Introduction to Undergraduate Curriculum
What is Geography
Geography is an integrating discipline that provides a dynamic understanding of a rapidly changing world. It examines the interrelationships between people and their environment. Geography also studies the interaction of people. Geographers investigate these interactions in terms of location, space, scale and time. Geography involves both natural and social sciences with a focus on the major issues facing societies.
as a Subject
Geography is a diverse discipline offering a wide range of specialisms. In the Department, students may take courses relating to the atmospheric environment and global climate, transport geography, urban planning, water resources, environmental hazards, China, biogeography, tourism, human and urban geography, geographic information systems and spatial analysis. This diversity is important to students because it can lead to insights into issues that may not be possible in some other disciplines.
Geography is a relevant subject. Many of the important issues facing communities and societies involve geography. For example, sustainable development, climate change, natural hazards, economic/regional development, health, transportation and urbanization are all areas where geographers are actively participating.
Geography, as outlined later, is able to offer a range of important subject-based skills and transferable skills. As such, it affords new challenges and skills to students and equips them for a large number of potential occupations.
The Department of Geography was established in 1931 and is currently located in the Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus. The Department moved from the Faculty of Arts to the Faculty of Social Sciences with effect from the academic year 2007-08. The Department offers undergraduate courses to students of different Faculties such as Social Sciences, Arts, Science, Business & Economics, Education, Engineering, and Law. These courses cover a wide range of specialties in human, physical and regional geography, as well as environmental studies, geographic information systems and spatial analysis. In addition, the Department participates in, and offers, a number of taught masters programmes. It also admits students for postgraduate research studies leading to Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degrees.
Admission to Geography at HKU
The Department of Geography does not offer direct admission to JUPAS applicants. Students could consider the following options in submitting their JUPAS applications if they are interested in studying Geography as a Major in HKU.
JUPAS applicants in the arts stream
With the strong intention to become a single (full) major in Geography, JUPAS applicants in the arts stream should, in the first instance, apply for admission to the Social Sciences Faculty of HKU to study the Bachelor of Social Sciences (BSS) (JUPAS Code: 6717) degree programme. Upon admission to the Social Sciences Faculty, students can opt to become a Geography single major in their second- and third-years of studies. Alternatively, students could choose to be a double major in Geography with another social sciences discipline.
On the other hand, JUPAS applicants in the arts stream wishing to double major in Geography plus one other arts disciplines at HKU, should apply for admission to the Arts Faculty to study the Bachelor of Arts (BA) (JUPAS Code: 6054) degree programme. BA students can become a Geography double major in their second- and third-years of studies.
JUPAS applicants in the science stream
JUPAS applicants in the science stream could apply for admission into the Science Faculty to pursue a double major in Geography plus one science discipline under the Bachelor of Science (JUPAS Code: 6901) degree programme.
You should apply through JUPAS (Joint University Programmes Admission System) if:
you are a current Secondary Form 6 student in a local school sitting for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)
Details of the JUPAS scheme can be found in the JUPAS Guide. For more details and enquiries, please refer to the JUPAS web-site at: http://www.jupas.edu.hk.
Non-JUPAS Applicants and International Students
Students may also apply for entry under the Non-JUPAS scheme if:
you are applying for admission on the strength of qualifications other than Hong Kong local examination results, or
you are currently enrolled in a full-time or sandwich bachelor’s degree programme in any of the eight government-funded tertiary institutions in Hong Kong (regardless of whether you wish to apply based on your HKDSE results).
If you wish to apply under the Non-JUPAS Scheme, you should send your application directly to the Registry at the University of Hong Kong, along with the supporting documents. Further information on the scheme can be found on the University website, including the admission form, at: http://www.als.hku.hk/admission/non-jupas.
How to Become a Geography Major
The Geography curriculum is structured in such a way that first year students are given the chance to explore the geography discipline for their academic interests. Geography offers a total of seven 6-credit Introductory (Level 100) courses for students to pursue.
Students of the Faculties of Social Sciences, Arts and Science can choose to declare their major in Geography after completing their first year of study. In order to become Geography majors, students are required to successfully complete one Introductory 6-credit geography course in their first year of study. In order to have a wider basic knowledge for pursuing their studies as Geography majors, first-year students are strongly advised to successfully complete two Introductory level geography courses.
