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MSc Earth and Planetary Observation

This course provides a thorough scientific grounding in remote sensing and professional training in geospatial technology and programming, with a unique focus on environmental applications and space exploration.

Earth and Planetary Observation

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc
  • Start date September
  • Duration MSc full-time: 12 months, MSc part-time: 24 months
  • Mode of study Part-time, Full-time

This is the only MSc in the UK to combine Earth observation and space exploration. The course is a response to the growing investment in the space sector, and the increasing need by industry for trained individuals to exploit remote sensing tools.

Our course is highly relevant to the recruitment needs of employers and offers a range of career opportunities in the space sector with unique focus on environmental, heritage and resource management sectors.

We'll cover satellite, space, (un)manned airborne and remote sensing to give a core professional and academic training in GIS, data analytics, modelling and theoretical, field and lab skills.

  • Top reasons to study with us
  • Course objectives

    The MSc in Earth and Planetary Observation aims to prepare graduates for a successful career in:

    • environmental, heritage and resource management (e.g. agriculture, fisheries, energy, insurances, waste crime) sectors
    • the fast-growing downstream space and technology-driven industries, including government regulators, local authorities, universities and space agencies

    We aim to provide an in-depth, critical and balanced understanding of the theoretical foundations of remote sensing alongside current and emerging environmental and other applications.

    This course will develop transferable professional and academic skills and will combine interdisciplinary scientific knowledge in environmental sciences with practical and cutting edge observation technology.

  • Work placements

    You'll be given the opportunity to go on a placement as part of your dissertation through Making Most of Masters. This MSc course includes work-related assessments and guest speakers from public, private and third sector. Collectively, these will help you to set your career expectations and provide you with knowledge and skills which are highly relevant to recruitment needs.

    The modules also integrate career readiness skills through the use case studies from different sector perspectives. This gives you the opportunity to familiarise with real-life solutions to common challenges in Earth observation and space exploration.

  • Flexible learning

    If you’re interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email Graduate Admissions to discuss your course of study.

The first semester will develop core theoretical, field and data analytics skills alongside learning about environmental processes. In the second semester, the focus turns to training advanced skills in optical and passive remote sensing through a wide range of applications. This includes topics such as

  • aquatic and terrestrial systems
  • cometary and planetary near-surface processes
  • icebergs
  • ecology
  • marine safety
  • food security
  • human health
  • climate change

You'll also take a specialist module on GIS for learning geo-informatics skills required in the sector. This course will allow you to work with unique specialists within the University, and to work on your research project. You'll also have the option to pursue an industry-linked dissertation via the Making the Most of Masters scheme.

The space sector is growing fast, driven by rising demands of Earth observation and space exploration and the need for evidence-based solutions. The rapidly increasing rate of data collection from Earth and space missions suitable for quantifying physical and biogeochemical processes on Earth and other planetary bodies; e.g. ESA Sentinel and Rosetta, NASA Mars Exploration Rovers and Landsat and Aqua missions, offers unique information about a wide range of different environments.

Advances in sensors and platforms (e.g. unmanned vehicles, CubeSats) support new and more detailed characterisation of surfaces and processes. Collectively, these are revealing a new era for science applications and industry opportunities.


The module details given below are subject to change as the University regularly revises and refreshes the curriculum of our taught programmes. The modules outlined below represent those offered in 2019/20 on this course of study.

Course Details

  • Teaching

    The basis of the course is research-led teaching, delivered by staff who are world-leaders in their fields. This MSc will transfer to students the knowledge and expertise gained by USTIR world-leading and ground-breaking research. Stirling provides an ideal location for studying the environment.

    The following teaching and learning strategies will be followed in order to achieve the intended learning outcomes (as listed above):

    1. lectures
    2. guided reading
    3. field and lab classes
    4. assignments
    5. guest lectures. Guest lecturers are drawn from academia and industry giving a good view of EO and space exploration activities and careers.
    6. dissertation
  • Assessment

    A diverse range of assessment methods, including coursework and written or practical examinations are used in this course.

    Coursework is mainly based on relevant research carried out in the field or the laboratory, working either individually or in groups, and includes elements of literature review and research design.

    Coursework may be either individually or group assessed. A final year research dissertation includes an industry-linked opportunity.

    Assessments are anonymously graded wherever possible, and grading is subject to robust moderation procedures.

  • Course director
  • Fees and costs

    Fees shown are per year (fees are different for each course)


    Home/EU Students

    Fees shown are for full-time, one-year Masters course*

    If you’re domiciled in Scotland, you may be eligible to apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for a loan of up to £10,000 to cover your tuition fees and associated living costs. Students domiciled in the EU can also apply for tuition fee support, although may not be eligible to receive funding to support living costs.

    If you're domiciled in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you should be eligible to apply for a loan from your regional body.

    English students apply for a loan of up to £10,609 per year as part of the UK Postgraduate Loan Scheme, Welsh students can apply for a non-means tested loan of up to £13,000 from the Welsh Government and Northern Irish students are eligible to apply for support of up to £5,500.

    *Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Overseas (Non-EU) Students

    Fees shown are for full-time, one-year Masters course. Fees for students who apply for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate will be paid on a pro-rata basis.

    If the course is taken over two years then the fee will be split evenly over the two years. Fees are not pro-rated for students who enrol on a Masters course and decide to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma - the full fee is charged.


    Please note: You will be liable to pay tuition fees for every year you’re in attendance, and your fees will be held level upon entry. If you need to extend your period of study, you may be liable for an additional fee.

  • Scholarships and funding

    If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

    Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

  • Additional costs

    There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

  • Cost of living

    If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

    EU and overseas students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support. .

    Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

  • Payment options

    We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

Upon completion of this course, you will be prepared to build a successful career in the fast-growing downstream Space and technology-driven industries or work in environmental, heritage and resource managements sectors including government regulators, local authorities, universities and space agencies. The course will allow to get industry experience through modules including work-related assessments and guest speakers from public, private and third sector.

96% of our postgraduate leavers are in employment or further study within six months of graduating (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey 2016/17).

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