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Geographical Information Management MSc/PgDip/PgCert


Geographical Information Management

The Geographical Information Management programme is unique in providing a balanced coverage of the key GIS technologies. The course is taught to small groups by experts and the ratio of staff to students is one of the best available anywhere. Courses are not isolated from the real world and many are supported by research groups working on cutting-edge programmes. Our aim is to prepare you, whether coming from university or industry, for a challenging career in one of the growing range of industrial and research sectors that now routinely make use of the GI technologies. To enable this you will need to develop specialist skills, acquire experience of spatial problem solving and develop a range of personal skills. To help you achieve this taught courses involve a varied selection of case study work, tutorials and lectures led by centre staff and senior visiting lecturers from industry. 

This programme includes an individual research thesis which provides an opportunity to study a problem in some detail, whilst some of the courses also include a group design project allowing the realism of industrial projects to be introduced. The course is offered in a modular form to facilitate a part-time mode of study.

  • Course overview

    The course comprises eight assessed modules, a group project and an individual research project.

    The early part of the Geographical Information Management programme is structured around a series of taught modules consisting of lectures, tutorials, demonstrations and practical classes taken during the autumn and spring. Each module forms the sole unit of study for a period of two weeks. One examination is sat at the beginning of January and the second examination takes place at the end of April. An opportunity to undertake a project in the style of a consultancy is offered on the full-time programme and is conducted during May. The period June to August is devoted to an individual project. Additionally, the taught component of the programme is supported by visits and seminars. The individual modules are linked through case studies and practical work so that different aspects of the geographical information technologies are integrated.

  • Group project

    The Group Project experience during the course is highly valued by both students and prospective employers. It provides students with the opportunity to take responsibility for a consultancy-type project while working under academic supervision.

    The project involves the application and integration of component technologies:

    • GIS
    • GPS and remote sensing
    • field methods, and statistical analysis to produce quality-assured innovative solutions.
  • Individual project

    The Individual Project is either industrially- or University-driven. Students select the individual project in consultation with the course team. It provides the opportunity to demonstrate independent research ability, the ability to think and work in an original way, contribute to knowledge, and overcome genuine problems in relation to the management of the earth's resources. It also offers students the opportunity to work with the types of organisation they will be seeking employment with on successful completion of the course.

  • Modules

    This course comprises 8 modules, a group project and an individual project.


    • Aerial Photography and Digital Photogrammetry
      Module LeaderMr Tim Brewer - Senior Lecturer

      Deriving digital elevation models and ortho imagery is an important application of remote sensing data. This subject introduces techniques for the extraction of topographic information from remotely sensed data using softcopy photogrammetry techniques. Image interpretation is a vital skill required in many image based mapping projects. The concepts and techniques of image interpretation will be introduced and practised.

      • Topographic maps and remote sensing images: map scale and content, image sources and interpretation methods, accuracy issues
      • Aerial photography in the context of other remote sensing systems
      • Physics of light: principles of recording the image
      • Stereoscopy and parallax
      • Geometry: scale variation, relief displacement, tilts
      • Geometry of vertical aerial photographs: geometry, co-ordinate axes, scale, measurement
      • Softcopy photogrammetry
      • Digital elevation models
      • Satellite photogrammetry
      • Air photo mosaics and orthophotos
      • Interpretation: principles and factors
      • Applied interpretation: geology, geomorphology, vegetation, soils, urban structures
      • Flight planning
      • API project management and implementation
      • Recent developments - digital aerial photographs, scanning existing photography.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

      • Summarise the geometry and spectral properties of vertical aerial photographs and evaluate their importance in the use of aerial photography for deriving mapping products
      • Apply the basic principles of softcopy photogrammetry to a range of remotely sensed datasets
      • Interpret aerial photographs in the context of the physical and human environments
      • Evaluate elevation data products derived from stereo image pairs and assess their use for a range of applications
      • Prepare orthophotography from standard frame aerial photography and assess the quality of the output.
    • GIS Fundamentals
      Module LeaderMr Tim Brewer - Senior Lecturer

      Geographical Information Systems (GIS) is an important technology for handling geographic data and has wide application for studies of the environment. GIS is used widely by students in other modules and their personal projects, and therefore this module provides the opportunity to develop GIS skills that will be of use within a student's course and in later employment.