With regard to the Level 300 course offerings:
Courses are freely available to Geography/Urban Governance or non-Geography/Urban Governance majors.
With regard to the Level 400 course offerings:
There are 4 capstone experience courses (with course code prefix – GEOG40xx) which are available to Geography and Urban Governance majors only.
By completing a major in Geography, students will have been exposed to a range of skills that may be grouped into four general categories:
Discipline-specific skills including familiarity with a range of social survey and interpretive methods; technical and laboratory methods for analysis of spatial and environmental information including geographical information systems (GIS); the finding, analysis, interpretation and presentation of different types of geographical information/data.
Intellectual skills such as critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving, decision making and the integration of knowledge.
Transferable skills such as communication, information retrieval, data analysis/computation and IT.
Personal/social skills such as the ability to work independently and with others, time-management, awareness of responsibilities, motivation and an interest in lifelong learning.
Upon graduation with a major in geography, there are four options:
Use your geographic knowledge and skills to enter a career directly related to geography. For example, town and transport planning, tourism/leisure, conservation and teaching. Students should be aware that further training at the Masters level is becoming increasingly important, and sometimes essential, for entry to these careers. Appropriate course selection from the earliest time of entry into the University is important in seeking a career using geography as a platform. Students are therefore encouraged to obtain advice from the Department’s academic staff on selecting courses that are related to their career plan.
The many skills that students have learned may provide entry to more general careers both in the private and public sectors. Geographers increasingly choose careers in information technology, finance, marketing and administration. In addition, the Royal Geographic Society has observed that employers are looking for graduates who are spatially, environmentally and socially aware.
Geographers, like students from many other disciplines, are increasingly entering postgraduate study and training to gain the professional qualifications necessary for entry into some professions. A major in Geography is appropriate for gaining admission into a variety of specialist postgraduate programmes ranging from environmental management, conservation, urban planning, transport/logistics, and teaching.
Geography graduates can make use of their training and skills in geography to become teachers in local secondary schools. This career path may require additional postgraduate training in education.
Recent survey of geography graduates revealed that they obtained careers in a variety of areas such as marketing, administration, tourism/leisure, media, transport/logistics and teaching. Around 25% of graduates entered either taught masters or teacher training programmes.
Career Development of Geography Majors
(Based on 2011 to 2018 graduate surveys)
Employment of Geography Majors
(Based on 2011 to 2018 graduate surveys)
Corporate Social Responsibility, Publishing, Religious Services
Once lampooned as the last academic domain of the workshy and the unimaginative, geography has experienced a sharp revival of its street credentials as environmentalism has entered the mainstream. Following another unlikely boost when Prince William took it up while at university in the 1990s, courses are now often oversubscribed.
Geography comes in many forms – often including feminist, Marxist and post-structural approaches – but is most straightforwardly divided into human and physical strands. Most courses feature some combination of both, allowing students to understand how communities interact with their physical environments.
Careers are not confined to specialisms, and employers value the many portable skills gained. And as for geography students' supposed lack of imagination, Roger McGough, the well-known Liverpool poet (and geography graduate), might have something to say about that.
What skills have you gained?
You'll have developed strong analytical skills, knowing how to interpret conceptual and data-based information. In a rapidly changing world your understanding of how human environments function globally and locally is highly marketable. A knowledge of how to read future socio-economic trends and use computer modelling tools will be of interest to many employers.
To this end, your degree should have included a major piece of research, which will have allowed you to develop self-management skills, as well as important transferable attributes such as communication, presentation and team-working.
What jobs can you do?
Geography graduates are equipped to move in several career directions, often combining their knowledge of human and environmental activity to work in areas such as town planning, travel and tourism or aspects of environmental protection, says Margaret Holbrough, careers adviser with Graduate Prospects.
A high number of geography-related careers require further study. Within six months of graduating, 19% of 2008 geography students returned to specialise in areas such as meteorology, environmental management and oceanography. Popular careers such as urban planning, surveying and teaching require more study. Business and management courses are other options.
