour School gives second and third year students the opportunity to specialise and tailor their degree to suit their own interests and is taught through a mixture of lectures, tutorials, seminars, workshops and practicals.
The Final Honour School comprises the 'Geographical Research' core subject, two foundational subjects, three optional subjects, a dissertation and a fieldwork report.
|African Societies - This optional subject aims to examine Africa's relationship with the rest of the world. The key questions are: why has Africa suffered disproportionately from global economic crises and continues to be dependent on external assistance? What are the historical foundations and contemporary manifestations of the struggles over resources, political freedom, and other issues of social and economic transformation? What are the material conditions of life for people living in Africa, in terms of livelihoods, food security, health and well-being; what are the struggles over identity: gender, ethnic, sexuality? Why are militarism, wars and low intensity violence prominent features in African societies? What are the bases for African renewal in the 21st century?|
|Biogeography, Biodiversity and Conservation - This optional subject develops an understanding of the biogeographical dynamics underpinning patterns in biodiversity and of how environmental change shapes these patterns. Human influences on biogeography and biodiversity will be examined in relation to current debates concerning nature conservation, focussing on how the study of biogeographical dynamics informs conservation policy.|
|Climate Change and Variability - This optional subject offers an opportunity to understand the physical workings of the climate system in its mean state, in variability around that mean state and in changes to new states. The course provides a primer in the most important modes of variability and the novel methods for predicting climate anomalies many months into the future. Particular attention is given to the climates of Africa. We then review the main drivers of climate change on decadal to centennial timescales, both natural and anthropogenic, explain how the climate is controlled by the flow of energy from the sun, how greenhouse gases work and the role of the oceans in climate change and predictability.|
|Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation - This optional subject aims to build on first year climatology teaching and provide students with a deeper / wider knowledge of: the operation of the climate system, how it is studied, how the climate of the recent past has varied, and how we can predict climates of the future.|
|Complexity - This optional subject explores what complexity is, how it is investigated, what we have learnt, and what the implications are in various Geographical contexts. A 'complex' system can be described as one containing many discrete elements, which through their aggregated interactions have the potential to produce significant system-wide (emergent) behaviour. Many natural and human-made systems display such characteristics - examples include the structure and behaviour of social and ecological networks, economic markets at global and national scales, the internet, ecosystems and landscape-scale geomorphological processes. Arguably some of the greatest challenges we face over the coming century relate to our ability to understand and ultimately control complex systems with interdependent human and environmental components.|
|Cultural Spaces: Geographies of affective experience - This optional subject explores the spaces of affective experience in the modern world, with a focus on: geographical, social scientific, and humanities based approaches to understanding geographies of affective experience; techniques and practices, including media, film, performance, and music, through which these geographies are produced and modified; cultural and political contexts within which geographies of affective experience are understood and contested.|
|Desert Landscapes and Dynamics - Over 40 percent of the earth's land surface, and perhaps as much as 47 percent, is dry-sub-humid, semi-arid, arid or hyper-arid, supporting a human population of around 850 million. This course aims to provide students with a strong grounding in the environmental (principally geomorphological) processes operating in drylands, their controls, and their temporal and spatial dynamics.|
|Geography at War - This optional subject investigates the relationship between war and space through the lens of contemporary political geography. How do geographical knowledge, military strategy and logistics interact to create the conditions for modern warfare? What is the role of material and ideological space in enabling and resisting violent conflict? And how does all of this matter to us? In grappling with these questions, the course explores a wide variety of military conflicts including two World Wars, the Cold War and the so-called War(s) on Terror.|
|Geographies of Finance - This optional subject introduces students to the vocabulary of finance, drawing on the cutting edge of research relating to the global financial system, financial centres, financial globalisation, and their geographical footprint. It addresses, among others, the following questions: what institutions need to underlie a sound financial system? How are financial centres created, how do they grow and decline, and how do they compete with each other? What are the costs and benefits of financial globalisation?|
