James Bennett

BSc (Hons) Environmental Geography and Outdoor Education

England, United Kingdom

James climbing up a hill

I was attracted to the University of Stirling because it allowed me to study both environmental geography and outdoor education together which is allowing me to deepen my learning in the two areas that I am most passionate about. The location was attractive to me because Stirling is a great location for accessing the mountains and wild places of Scotland. Stirling also appeals because you do not feel trapped in a big city, there are ample green spaces, especially on campus and it is easy to get out into the countryside.

The location is beneficial for me because it means I can get to the mountains easily to gain Quality Mountain Days (QMD) which I must gain as part of the outdoor education side of the course. While I can also get into the mountains easily you are still only a 35 minute train journey from Glasgow and 45 minutes from Edinburgh. This means you can easily get to events such as the COP26 climate summit where I got to meet Alok Sharma, the president delegate.

The most enjoyable feature for me so far has been the mountain leader training module. This was six days of teaching in the mountains, learning skills necessary to become mountain leaders with your coursemates. It was an enjoyable experience, and you really bond as a course by the end of the week. As part of this module, we also did an introduction to gorge walking session which was great fun and very informative. The instructors from Active Stirling who ran the session were brilliant at running the activity but also breaking down how they were running it and what their thought processes were.

 If you are passionate about climate change and hiking up hills then this is the course for you. Make sure that you are definitely passionate about both areas and are happy to put up with hiking up mountains in the rain, (it doesn’t always rain in Scotland I promise.)

The outdoor education and environmental course is an amazing opportunity to take your mountain leader qualification as part of your university degree. If you can put up with some lovely Scottish weather conditions every now and again then you can definitely reap the rewards of gaining your mountain leader qualification while at university. In other words, it is a tremendous amount of fun, (you get to hike up mountains as part of your degree!) You will have days of type two fun when you are walking up a hill “thinking why am I here” but if you can thrive in those conditions you can thrive in all sorts of other ones. Equally, you will also have glorious weather days when hiking is simply a joy.


When it comes to actually arriving in Stirling, my main advice would be to take every opportunity you are given. Attend lots of give-it-a-go sessions in freshers week so you can work out what activities, sports, and societies you enjoy.

I can particularly recommend the Mountaineering club, it is one of the best ways to get out in the hills, make friends and meet people to go out into the hills with. They also provide opportunities to get into climbing and learn winter skills such as ice axe and crampon use as well as avalanche awareness.

I would also recommend making a real effort to explore Scotland while you are here, luckily outdoor education forces you to get off campus. Far too many students do not explore outside the bubble of Stirling and campus, go out and explore! Outside your QMDs, you have an amazing opportunity to go out and discover how beautiful Scotland is. If you are lucky enough to be under 22 make the most of your Young Scot card because you can travel so far on it.

Being able to study both outdoor education and environmental geography means I am not going to be hemmed into just working in either industry but means I can work in both which is my current plan. I would like to balance both sustainability consultancy work with work in the outdoor education industry. Once I have my Mountain leader award lots more work will be open to me. I currently have my Climbing Wall Instructor qualification and plan to gain my Rock-Climbing Instructor qualification.

The knowledge that I am gaining and will have gained around sustainability and outdoor education through the teaching of the lecturers and outdoor education instructors should put me in a good position for working in this industry. Also, the skills that I have gained from trips and events with the mountaineering club should be beneficial for my future.