      • GIS theory - data structures; data formats; data storage; data standards; spatial and non-spatial data; spatial querying; analysis techniques – reclassification, overlay, proximity, mensuration, visualisation, map algebra; hardware and software; system specification; projections; datums; spheriods
      • ArcGIS -overview of ArcGIS, ArcMap, ArcCatalog; ArcToolbox, Spatial Analyst.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

      • Describe the functional components of a GIS
      • Define system specifications including projections, data and process modelling
      • Organise, using appropriate data structures, geographic data within a GIS
      • Analyse data and prepare digital databases using GIS software
      • Summarise, using maps and tables, the results of GIS based analyses.
    • Spatial Data Management
      Module LeaderDr Stephen Hallett - Prin Res Fell Environmental Informatics

      It has been estimated that 80% of the data used for environmental, business and policy-oriented decision making is geographical in nature. These spatial data require a structured approach to their management if the maximum benefit is to be derived from their analysis and dissemination. This module provides a solid introduction to the issues concerning the management of spatial information.

      • Introduction and overview of Spatial Data Management
      • Database structures – ordered and indexed lists, hierarchical, network, relational, object oriented, hybrid structure
      • Metadata – standards and practice, creation, maintenance, distribution and control
      • Systems analysis and analysis approaches – methods for designing computerised spatial systems
      • Object orientation – theory and practice
      • Data specification formats, interoperability and handling of geographic data
      • INSPIRE and the Spatial Data Infrastructure
      • Industry standard database management systems – Oracle and SQL
      • Open Source geospatial database management systems – Postgres/PostGIS and SQL.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this study the student should possess skills in the following themes:

      • Design and build appropriate database structures for GIS analysis using a Geodatabase
      • Manipulate data within and between a range of database management systems
      • Appreciate the application of systems analysis methodologies to spatial data
      • Appreciate role of the INSPIRE Directive for driving interoperability between spatial data infrastructures
      • Establish and use protocols for data and metadata management
      • Practical experience with a range of industry-standard database systems, data and GIS tools.
    • Image Processing and Analysis
      Module LeaderDr Humberto Perotto-Baldivieso - Lecturer in Landscape Ecology

      Image processing and analysis is one of the fundamental tools of applied remote sensing. It is the means by which information can be extracted from raw digital data to produce and manipulate images from airborne and space sensors.

      • The remote sensing process: data management and planning
      • Physics of light: principles of recording the image, plant, soil and water spectral properties in the optical wavelengths, influence of plant structure, moisture content, phenology and growth cycle on reflectance patterns, effect of organic matter, mineral content, texture and moisture content on soil reflectance
      • Satellite image processing: digital image enhancement and classification, indices
      • Geometric correction: map projections, selection of ground control points, transform equations, resampling methods (nearest neighbour, bilinear interpolation, cubic convolution, sinc x)
      • Image enhancement: contrast stretching (linear, bilinear, gaussian, histogram equalisation and manual), digital filtering in the spatial domain (low-pass, high-pass, high-boost, median and directional)    
      • Classification: density slice, box classification, maximum likelihood and minimum distance algorithms. Supervised and unsupervised training techniques
      • Spectral coincident plots and decision tree classification
      • Advanced image processing techniques: principal component analysis and formation of eigen images. Band arithmetic. Masking. De-correlation stretch 
      • Current classification methods.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

      • Identify a wide range of image processing techniques
      • Explain the purpose of each process and the underlying mathematical principles
      • Select appropriate image processing sequences to achieve predetermined objectives
      • Operate and manage an image processing system
      • Integrate image processing techniques into applications of remote sensing.
    • Physical Principles of Remote Sensing
      Module LeaderDr Toby Waine - Lecturer in Applied Remote Sensing

      The appropriate application of remote sensing to the monitoring of earth resources requires an understanding of basic physics and imaging technology. This subject introduces the basic radiometric concepts and physical relations required for remotely sensed data to be analysed quantitatively.

