Stockholm university
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Master's Programme in Polar Landscapes and Quaternary Climate

In many places of the world we experience rapid environmental change. In the Master's Program you get knowledge and skills necessary for the understanding and analysis of polar and alpine landscapes.

You get insights in how they have changed on different time scales, linked to climate variations during the Quaternary period. Climate change is particularly rapid in the glacial and periglacial landscapes of polar and alpine regions. The program will provide you with knowledge about the global climate system's functioning and about methods used to reconstruct climate and environmental change. In addition, human and natural causes of climate change are presented and discussed.

The program gives you skills and tools that make you attractive in the labour market, and it also prepares you for a career in research. Today, former students work in consultancies and various government and regional authorities. Many have moved on to doctoral education both in Sweden and abroad.

  • Programme overview

    The two-year Master’s Programme consists of 120 credits:

    30 credits Mandatory courses
    22.5 credits Elective courses
    7.5–37.5 credits Optional courses
    30–60 credits Master Thesis (mandatory)

    The first semester starts with two compulsory courses. Here you acquire in-depth knowledge on climate and environmental change, geomorphology and glaciology. You learn how to analyse and interpret landscape and climate change, and you focus on dating methods, presentation techniques and scientific publishing. The first course starts with an excursion to northern Scandinavia, dealing with Quaternary climate history, glacial and periglacial landforms, and sub-Arctic and Arctic environments.

    During the second and third semesters, you will focus on courses based on research for which we are internationally competitive. Examples are courses in climate modelling, bio- and lithostratigraphy, glaciology, palaeoglaciology and permafrost, but there is a wide range of elective and optional courses also in other subjects, such as GIS and remote sensing and hydrology. A large part of the teaching is conducted in the field and in the laboratory. Our teachers are active researchers, providing direct contact with ongoing research.

    Year 1

    Autumn term

    Polar and Alpine Environments and Climate Changes, 15 credits (GE7079)

    Methods in Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, 15 credits (GE7073)

    Spring term

    Elective courses (22.5 credits) and optional courses (7.5 credits):

    Quaternary Climate and Environmental Reconstructions, 15 credits, period A–B (GE7076)

    Permafrost – Interactions with Ecosystems and Hydrology, 7.5 credits, period A (GE7051)

    Glaciology, 7.5 credits, period B (GE7092)

    Climate Model Simulations, 7.5 credits, period C (GE7091)

    Quaternary Sedimentology, 7.5 credits, period C (GE7058)

    Paleoglaciology, 7.5 credits, period D (GE7053)

    Year 2

    The number of optional courses taken will be dependent on the period of time devoted to the Master thesis 30, 45 or 60 credits, which may extend over one or two terms: Degree Project in Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology 30/45/60 credits (GE9009). 

    The thesis is generally linked to an ongoing research project. Unique opportunities for Master thesis projects are available at our alpine research station located in Tarfala, Kebnekaise, or at our research station, Navarino Environmental Observatory in Greece.

  • How to apply

    All applications must be sent through

    Required supporting documentation

    In addition to the documents required by, the following documents must accompany all applications to this master’s programme:

    1. Personal letter/Letter of interest (maximum one page). Please indicate how you fulfill the specific requirements for the programme in the letter.
      Further information: Frequently asked questions about admissions.
    2. CV
    3. Brief summary of the grading system of your university (if other than ECTS).

    If you are still studying for your Bachelor degree when making the admission application then please write in the personal letter which courses and credits are yet to be completed

  • Meet us

    Meet our teachers

    Our researchers. Your teachers.

    Education and research are closely linked at Stockholm University. As a student, you will have direct contact with leading researchers in your field and access to the most recent scientific findings.

    Questions and Answers
    Meet Britta Sannel, one of the teachers of the programme

    Small student groups and a lot of field courses

    Who should apply to this programme?  
    The programme is aimed for students who are interested in polar environments and landscapes and how they are affected by climate change, both in modern times and during the Quaternary. 

    What is specific for this programme? 
    The programme has a strong research connection, and the teachers are active scientists in the subjects covered during the programme's various courses. Small student groups and a lot of field courses create good conditions for dialogue between students and teachers. 

    Is there an opportunity for studies abroad and internships? 
    Yes, it is possible to take an internship course during the education, and there is also the opportunity to study abroad. 

    How do you think the students should consider when choosing optional courses within the programme?  
    Many students appreciate the freedom of choice that exists within the programme, and also the opportunity to choose the scope of the degree project themselves. A longer degree project (60 credits) provides more solid in-depth knowledge of a particular research topic, while a slightly shorter degree project (45 or 30 credits) also makes it possible to take more courses. 

    What skills do students acquire after graduation? 
    In addition to current, in-depth and research-based knowledge about landscape development and climate impact in polar environments, our students have a good ability to solve research-related issues, analyze data and write scientific reports. 

    What kind of jobs do the students usually get after their studies? 
    Our students are attractive in the labour market. Many choose to do their PhD around Europe, or in North America, and then continue in academia. It is also common for our students to get jobs at various consulting companies, such as WSP, SWECO and AFRY. 

    How is it to teach on this programme?
    It is both fun and inspiring to be able to teach such interested and committed students such as those we have on the Master's programme in polar landscapes and Quaternary climate. I also like that field courses are included. Teaching in the field leads to an increased understanding of processes and landscape development and creates good conditions for discussions. 

    What do you do when you're not researching/teaching? 
    Floorball and other sports, hiking, skiing and sailing.

    What is your research subject? 
    Permafrost and climate change. 

    What education did you choose?  

    I graduated from the bachelor's program in biology-Earth sciences at Stockholm University more than 30 years ago, and have been teaching and doing research at the Department of Physical Geography ever since. It was my strong interest in nature that made me choose biology-Earth sciences, and in my doctoral studies I was also driven by being able to immerse myself in issues that are important to society. 

  • Contact

    We are several persons working with study administration and study counselling. Please contact the Student office for questions concerning course information, registration, schedule, literature lists and exams. If you have questions concerning credit transfer, admission, eligibility or need study advice please contact the Study counsellor.

    Program responsible
    Qiong Zhang

    Study counsellor, student office and other contacts