General information about the subject of geography
Geography is an interdisciplinary subject that incorporates content, perspectives, and methods from the natural and social sciences. Geography puts knowledge relating to physical, social, and economic processes into the specific context of places and regions, providing a nuanced picture of the different cultures, economic systems, political and social systems, physical environments, and landscapes that characterize our planet. Drawing on the natural sciences, “physical geography” examines the structure and dynamics of the physical environment and processes taking place within it. With a focus on the social sciences, “human geography” (also known as anthropogeography, cultural geography, or economic and social geography) deals with the structure and dynamics of cultures, societies, and economies and the spatial dependence of human action.
Physical and human geography have developed into relatively independent branches of the subject, with different methods and areas of investigation, and are therefore represented by two separate degree programs at the University of Basel: the Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs in Geography at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Bachelor’s and Master’s Programs in Geosciences at the Faculty of Science. The two branches collaborate closely to address a number of issues. In view of widespread social and economic inequality, changes in the global environment, and the increasing scarcity of natural resources, the Bachelor of Arts/Master of Arts in Geography focuses on societal concerns and issues relating to global change, such as the socioeconomic transformation of societies in the era of globalization, its spatial manifestations, including social and regional disparities, its implications for planning, location, and development policy, and its political, cultural and institutional basis. By contrast, the Bachelor of Science/Master of Science with Specialization in Geography focuses on physical aspects of the Earth system, the consequences of environmental change, especially those caused by humans, and the resulting risks to the sustainability of environmental services on which humans rely.
Bachelor’s Degree in Geography at the University of Basel
Geography is a discipline that spans the social, environmental, and natural sciences. Geographers work in areas involving spatially defined phenomena (e.g. environmental problems, climatic effects, landscape interventions, social and economic development in cities and regions, and problems facing developing countries). In other words, they work on problems with a specific location and a spatial impact and that demand action within the framework of sustainability strategies. Specialist training in geography therefore incorporates content from the natural and social sciences to encourage integrated thinking with a focus on cause-and-effect relationships in the human-environment system, as well as human impact assessments.
This three-year professional bachelor’s program aims to provide students with thorough knowledge of the basic principles and current working methods of geography and related disciplines in preparation for wide-ranging careers or entry to the master’s degree program. The training conveys the full breadth of these basic principles – not least because geography is rooted in the geosciences – while also allowing students to customize their course of studies. As a rule, the bachelor’s program lasts six semesters and leads to an internationally recognized degree (Bachelor of Arts in Geography). For this, students complete modules carrying at least 75 credit points (CPs), becoming skilled in modern scientific methods over the course of their studies. Practical work plays a key role in this and takes the form of field trips, fieldwork, internships, and practical courses. Students also acquire numerous core or “soft” skills, such as teamwork, organization, problem-solving, presentation, rhetoric, software skills, and project planning and implementation.
Graduates of the bachelor’s program in Geography have a critical understanding of the key processes and consequences of globalization as well as the associated risks and dangers for society, habitats, and economic spaces. They can apply their specialist knowledge in an interdisciplinary manner to address cultural, social, economic, and environmental issues in local, regional, national, and international contexts. They are trained in the collection of socioeconomic, demographic, planning, and environmental data and the interpretation of the full range of geographical information, working on the basis of procedural and/or empirical concepts. Graduates are also familiar with the collection of subject-specific GIS data, the analysis and presentation of official data, as well as social and economic structures and processes. They have a good command of common concepts and methods for the modeling and prediction of socioeconomic and demographic issues relating to functional spaces, as well as possessing sound knowledge of techniques including the use of geographic information systems (GIS), analog and digital cartography, and statistics. The combination of two disciplines ensures a broad range of subjects are covered. Graduates therefore benefit from having an overview of subject knowledge and expertise that boosts career and employment prospects.
Master’s Degree in Geography at the University of Basel
The master’s program provides graduates with specialist subject expertise and first-hand experience of active research, enabling them to acquire further professional qualifications.A Master of Arts in Geography provides students with the following skills: Graduates have acquired the ability to recognize complex temporal and spatial interrelationships in the human-environment system, to understand the role of these relationships, to characterize their current dynamics, and to assess their future development. They can apply their specialist knowledge in an interdisciplinary manner to address not only socioeconomic but also environmental problems. During their studies, geography students have acquired in-depth knowledge in fields within both human and physical geography, as well as a capacity for scientific analysis. In addition, the opportunity to register for individual modules as free electives according to personal preference and ability allows students to acquire additional expertise and in-depth knowledge of related disciplines. Graduates have acquired both social and methodological skills and are well versed in the application of empirical social science research methods, statistical methods and GIS-applications to the solution of problems in the human-environment system. Moreover, the combination of two disciplines ensures a broad understanding of the field, providing an overview of the specialist subject matter that boosts career and employment.
Geography careers in Switzerland
With a degree in geography, graduates have a solid foundation in the content and methodology of the subject and therefore enjoy access to a wide range of careers in spatial planning (e.g. urban, spatial, local, regional, and federal planning efforts, promotion of economic development, tourism, and transport), development cooperation, environmental and landscape protection, information and documentation (e.g., statistics, IT services, cartography, geographic information systems/geoinformatics), schools (teaching of specialist geoscientific knowledge in the subject of geography at school level), and later, after completing a master’s degree, universities (research and teaching). The interdisciplinarity and flexibility of their training in human and physical geography makes graduates highly employable.
Geographers are employed in all areas that involve collecting data with a spatial dimension, as well as its analysis and management using geographic information systems (GIS). This growing sector is playing an increasingly important role in public administration. Most geographers therefore work in areas of the public sector, such as cantonal and Federal offices or the school system, as well as in private-sector and semi-private spatial planning and development institutions and in governmental and nongovernmental organizations engaged in development cooperation. Other lines of work can be found at universities and Federal research institutions. Geography is also a Federal school and baccalaureate subject and covers the range of geoscientific content taught in schools. Studying geography at the BA level provides students with a basic understanding of the content and methods, which can then be reinforced in the MA. In turn, this provides graduates with the necessary expertise to teach at lower and upper secondary schools when combined with an appropriate teaching qualification.
The subject Geography can be studied in different combinations or as a separate course of studies. The following courss are offered:
Faculty of Sciences
Faculty of Philosophy and History
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Declaration of scientific probity
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