      • Introduction to the physical principles remote sensing
      • Electromagnetic radiation: radiometric units and terms, radiation laws, radiation sources optical, thermal and microwave
      • Surface interactions
      • Plant, soil and water spectral properties
      • Atmospheric interactions and correction
      • Image formation: passive systems (detectors, opto-mechanical line scanners, waveband separation, linear and area arrays) and active systems (Lidar, RAR and SAR concepts)
      • Spatial resolution and geometry
      • Orbits and platforms
      • Review of satellite and airborne systems
      • Data reception: data transfer rates, telemetry, ground segment
      • Data distribution: data suppliers, product levels, internet
      • Calibration: DN to radiance, irradiance standards, calibration methods
      • Interpretation of spectral response patterns
      • Derivation of soil and vegetation indices: ratios, normalised differences, PVI, SBI, tunnelled cap concept. Applications of vegetation indices.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this study the student should be able to:

      • List the primary physical quantities that are directly related to measured radiance
      • Define the basic radiation quantities
      • Explain the nature of surface and atmospheric interactions with electromagnetic radiation
      • List the major types of detectors and describe how satellite images are formed
      • Describe the complete remote sensing process from data reception to information extraction
      • Apply calibration and atmospheric correction methods to image data
      • Explain the physical relations underlying the retrieval of satellite measured reflectance, temperature and backscattering coefficients.
    • Advanced GIS Methods
      Module LeaderMr Tim Brewer - Senior Lecturer

      GIS analyses are based upon increasingly sophisticated methods, but the results are subject to both error and uncertainty. Emphasis will be given to the role of GIS in modelling environmental systems and the programming tools available to develop applications.

      • Spatial analysis: multi criteria analysis, hydrological modelling, network analysis, linear referencing
      • Main conceptual features of a Windows application
      • Analysis of the requirements of a proposed application
      • Synthesis of an appropriate solution
      • The Visual Basic (VB) editor
      • Programming controls including menus and dialogs
      • Programming procedures
      • Variables, constants and data types
      • Write simple applications
      • Error handling
      • Menu design
      • Processing files
      • The object model in GIS.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

      • Assess the quality of geographic data
      • Undertake advanced spatial analyses
      • Analyse the requirements of a proposed application and synthesise an appropriate solution
      • Customise a GIS.
    • Environmental Resource Survey
      Module LeaderDr Ronald Corstanje - Senior Lecturer in Environmental Informatics

      Environmental resource surveys are required to obtain the data used in environmental information management.

      • Introduction to geographical resource survey. Why, when, where and how? Understanding constraints
      • Survey strategies for environmental resources: census with thematic mapping, ground sampling, sampling with property mapping, integrated ground sampling and property mapping
      • Development of classification schemes – user requirements, data availability, class definitions
      • Sampling and rapid estimates for plant communities, water and soil quality – biomass, cover and species assessment, count plot methods, plotless sample technique, soil and water survey techniques
      • Assessment of existing data quality and use in survey design
      • Statistical design and analysis for environmental resource surveys: area frames, point samples, bulk samples, area samples, sampling at global scales, multi-scale sampling
      • Quality assessment of environmental data – accuracy measures, effect of bias, quality measures and statistics, error and uncertainty sources and measures
      • Introduction to interpolation methods, generating maps from point survey data
      • Integration data sources and types (data fusion) and statistical models with survey data (model data fusion) to increase survey cost effectiveness
      • Review of example surveys.
      Intended Learning Outcomes
    • Spatial Data and the Internet
      Module LeaderDr Stephen Hallett - Prin Res Fell Environmental Informatics

      Geographical information is now becoming increasingly more present in our daily life. This poses new challenges to its efficient and timely delivery to potential end users who do not necessarily have the required skills to access or operate a GIS software package. The Internet offers a powerful medium for real-time delivery of geographical information and location-based web services.

