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Environmental Studies A Level at Cirencester College

Course description

This course is for anyone interested in getting beyond the headlines about environmental issues and discovering the science behind the stories. You will look at how our environment works and how we manage and conserve our vital resources. Themes include wildlife conservation, pollution issues, global warming and the future use of energy.

The Environmental Studies course is a great choice for students also studying geography or the sciences. The subject will suit students interested in the physical aspects of geography and the ecological aspects of biology. Many geology students also choose Environmental Studies. Many Universities, including the most prestigious, accept environmental studies as a science subject for students applying to study environmental biology-related courses.

Course content

The core modules for the AS Level are:

  • Unit 1: The Living Environment 
  • Unit 2: The Physical Environment

Unit 1 You will study the essential environmental systems which allow the Earth to support life, the threats to wildlife and the reasons for its conservation both in the UK and in other areas of the world including coral reefs and rainforests. This is followed by a look at ecology and ecological techniques. The final element is an examination of the need to conserve land resources and landscapes. Unit 1 is assessed by examination in January.

Unit 2 Explores the physical environment, including atmosphere (climate), hydrosphere (water) and lithosphere (rocks and soils). You will begin with the working of the planet’s atmosphere and the details of global warming, climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer. This is followed by an examination of the hydrosphere, particularly the increasing concerns over water supply and treatment. Finally, you will study the lithosphere through its role as provider of resources such as metals and minerals, looking at soil’s significance as an essential resource as well as the biogeochemical cycle. Unit 2 is assessed by examination in the summer.

In both topics you will learn a range of practical environmental skills. For the living environment you will learn how to conduct an ecological investigation using specialist equipment and environmental techniques. We visit grassland and woodland habitats to practice these skills. The physical environment skills include soil analyses and microclimate measurements. In addition, you will cover graphical, numeracy and statistical skills.

This course certainly is not all classroom! Recently we have offered trips to the Cotswold Wildlife Park for wildlife conservation and Big Pit for mining. The superb residential trip to Iceland is open to environmental studies students.


The second year of environmental studies includes two units:

  1. Energy and pollution.
  2. Biological resources and sustainability.

In unit 1 you will study renewable and non-renewable energy resources and how we can meet the energy needs of an ever growing world population. In the pollution section, you will learn about causes, effects and control of many types of pollution including: atmospheric; water; ionising radiation; solid wastes and noise pollution.
Unit 2 involves the study of agriculture, forestry, fishing and sustainability. You will apply biological and environmental theory to resources management issues, including food supply, genetic engineering and deforestation.

We run a trip to the Elan Valley in Wales to study hydroelectric power, woodland management and wildlife conservation.


100% exam. There are two exams in the AS year: ENVS1 on the living environment and ENVS2 on the physical environment. The A2 year also comprises two exams: ENVS3 on energy and pollution and ENVS4 on biological resources and sustainability.

Future opportunities

The environmental sector is an excellent choice for a career. Much investment is taking place here as we realise that we must build a sustainable future. There is a huge variety of interesting and exciting job options in the environmental sector. You will need to continue your studies to degree level to secure the best jobs, although there are opportunities below graduate level. The areas open to you include:

  • Climate change
  • Countryside and rural
  • Wildlife conservation and ecology
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmental campaigning
  • Environmental education
  • Farming, food and organics
  • Marine or ocean science
  • Pollution management
  • Recycling
  • Renewable energy
  • Sustainability
  • Sustainable transport

There is a wealth of opportunity to study environmental science or a related degree at University. You could choose straight environmental science, offered by many Universities, or you could choose a more specialised route related to the environment. Degrees in conservation, wildlife or ecology are very popular as are countryside, rural and agriculture. Increasingly, Universities are offering degrees in various aspects of sustainability, pollution and energy.

When choosing an environmental degree, you need to research exactly what modules are offered : there are so many possibilities that you need to make sure they offer the ones you are interested in!

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Cirencester College directly.

Last updated date: 27 January 2017
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