The first year course has 4 modules: Earth System Dynamics (ESD); Space, Place and Society (SPS); Geographical Research and Geographical Controversies. Although there is plenty of literature available on our departmental website about the Prelims course, here are a few words from a student perspective:
Geography at Oxford provides a fantastic overview of the potential scope of the subject. In first year, the aim is to bring everyone up to the same level after studying for A levels, where some subject areas may have been omitted or not even considered in that level. It’s an excellent way to be introduced to academia. Many people join the course not knowing whether they fit in the category of physical or human geographer, but there is plenty of space not to be constrained to one choice at the beginning. I thought I was more of a physical geographer – I love atmospheric science and weather systems! However having the opportunity to discuss and learn about cultural spaces and migration in a more theoretical framework was really important in shaping my understanding of what some of the implications of my understandings of everyday life had.
Furthermore, Geographical Controversies was a great for combining my thoughts from ESD and SPS to appreciate what the real life issues are when people are trying to bring across cutting-edge ideas and information and how its reception is mediated by different factors. Geographical Research provides an important underpinning for what unites the two parts of our subject – fieldwork. Discussing methodologies for qualitative techniques and quantities techniques again opened my eyes to how problematic our subject is. This appreciation for the complexity of theoretical frameworks and real life problems is the most invaluable skill I have learnt from my Preliminary year, and I hope you find it so too.