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Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology

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Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology


The closing date for applications to start this course in September 2024 is 31 July 2024. Further detail here.

Key information

Duration: 1 year full time or 2 years part time

Institution code: R72

Campus: Egham

UK fees*: £10,600

International/EU fees**: £21,700

The course

Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology (MSc)

Study MSc Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology at Royal Holloway, University of London and you will be equipped with the scientific knowledge, tools and skills needed to combat the effects of climate change, and align your career with ‘New Green Deal’ recovery programmes in an area of growing demand from key industry employers. You will benefit from first-class research-led teaching and holistic training that combines the disciplines of Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, learning how to apply geological information in solving practical problems and harnessing natural resources sustainably. 

You’ll study foundational modules in rock and soil mechanics, hydrogeology and fluid flow, GIS, near-surface geophysics, and sequence stratigraphy. The course offers exciting elective modules that will enrich your learning and allow you to follow your chosen areas of specialisation. It also introduces you to key transferable academic skills with students from other MSc degree programmes in Earth Sciences as part of a large and friendly postgraduate community.

Multiple field trips throughout your studies will develop the skills needed for thorough site investigations, and you’ll gain experience of working in small teams to deliver a presentation and executive summary of a particular locality or aspect of the course.

Throughout your studies you’ll benefit from close contact with industry partners through internships, placements and professional practice modules to enhance your employability and prepare for a rewarding career. Your independent research project, forming one-third of the course can involve working on ‘real-life’ engineering projects.

  • You will benefit from first-class research-led teaching, with contributions from professionals from environmental consultancies and engineers, local and regulatory authorities, industry, and leading research institutes.
  • As a member of our renowned Department of Earth Sciences, you’ll contribute towards our leading research culture with your own Independent Research Project.
  • Make use of our extensive range of modern geochemical analysis facilities and computer laboratories as you develop your skills for a rewarding future career.

From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.

Core Modules

Year 1

You will study eight core modules and complete an independent research project as a final MSc dissertation. The core modules are:

  • The module comprises multiple sessions delivered by two members of Earth Sciences staff over a two-week period. Learning activities include theoretical lecture classes, paper and computer-based practical exercises, and holistic independent activities.

  • The module comprises multiple sessions, delivered by three members of Earth Sciences staff, spread over two weeks. Topics covered included the physical nature (rheology) of rocks and soils, particularly in response to stresses in the ground; the estimation of those stresses and indirect measurement techniques; fault and fracture mechanics, joints; instability mechanisms and kinematic assessment of fractured rock masses; engineering stabilisation methods; fluid flow in porous/permeable soils and rocks; and flow through fracture rock masses.

  • This module addresses Water Quality, Diagnosis & Management, hydrogeology, sub-surface fluid flow, water quality, and wastewater remediation.

    Water Quality, Diagnosis & Management: Considers fundamental aquatic science and hydrological and hydrogeological processes that impact surface- and groundwater; addresses the treatment and management of water and wastewater; Introduces practical monitoring of water quality in accordance with current legislation.

    Sub-surface hydrology: Focuses on physical principles that govern groundwater flow, as well as its physiochemical interactions with soil and rock.


  • The module comprises 10 one-hour lectures given by 10 different industry representatives, each followed by a one-hour discussion. One Earth Science staff member will manage the module and lead a guided report exercise (for a further 10 hours of contact time).

  • The module comprises one five-day fieldtrip and two weeks of multiple taught sessions delivered by two members of Earth Sciences staff.  

    Learning activities include field-based activities, theoretical lecture classes, paper-based practical exercises, and group presentation activities.

  • The primary assessed component is a five-day fieldtrip visiting a range of current and past engineering practice to see how an effective understanding of the ground conditions is crucial to successful and sustainable engineering. The short duration of most engineering projects and uncertainties in their scheduling mean that additional visits to working sites will be arranged on an ad hoc basis and these therefore will not be formally assessed.