Catastrophes, such as the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, not only serve as a reminder of how unpredictable the Earth can be, but also lead many to wonder why such natural disasters have become so prevalent. These are just some of questions that students of physical geography and environmental science will have grappled with.
Physical geography is the most scientific of the subject's strands. As the name suggests, it looks at physical changes to the planet. Students learn about the processes that structure the natural world, touching on topics such as volcanic activity and geographical information systems (GIS).
Environmental science graduates learn about the biological and chemical features of the natural world and the impact humans have on it, covering hot topics such as global warming.
What skills have you gained?
Through field and laboratory work – often a major component of both degrees – you gain practical skills, together with observational skills and an ability to analyse and interpret data.
Other transferable skills include numerical analysis, verbal and written communication, project management and being able to work as part of a team.
What jobs can you do?
"Many graduates who have studied environmental science or physical geography, want to work in a job protecting the environment or advising organisations, either directly or indirectly," says Margaret Holbrough, a careers adviser at Graduate Prospects. "Specific roles include environmental adviser/consultant, environmental manager, or nature conservation officer.
"Careers in recycling or waste management, water quality or toxicology analysis, as well as in environmental health, town or transport planning, logistics and transport management or surveying, may also be of interest." Both degrees offer opportunities in research, teaching or local or central government. "Physical geography graduates could look at careers in more specialised areas, such as cartography or GIS," Holbrough says, adding that gaining some form of environmental work experience will be advantageous.
Some careers, such as environmental health or teaching, need further study. Nearly 5% of 2009 graduates went on to a teaching qualification, while 15.6% went on to a master's or PhD.
Helping you to Graduate
To enable you to enjoy your time at University and to help you graduate, as a student you should:
Help to create and maintain an atmosphere supportive of learning
Take joint responsibility with the University for your learning experience
Check carefully your course registration details
Attend regularly, and punctually, lectures and other scheduled learning activities
Submit all coursework assessment exercises
Attend all university examinations
Take personal responsibility for promoting a safe learning environment
Coursework Submission Procedures
Students are required to hand in their course assignments, i.e. essays, practicals, reports, projects, etc., on or before the submission deadlines set by the lecturers. Failure to observe this requirement will result in a reduction in coursework marks. For late submissions, it is Departmental policy to impose a 5% reduction per calendar day from the total mark of each item of coursework. For instance, an assignment, which is handed in two days late, will get a 10% reduction. Moreover, any assignment submitted ten calendar days after the deadline will not be accepted for assessment and will therefore be awarded a zero mark.
Students must follow the specific submission procedures and put their course assignments in the ‘Assignment Collection Box’, which is placed in front of the enquiry counter in the Departmental General Office, Room 1023, 10/F, The Jockey Club Tower, Centennial Campus. Submission of assignments to the Departmental General Office should be made at the following office hours during weekdays ONLY: 09:00 – 13:00 & 14:00 – 17:00
Moreover, to facilitate students in citing references in their assignments in a proper manner, the Department has produced a ‘Guidelines on the Use of Reference Materials in Course Assignments’, which is available at the Departmemt’s undergraduate website.
Guideline on Use of Reference
In writing a term paper to fulfill course requirements, references should be recorded and pursued systematically, both for convenience of personal reference and for ease of producing the reference list, which is an essential part of the term paper itself. The presentation of complete and accurate citations is an essential component of scholarly work. Their purpose is to indicate exactly where critical ideas or facts came from, so that the reader is able to go directly to the source, either to confirm the accuracy and appropriateness of the author's usage or to obtain more information about the point in question.
The Author-Date ("Harvard") system is extensively used in the sciences, where much of the evidence comes from observations or experiments and the written sources cited are mostly in standard format. The essence of this system, as the name implies, is that all works cited are referred to only by the family name of the author and the date of the work in question: Smith 1995. If two authors with the same last name are cited, initials may be used to distinguish them: P.C. Smith 1995. If the same author wrote two or more works (cited) in the same year, lower-case letters may be used to distinguish them: Smith 1995a. All other information on the source is contained in the reference list. The reference list must therefore be absolutely complete and absolutely accurate.
