Geographical Information Management MSc/PgCert/PgDip


MSc in 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.

Find out about Cranfield's MSc in Geographical Information Management from our staff, students and alumni in the video below: 

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. The course examination is sat during January. An opportunity to undertake a project in the style of a consultancy is offered on the full-time programme and is conducted from February to May. The period May 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.


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


  • Aerial Photography and Digital Photogrammetry
    Module LeaderMr Tim Brewer - Senior Lecturer
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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.
  • Spatial Data and the Internet
    Module LeaderDr Stephen Hallett - Prin Res Fell Environmental Informatics
    • 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).


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: Full-time MSc - one year, Part-time MSc - up to three years, Full-time PgCert - one year, Part-time PgCert - two years, Full-time PgDip - one year, Part-time PgDip - two years

Teaching location: Cranfield


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

Your teaching team

Facilities and resources

The School of Energy, Environment and Agrifood 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:

  • 3D visualisation suite
  • Differential and standard GPS equipment
  • Specialist photogrammetry workstation
  • Archive of satellite and aerial photography
  • Excellent computer network.

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

Entry Requirements

A first or second 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 

Pearson PTE Academic - 65

Cambridge English Scale - 180

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 is 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 must ensure they can meet the English language requirements set out by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and we recommend booking a IELTS for UKVI test.


Home EU Student Fees

MSc Full-time - £9,000

MSc Part-time - £1,500 *

PgDip Full-time - £7,200

PgDip Part-time - £1,500 *

PgCert Full-time - £3,600

PgCert Part-time - £1,500 *

Overseas Fees

MSc Full-time - £17,500

MSc Part-time - £17,500 **

PgDip Full-time - £14,000

PgDip Part-time - £14,000 **

PgCert Full-time - £7,000

PgCert Part-time - £10,800 **


The annual registration fee is quoted above. An additional fee of £1,300 per module is also payable.


Students will be offered the option of paying the full fee up front, or to pay in four equal instalments at six month intervals (i.e. the full fee to be paid over the first two years of their registration). 

Fee notes:

  • The fees outlined apply to all students whose initial date of registration falls on or between 1 August 2016 and 31 July 2017.
  • All students pay the tuition fee set by the University for the full duration of their registration period agreed at their initial registration.
  • A deposit may be payable, depending on your course.
  • Additional fees for extensions to the agreed registration period may be charged and can be found below.
  • 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 Isle of Man) pay Overseas fees.


To help students in finding and securing appropriate funding we have created a funding finder where you can search for suitable sources of funding by filtering the results to suit your needs. Visit the funding finder.

Prestige Scholarship

The Prestige Scholarship provides funding of up to £11,000 to cover up to £9k fees and a potential contribution to living expenses. This scholarship has been designed to attract exceptional candidates to Cranfield University so we welcome applications from UK or EU graduates with a first-class honours undergraduate degree. Prestige Scholarships are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Merit MSc Bursary

The Merit MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be UK or EU graduates with a first class honours, 2:1 honours or in exceptional circumstances 2:2 honours undergraduate degree in a relevant subject. Merit MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

International MSc Bursary

The International MSc Bursary provides funding of up to £5,000 towards tuition fees. Applicants should be from outside the EU with a first class honours or upper second class honours undergraduate degree or equivalent in a relevant subject. International MSc Bursaries are available for all MSc courses in the Energy, Environment and Agrifood themes.

Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS)

The Cranfield Postgraduate Loan Scheme (CPLS) is a funding programme providing affordable tuition fee and maintenance loans for full-time UK/EU students studying technology-based MSc courses.

Opportunity Peterborough Bursary

The Opportunity Peterborough bursary offers £7,000 towards the costs of studying a MSc course in Environmental Data Science, or in Geographical Information Management at Cranfield.

Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia)

Cranfield offers competitive scholarships for Mexican students in conjunction with Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia) in science, technology and engineering.

Commonwealth Shared Scholarship Scheme

Students from developing countries who would not otherwise be able to study in the UK can apply for Commonwealth Shared Scholarships for Master’s study, jointly supported by UK universities.

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.

The Cranfield Experience - A Student Perspective

What is the postgraduate student experience like at Cranfield University? What is it like to do an Environment programme MSc at Cranfield? Some of our students made this video to help answer such questions. Enjoy!

Environment Analytics