  • In this module you will develop an understanding of acquisition, processing and interpretation of seismic and well-log data. The module also covers fundamental elements of surveying and interpretation of shallow geophysical data including resistivity, gravity, magnetics, and shallow seismics. You will learn the limitations of these techniques in terms of understanding the geology of the shallow and deep subsurface. You will learn fundamental geophysical workflows and how to apply them to industry data.

  • The module comprises sessions covering statistical concepts, data analysis, regression analyses, principal components, and the estimation and propagation of errors. GIS topics include concepts, types of data, maps, projections, data management and analysis with the use of GPS and other raw data inputs. Students will learn workflows for contouring, thematic mapping, and project design. Learning activities include theoretical lecture classes and practical computational sessions.

  • An opportunity to carry out an in-depth piece of independent research into some aspect of Engineering Geology and/or Hydrogeology and produce a report (9000 word dissertation). The research may be carried out in collaboration with companies in the Environmental and Civil Engineering sectors, who will also provide data (potentially subject to NDAs) and/or a component of the supervision. The module involves an induction session at the start of the project, individual reviews of project proposals with supervisors, regular review seminars at which students present a short oral presentation on their progress to date to their peers and to supervisors, and individual supervision as required. Students receive training in key transferable skills such as oral presentation and a poster and PowerPoint presentation will be given at the conclusion of the module.

You must complete the following Academic Integrity module:

  • This module will describe the key principles of academic integrity, focusing on university assignments. Plagiarism, collusion and commissioning will be described as activities that undermine academic integrity, and the possible consequences of engaging in such activities will be described. Activities, with feedback, will provide you with opportunities to reflect and develop your understanding of academic integrity principles.


Teaching will be delivered mainly via lectures, with extensive opportunities for fieldwork, guest seminars from invited industry speakers, and student-led ‘flipped classroom’ group work. Students will be assigned personal tutors from the group of teaching staff. Assessment will take the form of a combination of coursework, group presentations and reports, and fieldwork syntheses (and the final dissertation). There is no assessment via examinations.

On successful completion of the course you will be awarded with a Masters. There are associated exit awards with this degree: PGDip Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology and PGCert Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology.


UK 2:2 (Honours) or equivalent in relevant subjects, including Earth Science or Civil Engineering fields such as Geology, Earth Science, Geophysics, Civil Engineering, or a related discipline.

Vocational and professional experience within the environmental sector is desirable, but not essential.

International & EU requirements

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 overall. No subscore lower than 5.5.
  • Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 54. No subscore lower than 51.
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
  • TOEFL iBT: 88 overall, with Reading 18 Listening 17 Speaking 20 Writing 17.
  • Duolingo: 120 overall and no sub-score below 100.

There is a widely recognised shortage of graduates in both Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, and a combined approach and skillset has been recognised by industry as a useful way of meeting this demand. This Masters equips you with key numeracy, transferable, and future-looking skills that can lead towards a wide variety of career pathways, including:

  • Major Civil Engineering and Environmental Consultancies, including Arup and Atkins plus others
  • Public-sector environmental research, e.g. Environment Agency; Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; other research institutes such as IIASA (Austria)
  • Further academic research; for instance, that addresses the effects of climate change on the immediate sub-surface and water quality/quantity
  • Smaller, specialised hydrogeological, ground engineering, or geophysical consultancies
  • NGOs such as Practical Action, which valorise scientific expertise to construct solutions to e.g. the effects of geohazards like landslides and earthquakes

Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £10,600

EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £21,700

Other essential costs***: There are no single associated costs greater than £50 per item on this course

How do I pay for it? Find out more about funding options, including loans, grants, scholarships and bursaries.

* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis in the academic year 2024/25. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year.

Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase all postgraduate tuition fees annually, based on the UK’s Retail Price Index (RPI). Please therefore be aware that tuition fees can rise during your degree (if longer than one year’s duration), and that this also means that the overall cost of studying the course part-time will be slightly higher than studying it full-time in one year. For further information, please see our terms and conditions.

** This figure is the fee for EU and international students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25. Find out more 

*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2024/25 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.

Richard Ghail

Professor in Planetary and Engineering Geology

Profile | +44 1784 276766

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