Geographical Information Science (online) MSc FAQs


1. Can I take a break between modules?

The course is flexible and you may take temporary leave between modules. We appreciate that you are likely to be balancing study with other commitments such as employment and family and we will do our best to accommodate any requests that you make. 

2. Is there an online PhD programme?

There is currently no online PhD programme. A former MSc GIS distance learning student completed a part-time PhD with the University of Leeds, which they studied remotely from Cyprus.

Please contact us if you would like more details and for further informplease take a look at our research degrees webpages.

3. How long does it take to complete the course?

Depending on the course you are enrolled upon, the durations are as follows:

  • Postgraduate Certificate in GIS – 12 months
  • Postgraduate Diploma in GIS – 24 months
  • Master of Science in GIS – 36 months

You will study one module per 10 week period and will complete four modules per year during the Certificate and Diploma years. This also includes a break/resit period. During the Masters year, you will complete a dissertation which will span the full year.

4. What is the final assessment?

When undertaking taught modules, you will usually be assessed via two summative assignments submitted at the end of the module.

If completing the MSc course, the final assessment consists of a dissertation completed in Year 3. This is an independent research project enabling you to focus on an area which has attracted your attention whilst completing the taught modules or it can be a completely new topic.

You will devise a topic with your dissertation tutor and receive ongoing support and guidance through to completion.

5. Is it really all online? Do you have module timetables?

It is absolutely all online! All materials are made available online as you progress through the course. You will be given access to our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), Minerva, enabling you to view content, download files, and interact with fellow students and tutors via discussion boards. All course content is delivered entirely online.

We do not schedule specific time periods where you must be online. Study is conducted at times suited to you, enabling you to study 24/7 if you wish. In almost all cases, it is possible to download materials and work offline if you know you will not have internet access at certain times (e.g. whilst travelling or working offshore/away).

6. What support do I receive from tutors/advisers?

Course tutors will always be happy to assist you through a variety of communication methods. Typically, email and discussion boards are the predominant mode of interaction. You can expect to receive a prompt response to your emails from tutors and discussion boards enable collective discussion and debate between students and teaching staff on subject content.

Online discussion boards generate an important sense of community for distance learning students.  These enable you to interact with fellow students on your module, ask questions, answer questions, and raise concerns. These boards are regularly visited by course tutors who also contribute to the discussions.

Further methods include telephone or Skype conversations and we also make use of web conferencing software to host tutorials and online meetings when appropriate.

7. I have worked in GIS for a number of years. Am I entitled to bypass any modules?

In exceptional circumstances we do offer a process whereby you can apply for module exemption. This process involves making a strong case to the University that you have already met the academic learning outcomes of the modules you wish to be exempt from. This case can be based on work experience, prior education or a combination of the two but does take time.

Exemptions are only available on Year 1 modules and will be reviewed in line with the University of Leeds’ Accreditation of Prior Learning Policy.

Students wishing to be considered for module exemptions should email us to discuss this further. Please note that exemption is not guaranteed and is only granted in exceptional circumstances. There is no charge for processing this information, but if you wish us to take account of your experience, you must do this when you apply and not after you have started the course.

8. Will I be required to take an English Language test?

Students living in countries where the home language is NOT English will more than likely be required to take an IELTS or TOEFL test to demonstrate English language capability.

If you are unsure as to your eligibility then please contact us to discuss this further. It should be noted that overseas students who have previously studied for a degree at a British University will not be required to undertake proof of English Language testing for a second time.

If required to sit a test, our requirements are as follows:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) - An average score of 6.5. You must achieve a minimum of 6.0 or above in listening, speaking and reading and 6.5 or above in writing
  • Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) - 94 on TOEFL IBT (internet-based), with minimum scores of 21 in listening, 23 in reading, 23 in speaking and 24 in writing.

9. Are your programmes validated by the European Credit Transfer System?

Yes, all of the degree programmes at the Universities of Leeds are validated in this way, including our distance learning courses. Currently, one credit is equal to 0.5 credits on the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

10. I want to learn how to use a GIS but I do not really need a degree. Do you offer anything suitable?

Modules on the current Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma programmes can be taken as short courses. 

Please contact us if you would like to discuss taking any short courses.  All short courses take around ten weeks to complete on a part-time basis. There are usually no prerequisites for these courses, however you may be required to provide proof of English Language and we may ask for the names of two referees who would be willing to support your application should we choose to contact them.

Many students use these short courses as tasters to see what it would be like to complete a more formal qualification, such as the Certificate, Diploma or Masters. If you do this and then opt to upgrade to a full qualification later on, we will carry forward the marks obtained in the short course.

11. Is it possible to study modules from the MSc programme as short courses?

All ten taught modules on the MSc GISc programme are available via our new online short course route. This allows you to register as a student and study up to four modules per year, cumulatively building up academic credit until you are ready to exit with an award (PGCert (4 modules, 60 credits), PGDip (8 modules, 120 credits) or simply gain Continuing Professional Development (CPD) recognition. Students reaching 120 credits also have the option to continue to the dissertation and work towards an MSc qualification (180 credits). This route enables a very flexible approach to study and allows you to design your own qualification by selecting your preferred modules from the outset. Note that the maximum time permitted on this route is 5 years (or 6 years if pursuing the MSc). Further details are available HERE.

12. Do you offer any form of financial support for homeland or international students?

We hope to offer some partial-fee bursaries to support self-funding and high-calibre students.  More information will be provided in due course, including details on how to apply.

13. I have been out of education for a number of years. Do I still need an academic reference?

No, if you have been away from studying for several years and feel that it may be difficult to approach your previous institution for a reference then we would accept references relating to your current / previous employment.

14. How should I send my references to you?

You can upload referee statements alongside your online application, or alternatively, either you or your referee can email the reference directly to us and we will append it to your application.

References may also be posted to our Postgraduate Admissions Team. If your references are being posted to us, please ensure they are written on letter headed paper.

All such documents should be sent directly to the Faculty of Environment and marked for the attention of our Postgraduate Admissions Team:

Taught Postgraduate Admissions Team
Faculty of Environment
University of Leeds
United Kingdom

15. You also offer a full-time MSc in GIS. Is the distance learning MSc in GIS equivalent to the full-time degree?

These degrees are completely equivalent. Moreover, your degree certificate will state 'MSc in GIS' and not make reference to distance learning. The modules on both programmes are also highly comparable.

16. Do I need a particular specification of PC or laptop?

For the programme, you will need a laptop or PC capable of running standard applications (such as Microsoft Word/Excel etc). The packages we will use aren’t too demanding and thus you shouldn’t need anything more than a moderately spec’d machine running Windows. Software is typically made available to you as a download. I would recommend taking a look at the ArcGIS Pro system requirements and using these as the basis for your laptop/computer.

17. How much does it cost per year of study (2022 entry)?

Year one: £4,100

Year two: £4,100

Year three: £2,050

18. I have another question and would like to contact you, how can I do this?

We have a devoted email address for questions about the course, including general questions and admissions queries.  You can email us at the following address and one of the team will get back to you:

Alternatively, you can also follow or contact us on Twitter: @GISatLeeds