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Geographical Information Systems


School - School of Environment & Life Sciences

Subject area - Environment Work, Health and Organisations

Start Date(s): September


MSc (three years part-time distance learning)
PgDip (two years part-time distance learning)
PgCert (one year part-time distance learning)

Fees 2018-19:

2019-20 fees will be displayed shortly.

Distance Learning - For full three year programme: £7,100 for Home/EU students

In Brief:

  • UNIGIS UK combines the teaching and research expertise of staff from two UK universities (The University of Salford and Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • UNIGIS has been delivering distance-based GIS education for more than 25 years and will provide professionally relevant, authoritative and leading-edge content to prepare you for a host of career opportunities
  • Flexible course delivery, online part-time distance learning
  • International students can apply

Course Summary

The application of GIS is growing rapidly which opens up a range of opportunities for graduates of this course. As a UNIGIS student you will be joining an extensive community with representatives in over 30 countries, providing you with an excellent platform to generate and share ideas. By selecting  from the range of taught modules available in the second year, you will effectively determine which of the three MSc degrees you will ultimately be awarded:

  • Geographical Information Systems  
  • Applied Geographical Information Systems  
  • Geographical Information Technologies  

UNIGIS courses all provide a solid grounding in Geographical Information Systems, Science and Technology, but each has a different focus. Geographical Information Systems provides a broad introduction to the major aspects of contemporary GIS. Applied GIS is focused more on the application of GIS and  geographical information in the human and natural environments. Geographical Information Technologies looks at the various technologies that underpin GI solutions.

All UNIGIS programmes are all taught via online, part-time, distance learning, over a period of three years. UNIGIS has a dedicated Virtual Learning Environment through which all course materials are delivered. You will be supplied with specialist GIS software for the practical aspects of the programme  you study.

This course is delivered in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University. Please apply for your place via the UNIGIS UK website.

Please note, University of Salford alumni loyalty discounts do not apply to this course.

Emma Lewison

GIS and Data Manager Forestry Commission,
Northamptonshire, UK

After completing two GIS modules as part of my undergraduate geography degree I was lucky enough to succeed in gaining employment with the Forestry Commission as a GIS & Data Manager. This role enabled me to develop the skills I had already gained. After being in post for a few years I felt that I wanted to update my skills and knowledge to include a more technical understanding of GIS. I felt that with the direction of GIS moving towards the cloud, web and smart phone based options, learning about the theories and fundamentals behind this would be beneficial. I really enjoyed the learning style of UNIGIS with the online materials, forums and study groups. The breadth of knowledge of the staff and the module content was fantastic and the support from the tutors was brilliant. The GI Technologies option has opened many more doors for my professional career and I hope to build on the skills I have learnt with UNIGIS.

Course Structure

The courses are taught in part-time distance learning mode ONLY over a period of three years. During the first two years you will take taught modules with the third year being comprised of an MSc dissertation and project.  The courses start in September each year.

Year 1

All modules in the first year are compulsory and common to all three programmes

This module provides an introduction to Geographical Information Systems (GIS) from conceptual, theoretical and practical perspectives.  The unit concludes with a review of contemporary issues in GIS.
Spatial data are key to any GIS project.  This module investigates how spatial data are sourced, captured and assessed against recognised international standards.
This module provides a thorough understanding of database design and implementation and highlights their importance (and limitations) in the context of GIS.

Year 2

In the second year you will take one compulsory module and two specialist modules relating to the course you have selected to study.

This module examines the concepts, theories and methods behind the application of GIS. The approaches taken in GIS research design, data analysis and interpretation and presentation are investigated.  Special focus is given to methods of spatial analysis and their implementation using GIS software.  

