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26 Jul 2011Oceanography training fulfils UK skills needSID0329
The MSc in Physical Oceanography at the University of Bangor, which has received NERC funding since 1965, meets a skills need in the UK for modellers and numerate environmental scientists.
A NERC-funded MSc course at the University of Bangor has helped the UK to meet a need for environmental scientists with numerical and modelling skills. Alumni of the course include a member of the IPCC and many other senior people in academia and industry.

"The primary reason for the [Physical Oceanography MSc] course is to convert physics and maths graduates into physical oceanographers" said Dr Tom Rippeth, course director and a reader at the School of Ocean Sciences at Bangor.

The Bangor MSc introduces students to numerical and modelling skills specific to oceanography, alongside practical oceanography skills. Numerate environmental scientists are in demand both within academia and in the private sector. A recent review of skills needs in the environment sector in the UK identified modelling as the most important of the 15 critical skills gaps described in the report. Numeracy appeared at fourth on the list.

"The requirement for people with those skills has increased" said Mick Cook, who studied a combination of the physical oceanography MSc and another MSc in marine geotechnics in 1979 and is now a consultant. "[The UK] has not really recognised that the marine environment is becoming increasingly important. The more we train, the more we can export these skills."

Cook noted that the MSc course offered a "sound base" of background knowledge and skills required to work in environmental consultancy; "It was the best thing I did for my career" he added.

The MSc enabled Cook to change career, from town planner to marine geophysicist. Cook worked in and part-owned an energy consultancy from 1984 and sold it in 2003. He worked for the new owner until 2008. Since then he has started providing consultancy services to help other technology consultancy businesses. The MSc provided a "tremendous network" of contacts: talking about his first consultancy, Cook added that "a significant percentage of the consultants were alumni of the course."

Between 2000 and 2006, 20% of graduates from the course found oceanography-related jobs in the private sector, and 15% in the public sector. 50% continued on to PhD level.

Sophie Ward, a NERC-funded PhD student at Bangor who completed the MSc in 2010, said "My MSc research project fed really well into my PhD in terms of skills learned." Both Sophie's MSc project and PhD research relied on numerical modelling of sealevel rise.

As well as numerical and oceanography skills, the course also focuses on transferable skills such as essay-writing, which are vital for a career in science. "[The MSc] was incredibly intensive, but really thorough," Ward added.
Actual impactsPolicy, Industry, Practice
Impact evidenceThe 'Most Wanted' review of skills identified modelling as the most important of the 15 critical skills gaps described in the report. Numeracy appeared at fourth on the list. These are key skills that the MSc seeks to develop.
Science themesEarth systems science
Science areasMarine