      • Introduction to spatial data and the Internet
      • Principles of web site development
      • Introduction to HTML
      • Review of Internet mapping technologies and solutions: Google Maps/Earth API; ESRI Javascript and Flex API; Open Layers API; ArcGIS for Server
      • Introduction to XML/XSLT, GeoJSON
      • Proprietary and Open-source toolkits
      • Case study applications of Internet mapping: local authorities, location based services, ‘g-business’.
      Intended Learning Outcomes

      On successful completion of this study the student should possess skills in the following themes:

      • Familiarity with current Internet technologies and their applications relevant to geographical data dissemination
      • Basic level of proficiency in HTML and XML
      • Experience with Javascript and use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
      • Knowledge of emergent Internet GIS standards and data transfer formats (GML, XML, GeoJSON)
      • Web site developed and published
      • Internet mapping web site developed using state of the art Internet mapping technologies (ESRI ArcGIS for Server, ESRI Flex API, ESRI Javascript API)
      • Use of leading open source geodatabase servers (GeoServer, OpenLayers API)
      • Gained an appreciation of a real-world internet mapping project, briefing and solution (examples and case studies).
  • Assessment

    Taught modules: 40% Group projects: 20%* Individual project: 40% *For part-time students a dissertation can replace the group project

  • Start date, duration and location

    Start date: October full-time, part-time throughout the year

    Duration: One year full-time, two- three years part-time

    Teaching location: Cranfield

  • Overview

    Geographical information management is an exciting and rapidly growing branch of information technology (IT), incorporating satellite remote sensing, aerial photography and other spatial data, such as soil survey information, to derive information which is essential for the management of the earth's resources. A suite of technologies exist that can be applied at local, national and global levels to issues such as climate change, improving farming yields, tropical deforestation, transportation, smart navigation systems, disaster response management, recreation, property management and telecommunications.

    Sustainable use or conservation of the earth's resources requires the organisation, exploitation and integration of technologies such as database management, image processing and digital cartography, to ensure provision of high quality, reliable and up-to-date information. The Geographical Information Management programme has been developed in collaboration with industry, in response to the increased demand globally for multi-disciplinary managers, advisors and consultants in resource management.

    The course is an exciting combination of rigorous academic, technical and practical training. It provides a thorough training in technical, analytical and research skills needed for a career in this expanding field. Throughout the programme students focus on identifying problems and creating solutions through selection and integration of the appropriate technologies.

  • Accreditation and partnerships

    The MSc in Geographical Information Management is an accredited course within the RICS-Cranfield University Partnership.

  • Informed by industry

    Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. These include:

    • P A Consulting
    • Joint Research Centre, Ispra
    • Adas
    • Cresswell Associates
    • Chartered Institute of Waste Management
    • Geospatial Insight
    • Oakdene Hollins
    • Golder
    • Astrium Geo-information Services
    • Unilever
    • Landscape Science Consultancy
    • WRc PLC
    • FWAG
    • RSPB
    • ERM
    • GIGL
    • WRG
    • Environment Agency
    • Chartered Institute of Water and Environment Management
    • Enviros
    • Health Protection Agency
    • Neales Waste
    • Natural England
    • National Trust
    • Trucost
    • SLR Consulting
    • Highview Power Storage
    • Nomura Code Securities

    Students who have excelled have their performances recognised through course awards. The awards are provided by high profile organisations and individuals, and are often sponsored by our industrial partners. Awards are presented on Graduation Day. View the 2014 Prize Winners booklet.

  • Your teaching team

    The course is taught by members of research and academic staff within the Natural Resources Department, staff from other academic departments and industrial representatives:

    Mr Tim Brewer
    Dr Ron Corstanje
    Dr Humberto Perotto-Baldivieso
    Dr Toby Waine
    Dr Stephen Hallett

  • Facilities and resources

    The School of Applied Sciences operates facilities and associated equipment which are often unique to Cranfield. Geographical Information Management students also benefit from our state-of-the-art facilities which are recognised as internationally leading in this field:

    • a NOAA satellite receiving station
    • differential and standard GPS equipment
    • specialist photogrammetry workstation
    • an archive of satellite and aerial photography, and
    • an excellent computer network.