In preparing term papers, the Harvard system should be used in your citations, e.g., (Smith 1995), (Smith 1996a, 1996b), (Smith 1997; Chan 1998), (Smith and Walker 1999), (Smith et al. 1999). In the event that a specific piece of information is taken from the source, the page number(s) should also be included in the citation, thus (Smith 1998: 51-53). The citation will normally occur at the end of a sentence, but may be inserted in the middle of the sentence to stress the connection between a particular point and a particular source.
The list of references, placed at the end of the paper, should be prepared in alphabetical order (using the family name of the first author) in accordance with the following style.
Qu, Geping and Li, Jinchang (1994) Population and the Environment in China. Lynne Rienner, Boulder, CO, 217 pp.
McGee, T.G. (1991) The emergence of desakota regions in Asia: expanding a hypothesis. In: N. Ginsberg, B. Koppel and T.G. McGee (eds.) The Extended Metropolis: Settlement Transition in Asia. University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, pp. 3-25.
Conference or Symposium proceedings
Kuentzel, W.F. (1996) (ed.) Proceedings of the 1996 Northeastern Recreation Research Symposium. 31 March to 2 April 1996, Bolton Landing, New York. General Technical Report NE-232. US Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station, Radnor, PA, 309 pp.
Marton, A.M. and McGee, T.G. (1996) New patterns of mega-urban development in China: the experience of Kunsha. Asian Geographer 15 (1/2): 49-70.
Tivy, J. (1972) The Concept and Determination of Carrying Capacity of Recreational Land in the U.S.A. Occasional Paper No. 3, Countryside Commission of Scotland, Buttleby, Redgorton, 56 pp.
Planning Department. Study on Sustainable Development for the 21st Century: Final Report .(Accessed on September 7, 2001.)
McCrory, J.B. (1998) A History of Waste Management in New York City. Originally published in Planners Network, No. 218, March. (Accessed on July 14, 2000.)
The Chicago Manual of Style, (1993). University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Hoffmann, Alison, Barbara Griffiths and Irina Elgort (n.d.) An Academic Writing Module: Paragraphs: Writing exercises for self-directed study. Victoria University of Wellington. (Accessed on June 8, 2001.)
Writer's Handbook, (2001). The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center. (Accessed on June 8, 2001.)
Plagiarism & Copyright
The Department views plagiarism and breaches of copyright very seriously. Students are reminded that plagiarism is a serious academic offence, and should refer to the University/Faculty policy on these issues.
You are strongly advised to read the booklets "What is Plagiarism" (http://www.hku.hk/plagiarism/) and "Plagiarism and How to Avoid It" (http://www4.caes.hku.hk/plagiarism/) and to consult your teachers if you have any questions about how to avoid plagiarism.
Provision of Feedback to Student
In connection to the University Assessment Policy, the Department of Geography has adopted the following policy on provision of feedback to students on marked coursework assignments and written examination performance.
A. Provision of feedback on coursework assignments
All teachers should provide written feedback on all the marked assignments, and return all marked assignments to students within 2-4 weeks (pending on the actual class size) after the submission deadline.
Holistic feedback on the overall class performance in each assignment should be provided in the Course Moodle so as to (a) explain why some students have managed to obtain A- / A / A+ grades for the assignment, and (b) give suggestions to the weaker grade students on how to improve. The holistic feedback should be put on the Course Moodle within four weeks after the submission deadline.
For courses that have in-class quizzes as part of the coursework assessment, teachers should use the Course Moodle to provide feedback on the class overall performance in each quiz.
B. Provision of feedback on written examination performance
Feedback on students' overall examination performance should be provided on the respective Course Moodle so that they can identify weaknesses and look for ways to improve in future examinations.
Teachers should upload the feedback on examination performance on the Course Moodle within two weeks after the recommended final grades and results have been endorsed by the Departmental Examination Meeting.
Provision of Feedback to Student
In order to ensure better communication between undergraduate students and the Department, the following staff will act as Departmental Advisors on the following main categories:
Geography students, who have any concern about any of the above matters, are encouraged to consult the relevant Advisors in person, via telephone or email. The Department hopes that this arrangement would help to deal with these concerns at the earliest opportunity.