For Applied Geographical Information Systems, select two modules from:

This module investigates how GIS and related technologies can be used in environmental applications and seeks to critically evaluate their potential value.  Case studies are used to demonstrate how researchers can use spatial data, from sources such as remote sensing, along with decision-making tools, to investigate different environmental phenomena.
This module will provide you with an introduction to the principles that underpin remote sensing and explores its role in data gathering/information extraction for GIS applications.  Practical experience in working with remotely sensed data will be gained.
This module investigates how GIS can be applied to different social applications and seeks to critically evaluate their potential strengths and limitations for those applications. Real world case study examples will be used to critically examine how GIS can be used in social applications and to evaluate their potential value.

Students not wishing to continue onto the dissertation project can be awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Geographical Information Systems if leaving the course at this stage.

For Geographical Information Systems, select two modules from:

This module explains the concepts and methods of internet-based GIS, its development and applications.  You will be provided with the knowledge and practical skills to design and implement distributed GIS services according to the latest technologies and standards.
This module develops geospatial skills in building enterprise-oriented databases (e.g. geo-database and server) and creating application-oriented GIS models through programming. This module will also develop your critical appreciation of trends in enterprise GIS and GIS application development from the perspective of software engineering and geo-spatial technology.

Students not wishing to continue onto the dissertation project can be awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in Geographical Information Systems if leaving the course at this stage.

For Geographical Information Technologies, there are two compulsory modules: 

See description above.

Students not wishing to continue onto the dissertation project can be awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in Geographical Information Technologies if leaving the course at this stage.

Year 3

In this module you will design and undertake a substantial and unique independent research project, to be presented as an academic dissertation. The nature of the project will depend on which of the three MSc you are taking.

Entry Requirements

Entry requirements are those set by MMU:

  • Applicants should normally possess a relevant honours degree
  • Applicants with a HND and relevant professional experience will be considered on an individual basis.
  • Alternative qualifications and/or significant experience in a relevant specialised field will also be considered on an individual basis.

Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL)

We welcome applications from students who may not have formal/traditional entry criteria but who have relevant experience or the ability to pursue the course successfully.

The Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) process could help you to make your work and life experience count. The APL process can be used for entry onto courses or to give you exemptions from parts of your course.

Two forms of APL may be used for entry: the Accreditation of Prior Certificated Learning (APCL) or the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL).

English Language Requirements

International applicants will be required to show a proficiency in English. An IELTS score of 6.0 (no element below 5.5) is proof of this.

Suitable For

The three UNIGIS courses are largely for UK and international graduates already working with GIS who wish to broaden their understanding and further develop their skills.  However, those wanting to study GIS in order to change career paths are also catered for, irrespective of prior knowledge of GIS.

Fees 2019-20

Fees for entry in 2019 will be displayed shortly.

Fees 2018-19

Type of StudyFee
Distance LearningFor full three year programme: £7,100 for Home/EU students
International Distance LearningFor full three year programme: £8,250 for International students

Additional costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on trips and visits.

Please note, University of Salford alumni loyalty discounts do not apply to this course.

Scholarships and Bursaries

Students who normally live in England, Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland may be eligible for non means-tested postgraduate loans.  For further information and to find out whether you are eligible, please visit:  or


The UNIGIS programmes are all taught via online distance learning.  UNIGIS had a dedicated Virtual Learning Environment through which all course materials are delivered.  You will be supplied with specialist GIS software for the practical aspects of the programme you study.


All the UNIGIS programmes are 100% assessed by coursework.

UNIGIS International Academic Excellence Prize

The annual UNIGIS International Academic Excellence Prize is awarded to students having submitted the best MSc theses during the previous academic year, accepted for graduation at one of the UNIGIS partner universities worldwide.

UIA is always proud to present this prize to the author of one of the many outstanding MSc thesis submitted every year, distinguishing and honouring these individuals for an excellent academic achievement. All UNIGIS partner universities worldwide and their alumni are encouraged to take part in this  competition.