    This infrastructure places Cranfield students in an advantageous position as they are able to combine theory with practical application.

  • Entry Requirements

    Candidates must possess, or be expected to achieve, a 1st or 2nd class UK Honours degree in a relevant science, engineering or related discipline, or the international equivalent of these UK qualifications.  Other relevant qualifications, together with significant experience, may be considered.

    English language

    If you are an international student you will need to provide evidence that you have achieved a satisfactory test result in an English qualification.  The minimum standard expected from a number of accepted courses are as follows:

    IELTS - 6.5

    TOEFL - 92 (Important: this test is not currently accepted by the UK Home Office for Tier 4 (General) visa applications)

    TOEIC - 800 (Important: this test is not currently accepted by the UK Home Office for Tier 4 (General) visa applications)

    Pearson PTE Academic - 65

    Cambridge English: Advanced - C

    Cambridge English: Proficiency - C

    In addition to these minimum scores you are also expected to achieve a balanced score across all elements of the test.  We reserve the right to reject any test score if any one element of the test score if too low.

    We can only accept tests taken within two years of your registration date (with the exception of Cambridge English tests which have no expiry date).

    Students requiring a Tier 4 (General) visa will also need to meet the UKBA Tier 4 General Visa English language requirements.  The UK Home Office are not currently accepting TOEFL or TOEIC tests for Tier 4 (General) visa applications. Other restrictions from the UK Home Office may apply from time to time and we will advise applicants of these restrictions where appropriate.

  • Fees

    Home/EU student

    MSc Full-time - £6,800


    The annual registration fee is quoted above. An additional fee of £1,080 per module is also payable.

    MSc Part-time - £1,070 *

    PgDip Full-time - £5,000

    PgDip Part-time - £1,070 *

    PgCert Full-time - £2,500

    PgCert Part-time - £1,070 *

    Overseas student

    MSc Full-time - £16,250

    MSc Part-time - £8,500

    PgDip Full-time - £12,000

    PgDip Part-time - £6,250

    PgCert Full-time - £6,000

    PgCert Part-time - £4,500

    Fee notes:

    • Fees are payable annually for each year of study unless otherwise indicated.
    • The fees outlined here apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2014 and 31 July 2015 and the University reserves the right to amend fees without notice.
    • All students pay the annual tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
    • Additional fees for extensions to registration may be charged.
    • Fee eligibility at the Home/EU rate is determined with reference to UK Government regulations. As a guiding principle, EU nationals (including UK) who are ordinarily resident in the EU pay Home/EU tuition fees, all other students (including those from the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) pay international fees.
  • Funding

    Funding opportunities exist, including industrial sponsorship, School bursaries and a number of general external schemes.  For the majority of part-time students sponsorship is organised by their employers. We recommend you discuss this with your company in the first instance.

    Network Rail Half Bursary

    Half bursaries of £3,400 are made available for both the Cranfield University MSc course in Geographical Information Management and the MSc in Environmental Informatics.

  • Application process

    Online application form. UK students are normally expected to attend an interview and financial support is best discussed at that time. Overseas and EU students may be interviewed by telephone.

  • Career opportunities

    Successful students develop diverse and rewarding careers in the spatial information industry, national and local government, consultancies, utilities and research organisations. The international nature of this course means that career opportunities are not restricted to the UK. Cranfield graduates develop careers around the world. Recent data shows that 90% of our graduates find employment within the geographic information sector or academic research.

    Cranfield is the leading British University in terms of income generated from industrially and commercially-funded research. The applied GIS and related research our staff undertake is fed back into our GIS teaching programmes, thereby ensuring all students who complete the Geographical Information Management programme are equipped at the leading edge. The courses offered are internationally recognised by employers across the scientific, industrial and educational communities.

    Previous students have entered many forms of employment. Graduates follow careers in the consulting industry or with government research establishments. Others go on to join university research and teaching departments. Some are successfully running their own companies.