|Geographies of Nature - This optional subject introduces different strands of this work, illustrating its potentials and problems with reference to diverse hot topics in contemporary environmental politics, including the carbon economy, 'natural hazards', environmental citizenship, nature on display, public deliberation, the body and wildlife.|
|Geopolitics in the Margins - This optional subject examines geographical understandings of marginality in international politics, with particular emphasis on: the recent history and political context of a range of 'geopolitical anomalies'; indigenous and unofficial diplomacies; state-like functions of unrecognised polities; the spaces of borderlands; and the idea of 'Zomia'. It turns attention to how postcolonial approaches in the field of critical geopolitics might inform an understanding of political legitimacy, (non)recognition, representations of 'the exceptional' and alternative geopolitical futures.|
|Island Life - The condition of insularity is hugely significant geographically. Increasing degrees of insularity have important implications for the self-sufficiency of island systems and for their relationship to larger, continental systems. Moreover, because of the profusion of islands and archipelagos in varying geographical contexts and arrangements, we are able to study specific processes and factors and determine how they influence the dynamics of island systems. In short, islands provide natural laboratories or model systems by which we can understand important factors shaping ecological systems and human societies alike. This optional subject explores the insights we may derive from the natural laboratory approach in understanding island life, encompassing the geological and environmental dynamics of island systems, the particular conditions of human societies on remote islands, and the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of island biotas.|
|New Approaches in Urban Geography - What does it mean to think of urbanisation on a planetary scale? Are we witnessing the emergence of a new form of urbanisation and, if so, what are the consequences for how we, as geographers, think about, research and inhabit cities? Has the category of the 'city' become obsolete? What conceptual and methodological tools might we deploy in describing and analysing societies undergoing rapid urban change? These are challenging and pressing questions for human geographers and this course introduces the concept of 'planetary urbanisation' and examine the wide variety of urbanisation processes that are currently reshaping the urban world. It considers contemporary issues in their historical context and integrates theoretical innovation with new methodological experimentation.|
|The Quaternary Period: Natural and human systems - This course explores key themes in the science of the Quaternary Period (especially the Late Quaternary, with much material focussed within the last 100,000 years), and how major climate and environmental changes have interacted with physical, ecological and human factors to shape the Earth we live in today. In this optional subject we explore, in depth, themes that highlight research developments and major advances in the last decade, as Quaternary Science is a fast moving field that is often interdisciplinary, often controversial, and always exciting. This optional subject frames the current unprecedented rates of change in the Earth system in longer-term dynamics, focusing on their causes, effects, the empirical evidence base and models. The topics we cover reflect current research expertise in the department.|
|Transport and Mobilities - This course introduces students to the fields of transport geography and geographies of mobilities drawing on the cutting edge of empirical and conceptual research in both domains. It addresses, among others, the following questions. What is the role of transport and mobilities in the contemporary globalised world, at the level of regions and cities, and for individuals? Why and how is mobility central to issues of social justice and equity? How are transport and mobilities likely to change in the coming decades? How are transport and mobilities shaped by institutions and policy-making?|
Each optional subject is taught through a combination of lectures, seminars and small classes. There is a written examination for each subject and students are also required to submit an extended essay for each subject.
In their second year all students attend a week-long overseas fieldtrip in the first week of Trinity Term. There is a choice of fieldtrips currently to Berlin and Tenerife. Each of these fieldtrips links the theoretical material covered in the course with empirical examples and opportunities to practice appropriate filed techniques. Students complete a fieldwork report which is assessed as part of the Final Honour School examination.
The dissertation is an important component of the degree - it gives students the opportunity to undertake their own piece of original research which they write up as a 12,000 word dissertation. The dissertation may be on any topic, as long as it is geographical in nature. Students start planning their dissertations during their second year and usually spend the summer vacation doing the research and writing up. Oxford undergraduate dissertations regularly win national prizes.