Postgraduate Staff Profile

Dr Mike Wood is a Senior Lecturer in Environmental Management in the School of Environment and Life Sciences and is Course Leader for the UNIGIS programmes at Salford.  Mike’s teaching and research interests are in the application of GIS and spatial modelling techniques to support environmental decision making.  For example, he has used GIS to study ecosystem services in South Asia and environmental pollution in Australia.  Mike has also worked on the development of GIS-based decision support systems (DSS), including a DSS for river catchment management.

Dr Mike Wood, Programme Leader, talks about his research into the impact of radiation on wildlife, specifically within the Chernobyl exclusion zone.


UNIGIS programmes are particularly suited to those who wish to continue their professional development in the field, but many students use the courses as a way to initially get into GIS. Employment prospects are broad and include roles such as: analysts, programmers, cartographers, surveyors, consultants, GIS specialists, information technology/information systems specialists, lecturers, planners and project managers.

Career Prospects

As a UNIGIS student, you will be joining an extensive GIS community, with representatives in over 30 countries. Current and past students come from a wide range of disciplines and organisations in the UK and abroad, including local government, utilities, consultancy, GIS vendors, education and research, business and commerce.

Success on the course has been achieved by professionals from fields such as planning, surveying, IT, project management, oil exploration, environmental management, telecommunications, marketing and research and development as well as those starting their careers. Many students have gained promotion, career enhancements and new posts whilst on the course, or upon completion.

Alumni Profile

James Corry
GIS & Data Manager,
Wilbourn Associates Limited

The UNIGIS course has hugely benefited me both personally and professionally. A wide range of highly relevant modules coupled with very well organised course delivery, first class academic support and administrative backup have provided me with not only an in depth understanding of GIS but also a sense of achievement that I never anticipated when I first started. There is no doubt that the UNIGIS course has been of benefit to my current employer and has influenced my future career aspirations. Highly recommended.

Hugh Loughrey
GIS Application Analyst,
Hoople Ltd

Having obtained a post in a GIS team after my undergraduate degree, UNIGIS was invaluable in providing the structure to supplement the GIS fundamentals I was exposed to via my colleagues. Given the extensive module notes, dedicated course tutors and excellent administrative staff I would thoroughly recommend UNIGIS to any GIS professional looking to advance their career prospects.

Jorge Gonzalez Berti
GIS Technologist, Integrated Geomatics, Canada

The material covered in this course is relevant and up-to-date. I landed the GIS job I always wished for two months after completing the UNIGIS programme. I was pleasantly surprised to find-out that the enterprise database software used in some practical exercises is currently applied in my new position.

Siôn Rowlands

Graduating in 2008 meant limited opportunities and a position in my local councils GIS team straight out of university. Enrolling with UNIGIS in 2010 provided an opportunity to improve my prospects and gain a new role in the private sector, after only two years of study. The flexibility of studying online and having a tutor to visit when needed provided a perfect learning environment. I would suggest anyone looking to improve their career and knowledge within industry should apply.

Louise Shakeshaft
GIS Analyst, Dominos

The three years of studying have flown by! It is a proud achievement to have completed this course whilst working full time. The course has definitely benefited my career, moving from an admin job to Graduate GIS specialist at the Canal and River Trust after my 1st year of study and within a week of my masters results I was offered a GIS analyst job at Dominos. The course covers both the technical and theoretical side of GIS and course content is up-to-date with the latest cloud and open-source technologies covered. The flexibility of a part-time course enabled me to fit my study around work and family commitments and I found the regular online meetings with my tutor during my dissertation a great benefit, and took their advice on board. The staff at UNIGIS provided the support and guidance needed to successfully complete the course.

Links with Industry

Links exist with a wide range of public and private sector companies through the organisations that our students work for.  All modules in the UNIGIS programmes are recognised by the Association for Geographic Information for Continuing Professional Development (CPD).

Further Study

The UNIGIS courses are mainly aimed at those in employment, but there are possibilities to undertake research in the area of GIS.

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