MSc (Coastal & Marine Environments: Physical Processes, Policy & Practice) — full-time

College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies

Course overview

The MSc in Coastal and Marine Environments is a full-time postgraduate course delivered over 3 semesters. It is directed at graduates from Geography, Natural Sciences and other related disciplines in the social and natural sciences, and at professionals in the field who are interested in furthering their knowledge of coastal and marine environments. Galway’s identity is intertwined with the coast and this structured programme is designed to train skilled personnel, who can advise on, organise and regulate an informed development of coastal and marine resources and activities in Ireland, the European Union and worldwide.


Students will be required to conduct socially relevant research that addresses the roles of agencies and policy structures in coastal and marine environments. A driving motivation of the programme is the conviction that informed decision making for addressing environmental change and adoption of appropriate management, planning and policy strategies in coastal and marine environments should be based upon appropriate scientific evidence. Since the emergence of integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) policy and practice in the 1990s, EU policy regarding catchment, coastal and marine management has continued to emphasize the importance of integrated and participatory approaches to progress sustainable development in the coastal zone. In recent times, traditional land-based spatial planning regimes are rarely fully integrated with the administrative structures and policies which govern activities in the coastal and marine environment.


There is an increasing awareness of the importance of the world's coasts and oceans as natural resources, and of their role in the stability of the global environment. Over-exploitation of natural resources such as fisheries creates environmental, social and economic problems. Disposal of sewage and effluent from towns and industry pollutes coastal waters and has a dramatic impact on their suitability for recreation. Increasing coastal urbanisation and the environmental impacts of global climate change are causing natural habitats to be replaced by artificial structures that support species-poor communities. Coastal erosion and the construction of sea defence systems cause further problems that may be exacerbated by climate change and global sea level rise. In a globalizing era, the careful management of the coastal zone and of estuaries is essential if these activities are to be pursued harmoniously.

This MSc programme, theoretically informed and with a strong field-based and applied focus, is offered in direct response to these newly emerging discourses on the long term health of coastal and marine environments. It seeks to challenge and facilitate students to engage with but go beyond established scientific conceptual and theoretical perspectives, engage new ways of understanding the complexities of our evolving physical coastal and marine environments, and develop critical insights that can support policy and practice in sustaining these increasingly vulnerable environments

Programme Aims & Objectives

This programme was devised by a team of academics from the Discipline of Geography who have been involved in priority EU-funded and US National Science Foundation research on contemporary and future challenges facing coastal and marine areas, including the ANCORIM (Atlantic Network for Coastal Risk Management) (INTERREG) and MARNET (Marine Atlantic Regions Network) (FP7) projects, as well as local and national-level projects on the same. The team is engaged in a broad range of scientific investigation of the physical environment, with an excellent international publication record. Students will become active members of ongoing research programmes and will learn the research and publication process.


There is a strong focus on the formulation of coastal and marine policies and strategies; the identity and role of stakeholders; the nature and impact of local, national and European governance; and the historic and contemporary approaches used to understand the physical processes that control the characteristics of our coast. Development of skills is supported by a significant focus on practical and field-based learning, including short field courses in Ireland and work placements. Initial discussions with local authorities and state research agencies have shown strong support for the proposed programme. It is also evident from previous engagements with undergraduates at NUIG that a Masters programme focused on coastal and marine environments would be very attractive, especially for Physical Geography-focussed undergraduates who currently have no taught postgraduate outlets at NUI Galway. Proposed partners at NUI Galway include the Ryan Institute, J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics, Earth and Ocean Sciences, and colleagues in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies.

Key facts

Entry requirements

NQAI Level 8 degree, second class honours or equivalent, with second class honours grade 1 or equivalent in a relevant field of studies. Selection is based on candidate's academic record at undergraduate level, statement of intent and academic letters of recommendation.

Duration: 1 year full-time

Next start date: September 2015

ECTS weighting: 90

Average intake: 12

Closing date: See review dates

Mode of study: Taught

Course outline

Proposed Modules (all 10 ECTs); subject to change

CORE Modules (Semester 1) NON CORE Modules
(Semester 2)
Coastal Processes and Landforms Coastal hazards OR Coastal Risk and Resilience
Field and Laboratory Methods Biodiversity in the Coastal Zone OR Environment & Health
Marine Spatial Policy and Planning Reconstructing the Marine Environment OR Quaternary Coastal Change
  May - August    Dissertation (30 ECTs)

Who teaches this course?

Dr Aaron Potito
Dr Chaosheng Zhang
Dr Eugene Farrell
Dr Frances Fahy
Dr Kieran Hickey
Dr Kevin Lynch
Dr Audrey Morley

Find out more

PAC code


Fees for this course

EU (Total): €6,015 p.a. 2014/15 (inclusive of Levy)
 - Tuition: €5,791 p.a. 2014/15
 - Student levy: €224 p.a. 2014/15
Non-EU (Total): €13,250 p.a. 2014/15